Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge comprises about 31,000 acres along the Gulf coast of Florida, from the Homosassa River south to Racoon Point, including the mouth of the Chassahowitzka River. The refuge, spanning 12 miles along the Gulf of Mexico, was established in 1943 to protect waterfowl and migratory birds, as well as marine life including the West Indian manatee. As you explore by boat, you'll see that this goal has succeeded.

There is no way to visit any part of the refuge by road ... so you'll need a watercraft to get there. The main gateway to the area is the Citrus County public boat ramp located just west of the intersection of US19 and US98 at the end of Miss Maggie Drive. When you come to the Chassahowitzka River Campground, keep driving until you get to the end of the road. There is a large parking area - but it fills up quickly on weekends. A fee is charged to park your car, truck or boat trailer.

The launch site on Miss Maggie Drive is referred to as the Chassahowitzka River Recreation Area. It includes a general store, kayak and canoe rentals, a paved boat ramp and restrooms, as well as parking. The boundary of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is about three miles downstream from this point. There are a number of tributary steams entering the river between the boat ramp and the eastern border of the wildlife refuge ... almost all of which have a spring as their source. This makes the water of the Chassahowitzka River crystal clear in most locations.

The Chassahowitzka River upstream from the the wildlife preserve is perhaps more interesting than the preserve itself. There are over a dozen named springs that are the source of tributary creeks flowing into the Chassahowitzka. Many of these springs are accessible by kayak. One of the more popular of these springs is the source of Baird Creek, known to locals as "the Crack". Other major springs include Seven Sisters Spring, Crab Creek Spring, Blue Spring, and Potter Spring.

As you paddle (or motorboat) down the Chassahowitzka, you'll pass an area just downstream from the boat ramp where camping along the shore is permitted. Further downstream there are a number of riverside houses that are only accessible from the river, including a large homestead on Garden Island. Near the mouth of the river, Dog Island is home to a covered picnic shelter, pier and a restroom.

Getting there ...
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