17 May The Chassahowitzka River
Here’s another place we really enjoy. It’s in an area of Florida that isn’t too well known. North of St. Pete and Tarpon Springs there are two well known springs: Wekki Watchee and Homassassa. Both of these are developed. The Chassahowitzka is a short, spring fed, clear water river that lies in between Weeki Watchee and Homassassa. It feeds into a wild life reserve of about 30,000 acres. Most of the reserve is marsh grass and palmetto hammocks. It shelters over 250 types of bird life, to say nothing of all the other wild critters that find a protected place to live.
This river isn’t as long as its name on a map of Florida. Driving up the west coast of Florida, above Tampa on Route 19, the turn off is easy to miss. Most people have heard of the attraction at Weekiwachee springs, where imitation mermaids put on a show. Very few casual Florida visitors have ever seen or heard of the Chassahowitzka. Florida fishermen however know it well.
The river is only about four miles long. Starting in a series of springs, with crystal clear water, as it flows slowly there is a complete change in scenery as you go from spring-fed fresh water into brackish salt marsh, and then finally into the open Gulf. There is very little development on the river, and while weekends get hectic with boat traffic, during the week things really quiet down.
The river features many side streams that twist back into the tropical jungle that covers both river banks. You can get totally away from any signs of civilization with a few strokes of your paddle.
This is a bird watcher’s paradise with a total mix of both land and sea birds. Anhingas and cormorants, for instance, on the same branch. Great Blue Herons, and Pileated woodpeckers on the same short stretch of river. Otters play and feed here. You never know what you will see if you paddle quietly and keep your eyes and ears open.
There is a campground run by Citrus County (352-382-2200). They permit pets, so you get barking dogs. Quiet hour isn’t until ten o’clock, so you get a noisy campground during a weekend. The tent sites are in a heavily wooded area, clean, but pretty close together.
If you are looking for some place different to paddle the next time you come to Florida, you might find a visit to this area of Florida very rewarding.