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Reported: Nov. 2011; latest update: April 2016

Chassahowitzka River... Kayaking on the river and its many spring runs

The spring-fed Chassahowitza River was named an Outstanding Florida Waterway for its pristine, natural condition. The main river is wide and slow moving, with many spring-fed side streams. The spring runs make this an exceptional paddling destination and one of our favorites. Beautiful scenary, lots of wildlife. (Detailed map and photos below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: 5 miles
Location: Citrus County (60 miles north of Tampa, 14 miles south of Crystal River)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate; the spring runs include some more technical sections
Tidal: Yes, near the Gulf
Launch point: Ramp at the county-owned campground (US 19 to CR 480, parking fee) (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: At the campground (link, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Homosassa Springs, Crystal River

The spring-fed river is generally clear, changing to salt water as it approaches the Gulf of Mexico, about 5.6 miles from the launch. Accessible only by boat or kayak/canoe, the river itself is an easy paddle. The spring runs have some more challenging sections. The river is quite shallow, especially 1-2 miles downstream, and the spring runs generally very shallow. This helps to restrict motorboat traffic - a plus. In kayaks, we found all passable even at low tide. Along the river are many bird-watching and wildlife viewing opportunities including alligators, manatees, raccoons, otters, and deer.

The Spring Loop (about 7 miles) is popular, accessing all the nearby spring areas.  Downstream it empties into Chassahowitzka Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

We kayaked from the launch at Chassahowitzka River Campground:

The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge bordering the river is a 31,000 acre winter preserve for migrating birds, accessible only by boat and consisting of saltwater bays, estuaries, marshes, and hardwood swamps. Home to many species of birds, reptiles and amphibians, and mammals, it also is an important refuge for West Indian Manatee.

Paddling at Chassahowitka
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Chassahowitzka River Campground and River
Wide and slow moving, a beautiful paddle. Go as far or as little as you like, explore the spring runs - this has something for everyone. Be careful, though, of the motorboats on the main channel. Campground parking can fill quickly - weekdays and early in the day are best.
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Launch at Chasshowitza River Campground Kayak and canoe rentals In addition to launch and rentals is a camp store and fishing dock The Kayak Kondo
is cool
Paddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka River- Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka River - Canoe, Kayak
Leaving the campground launch, downstream River is wide with easy current,
beautiful scenary
Campsites Abandoned cabins
Chassahowitzka Springs and No-Name Springs
Leaving the campground launch and a short distance upstream is the main spring - fed by several vents -  Chassahowitzka Springs. Slightly past that (look for the beginning of the seawall), turn left to No-Name Springs - a popular spot with some diving available.
Paddle Chassahowitzka Spring - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka Spring- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Spring - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka Spring- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Spring - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka Spring- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Spring - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka Spring- Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Spring - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka Spring- Canoe, Kayak
Upstream from the campground launch At Chassahowitzka Spring Turtle Past the spring, toward No-Name Springs
No-Name Springs
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Entrance to creek to No-Name Springs This is a popular spot It's a short dive between these two holes Coming up for air
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Warning sign - someone drowned here Underwater at No-Name Springs
Crab Creek Springs
Downstream from the campground launch, on the north side of the river. This is a short run, you'll see a few homes next to the pretty spring with its three spring vents.
Paddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Crab Creek - Canoe, Kayak
Entrance to
Crab Creek
Entering the spring basin A heron The springs
Baird Creek, Blue Springs, and "The Crack"
About 1/2 mile downstream from Crab Creek on the south side of the river is Baird Creek (look for the little island with palm trees). The creek is narrow and twisting, alternating between trees and sawgrass. Others have commented on the mosquitoes, we did not experience any problems on our April trip, so this may be a seasonal issue.
Blue Springs is at the top of the creek in a lagoon, it's cloudy so you can't see the spring.
Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek - Canoe, Kayak
Look for the little island with palm trees Entering Baird Creek Through the sawgrass Widens out again At Blue Spring lagoon
The Crack
At the top of the Blue Spring lagoon, look for the opening and continue on the narrow, winding waterway until it gets too shallow to paddle (you may see other kayaks stopped along the shoreline). Get out and wade about 200 feet to The Crack - a narrow crevice about 30 feet long. The pretty site is a popular destination, and can be crowded. Note: be careful when walking close to the shore, it can be mucky and you'll sink in.
Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Baird Creek, The Crack - Canoe, Kayak
Entering creek to
The Crack
This is a more technical run Too shallow to continue Wading to The Crack Arriving at
The Crack
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The Crack - long, narrow crevice Underwater at The Crack
Salt Springs Creek
About a half mile downstream from Baird Creek the river divides around an island - bear to the right. Where it again meets the main channel of the river after about 1/4 mile, bear to the right onto Salt Springs Creek. There are several side streams that can be deceiving, Salt Creek will lead to a spring-fed lagoon.
Paddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Salt Springs - Canoe, Kayak
River divides - go right Entrance to
Salt Creek
Along Salt Creek Lagoon Strange spot for an abandoned boat
Potter Creek and Ruth Springs
Back on the river and about 1/4 mile downstream on the right is the entrance to Potter Creek (if you get to the abandoned cabins, you went too far). Potter Creek is fairly wide and easy to navigate to the spring, about 3/4 mile. Look for the narrow creek at the top side, this leads to Ruth Springs.
Potter Creek
Paddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Potter Creek - Canoe, Kayak
Entrance to
Potter Creek
The palm trees
were notable
Along Potter Creek At Potter Creek springhead
Ruth Springs
The run to Ruth Springs is narrow with some obstacles, we ran into a low-lying tree and almost turned back but instead went under it and are so glad we did - Ruth Springs is beautiful and intimate. The water is crystal clear with views of the spring and many fish in a virtual aquarium.
Paddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, Ruth Springs - Canoe, Kayak
Opening to Ruth Springs run Along the run Entering the springhead At the springhead Very clear water
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Underwater at Ruth Springs. Some fish were curious about the camera and came right up to the lens. One must have thought Bobcat's finger was a fat worm - it nipped me!
Canals at Chassahowitzka
Upstream from the campground launch and past No-Name Springs are a series of canals through residential areas. We even saw an alligator hanging around someone's boat house.
Paddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, Kayak Paddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, KayakPaddle Chassahowitzka, canals - Canoe, Kayak
Approacing the canals past No-Name Springs Along the canals Alligator at the boathouse Canal goes
under CR480

More information on Chassahowitzka (opens in a new window):

- Southwest Florida Water Management District - Chassahowitzka River
- Southwest Florida Water Management District - Chassahowitzka Springs
- Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

See also: Paddling on Florida's Nature Coast at Crystal River, Homosassa River, and Weeki Wachee River

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