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Latest update: January 2024

Chassahowitzka River...

Kayaking the River and Its Many Spring Runs

The spring-fed Chassahowitzka 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 scenery, lots of wildlife. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Chassahowitzka River, kayak, canoe

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Chassahowitzka River and Springs

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Distance: 5.6 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)
Nearby points of interest: Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Homosassa Springs, Crystal River


Chassahowitzka River Campground (rentals)

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Friends of Chassahowitzka

 Page Summary:

  1. Paddling on Chassahowitzka River
  2. Chassahowitzka River Campground and River
  3. Upstream - Springs and Canals
    - Chassahowitzka Spring, No-Name Spring, Canals
  4. Downstream - Springs
    - Crab Creek, Baird Creek, Blue Spring, The Crack, Salt Creek, Potter Creek, Ruth Spring.
  5. About Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
  6. More Information and Resources

Paddling on Chassahowitzka River... Comments and Photos

The spring-fed river is generally clear, changing to salt water as it approaches Chassahowitzka Bay and 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. The Spring Loop (about 7 miles) is popular, accessing all the nearby spring areas.

As part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, there is much bird-watching (over 250 species) and wildlife viewing including alligators, manatees, raccoons, otters, deer and more.

Chassahowitzka River Campground and River

We kayaked from the launch at Chassahowitzka River Campground

At the Campground

Kayak, canoe and paddleboard rentals are available, or launch your own from the sandy beach. Other amenities include parking, restrooms, boat ramp, camp store, RV and tent camping, playground. Parking can fill quickly - weekdays and early in the day are best.

On the river from launch

Wide and slow moving river, a beautiful paddling trip. 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.

Upstream - Springs and Canals

Upstream from the launch, we checked out Chassahowitzka Springs and No-Name Springs, and paddled in the canals (residential area).

Chassahowitzka Spring

Leaving the campground launch, we kayaked a short distance upstream to the main spring, fed by several vents -  Chassahowitzka Spring.

No-Name Spring

Slightly past Chassahowitzka Spring (look for the beginning of the seawall), turn left to No-Name Spring - a popular spot with diving available.

Canals at Chassahowitzka

Upstream from the campground launch and past No-Name Spring are a series of canals through residential areas. We saw an alligator hanging around someone's boat house.

Downstream - Springs

Downstream a short way from the launch is Crab Creek, followed by Baird Creek, Blue Spring and The Crack, then Salt Creek, and finally Potter Creek and Ruth Spring.

Crab Creek Spring

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..

Baird Creek, Blue Spring

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 didn't have any problems on our April trip, so this may be a seasonal or time-of-day issue.

Blue Spring is at the top of the creek in a lagoon, water was cloudy so we couldn't see the spring.

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.

Salt 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 Creek. There are several side streams that can be deceiving, Salt Creek will lead to a spring-fed lagoon.

Potter Creek

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

Ruth Spring

The run to Ruth Spring 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 Spring is beautiful and intimate. The water is crystal clear with views of the spring and many fish in a virtual aquarium.

Taking photos underwater, some fish were curious and came right up to the lens. One must have thought Bobcat's finger was a fat worm - it nipped me!

About Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge

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.

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