Let’s just get right to it: We’re going to call this spot by its nickname because not even the locals call it by its full name.
It’s The Chaz. That’s short for the Chassahowitzka River, or “pumpkin hanging place.”
This spring-fed, 6-mile river starts near the Citrus/Hernando County Line, and then along with its tributaries, it runs out into the Gulf of Mexico.
The head spring is named after the river, but it’s also fed by the Seven Sisters Springs.
This crystal-clear waterway is scenic, mostly remote and a gorgeous little slice of Florida nature. It is simply perfect for even hardcore outdoorsy types.
There’s wildlife, from herons to otters. There’s plenty of fish. There are eagles. And, of course there are manatees seeking warmer waters during the “winter.”
It’s a place where visitors can boat, kayak, paddleboard, canoe, swim, fish, explore and, yes, even swing in a few spots.
The Chaz has just about a little bit for all, in a perfectly Floridian way.
Spring ahead with Seven Sisters
The Chaz’s main spring that feeds the river is the Chassahowitzka Spring, visible from the campground dock.
There is a campground and boat dock with ample parking, so you can disembark small vessels, from kayaks to pontoons.
The western half of the river is known for tidal creeks, oyster bars, Mangrove-populated keys and, of course, vast saltmarsh.
The eastern 3 miles around the river is state-owned wilderness and the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.
The entire river is very shallow, about 1 foot to 4 feet deep.
There are cabins dotted along the outer portion of the river that are privately owned, just before “Buzzard Bay.”
Dog Island is a recreation area with a restroom and dock located off the main channel, just before John’s Island and the Gulf.
If you’re just out for a leisurely paddle, you probably won’t stray far from Seven Sisters Springs, which can be found by going right when casting off at the boat dock.
Seven Sisters is a popular hangout spot. Just about anyone can get out and walk and/or wade in the year-round 72-degree water. These spring heads can be found easily and have small caves that can be searched through diving. Please be careful, though.
Below the surface is beautiful at Seven Sisters, but please bring a mask. I always do.
Step on this crack
If you enjoy exploring, like me, then grab your paddle because do I have something to show you.
Not too far and just around the bend from the boat launch is one of the first tributaries on The Chaz. This is Baird Creek. You can’t miss it because it opens up at Blue Spring, and then it narrows basically to a shallow creek you must paddle for about one-fourth mile, maybe less.
Toward the end, you’ll have to get out because the creek will become ankle- deep; dock your vessel and walk maybe 100 yards to find “The Crack” on The Chaz.
It’s a deep, turquoise spring that looks like a paradise lagoon, secluded by lush palms and other trees.
Locals have tied a rope swing up one of the trees, but you also can wade in the crack, sit in the shallow water and just enjoy the scenic seclusion. (Of course, how secluded it is will depend on just how many others are there to take advantage of the rope swing.)
Spend the day
Whether you’re an experienced explorer, a novice adventurer or a laid-back boater, The Chaz can give you a day’s worth of things to do.
My advice is to take your time and enjoy the activities allowed there, such as swimming or fishing.
Make the most of your full-day vessel rental because as the sun sets in the west over The Chaz, the golden hour is just as gorgeous as it is at noon.
Learn how to say the full name of this place, which yields such true Florida beauty — it will make you feel good and is sure to impress Chassahowitzka River natives, too.
The Chassahowitzka River, or The Chaz
Where: Chassahowitzka River Campground and Boat Launch, 8600 W. Miss Maggie Drive, Homosassa
When: Boat rentals are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the boat launch is available from dawn until dusk.
Cost: Parking is $5; parking with a trailer is $7. Watercraft rentals start at $30 for the day.
Details: A spring-fed, 6-mile river that features hidden lagoons, boating, rentals, swimming and more in southwestern Citrus County.
Info: Call 352-382-2200, or visit ChassahowitzkaFlorida.com.
Published on May 25, 2022.
Revised May 27, 2022
Help to protect the Chassahowitzka River
When The Laker/Lutz News initially published “Cruising on the Chassahowitzka,” the intention was to encourage readers to visit the river and enjoy its beauty.
It turns out that some of the activities described in the story are the same kinds of activities which the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFMD), along with its state and local partners, have set out to discourage through a public education campaign.
The water management district circulated a news release in March urging the public to help protect the river, by avoiding any activities which pose a threat.
The Laker/Lutz News did not publish information from that March news release because “The “Chaz,” as its commonly known, is outside the newspaper’s coverage area.
However, after this Worth The Trip story published, the water management district reached out to us to alert us to potential threats to the river from some activities.
In the spirit of trying to ensure that visitors now, and, in the future, can enjoy this slice of Florida’s natural beauty, we are sharing the tips that were shared with us.
When visiting the Chassahowitzka River:
• Stay in the vessel when possible.
• If you have to leave the vessel, tie off in shallow waters.
• Avoid docking on riverbanks.
• Don’t trample vegetation or kick up silt.
• Avoid climbing on banks.
• Don’t climb trees or use rope swings.
• Don’t throw out litter or leave anything behind.
• Trim boat motors to prevent propeller scarring.
To learn more about protecting the Chassahowitzka River, visit WaterMatters.org/ProtectChass.
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