Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge
The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is composed of more than 31,000 acres of brackish marshes, estuaries and saltwater bays near the mouth of the Chassahowitzka River in west central Florida. The northern boundary of the property is parallel to and includes some of the Homosassa River. The eastern boundary runs along a fringe of hardwood swamps. The refuge extends south from the Chassahowitzka River along the coast for about 12 miles to Raccoon Point.
This area is home to at least 25 species of mammals (including West Indian manatees), more than 50 species of reptiles and amphibians and more than 250 species of birds. The vegetation includes lots of red and black mangrove, red cedar, oak, palm, cypress and extensive submerged beds of muskgrass with watermilfoil, widgeongrass and other swampgrasses growing in the brackish creeks and ponds that extend inland from the coast.
Some 76% of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is federally designated Wilderness Area, the only non-wilderness area being near the northeast corner of the property. The Refuge is accessible only by boat but boat ramps near the property are very limited. Tour guides and rental boats are available in the towns of Homosassa and Chassahowitzka but you'll probably need to make reservations.
Boat speed restrictions apply April 1 to August 31 in portions of the Chassahowitzka River to protect manatees in the water. Airboats are allowed on Hernando County waters and on posted routes on the Citrus County side, however, airboat operators are required to have a refuge airboat permit on their person. Permits are issued at the refuge headquarters and are free.
The refuge is open during daylight hours only, no camping is allowed. Camping is available nearby at the Chassahowitzka River Campground (a county park and recreation area - call 352-382-2200 for more info). Regular county and state fishing regulations apply but special refuge hunting regulations apply and are strictly enforced.
To get there: Follow US Highway 19 south from Perry or north from St. Petersburg to State Road 480. Turn and go west on State Road 480. The road ends at the Chassahowitzka Boat Ramp. The refuge begins about 3 miles downstream from the boat ramp.
Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is administered as part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex, along with Crystal River NWR, Egmont Key NWR, Passage Key NWR and Pinellas NWR.
Map of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge