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The Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge, also known as “The Chaz”, is a more secluded and lesser-known area filled with tons of natural springs and wild places to explore. There are tons of springs tucked away along the Chassahowitzka River like The Crack and the Seven Sister’s Spring. These areas are great for kayaking, swimming, and exploring any time of the year.
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Getting To The Chassahowitzka Wildlife National Wildlife Refuge
The Chassahowitzka River is just a short drive from both Tampa and Orlando making these springs a perfect addition to any Florida vacation. One hour north of Tampa or 1.5 hours northwest of Orlando, The Chaz sits along the Gulf of Mexico which makes it accessible to multiple beaches and other small towns.
Use this address to navigate to the Chassahowitzka River Campground. This is the location for kayak rentals as well as the launching point for your own personal kayaks or paddleboards. The campground office is also located in this area. There is also a camp store and restrooms onsite.
When To Visit The Chassahowitzka River
Like most Florida springs, there really is no wrong time to visit. The summer months draw in the crowds, especially on weekends and holidays. In the summer there are plenty of rope swings and swimming holes to keep you cool in the Florida heat. The winter months are less crowded increasing your chance to see manatees, otters, and other wildlife.
In the summer, it is very important to arrive at the launch early. The boat ramp opens at 8:00 AM and can fill up quickly. In the winter months and during the week you can sometimes paddle for quite sometime before seeing anyone else.
No matter what time of year you visit, getting to The Chaz early is the best time to catch a glimpse of some of Florida’s native wildlife and having the river all to yourself.
What To Bring When Kayaking The Chassahowitzka Springs
- Sunglasses. I’ll never stop recommending these Oakley Sunglasses. I’ve had them for almost 10 years and they are still going strong!
- Hat. I’m sure you have a hat laying around, but if you don’t, here’s one of my favorites!
- Sunscreen. This water-resistant sunscreen is perfect for kayaking!
- Bug Spray. If you don’t do well with some of the harsh insect repellents, try this one!
- If you need a paddleboard to check out my favorite, the iRocker Inflatable SUP!
Kayaking The Chaz Springs In Florida
The Chassahowitzka Springs area is very large with plenty of places to explore. There are a few known spots that are great for swimming and kayaking as well as a few others that are tucked away deep in the woods. This guide will only highlight the two main draws to The Chaz, Seven Sisters Spring, and The Crack.
As mentioned above, the boat ramp at the Chasshowitzka River Campground opens at 8:00 AM. The cost to park is $5 for single cars and $7 for vehicles with trailers. This boat ramp is the most popular place to put in your vessel on the Chassahowitzka River.
Kayak rentals are available to both campground guests and outside visitors. You can call and reserve a vessel or rent one upon arrival.
Single kayaks are $25/day
Double kayaks are $35/day
Aluminum canoes are $20/day
Jon boats and paddleboards are $40/day.
For more up to date information visit the Chassahowitzka River Campground website.
Swimming At Seven Sisters Spring In The Chaz
The most well-known spring among the Chaz is the Seven Sisters Spring. This spring gets its name from the several spring caves that are clustered together. Most of the caves are connected and form tunnels that stretch from each opening. Many adventurous snorkelers will swim through the tunnels with one breath!
Seven Sisters Spring is located just a few minutes paddle from the Chassahowitzka Campground. After you launch from the boat ramp at the campground, take a right and paddle for about five minutes. Just past the rope swing that you’ll see on the left, there will be a cove. Take a left into this nook and you’ve arrived at Seven Sisters Spring!
Finding The Crack At The Chaz
The hidden spring in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge is The Crack. This natural spring is slightly more difficult to find but easy enough even for a first-time visitor!
After leaving the boat ramp at the Chassahowitzka Campground take a left. You’ll travel along the river which is now fairly wide and the water, depending on the time of day, weather, and tide might seem darker. As you travel towards the gulf, there will be a turn off to the right just a few minutes after leaving the campground area. This is Crab Spring. It’s worth a look, but definitely not a place to hop out and swim.
Continuing on your journey to the crack, there will be two clearings/openings on the left-hand side of the river. You’ll take the second opening to head towards The Crack. This part of the paddle will be much narrower and the water is dark. It’s important to be aware of the wildlife in the area, including alligators. Be vigilant and make some noise as you travel up this side stream.
Continue your paddle till you reach an opening or lagoon-like area. This is called
After Blue Spring, it’s on a few more minutes to The Crack. Once you arrive, you’ll know it by its beauty and the iconic rope swing that hangs in the middle. Enjoy yourself as you cool off and swim in this unique hidden gem in Florida.
Manatees And Other Wildlife In The Chassahowitzka River
Florida boasts some pretty epic wildlife and the Chassahowitzka River is one of the best places to have an amazing wildlife encounter. Manatees tend to frequent these waters throughout the year as well as dolphins, otters, gators, and birds of prey. It’s tough to say the best time to catch a glimpse of these wild animals, but mornings seem to yield the highest sightings.
Camping At The Chassahowitzka Campground
There is no better way to experience the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge than during a camping trip! The campground is one of a few options of places to stay near the boat ramp which is the entry point to the entire refuge. With plenty of amenities like an office, store, playground, clubhouse, and wifi the Chassahowitzka Campground has everything you could need for your entire trip!
The Chassahowitzka Campground has both RV sites and tent sites available. Reserve your spot online here. Tent sites start at $26 and RV sites start at $42. Prices are subject to change based on time of year or the day of the week. Be sure to plan ahead and visit their website for the most up to date information.
Places To Stay Nearby The Chaz
While the little town near the Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge doesn’t have many places to stay, they do have a few bed and breakfasts type accommodations. The Chassahowitzka Hotel is a small lodge just down the road from the boat ramp. This cute hotel offers the perfect proximity at a great price with tons of amenities!
Please remember to respect all of Florida’s natural places by always picking up after yourself, never harassing the wildlife, and taking only pictures for memories!