I had been in Florida and Georgia for only a week and already I had seen a bobcat during an incredible two day adventure in the Okefenokee Swamp, saw manatees in Blue Springs State Park, went to my first NFL game in Tampa, and been brought down to earth at Devil’s Den where I was given the snub for having the audacity to snorkel. I still had one week to go. Exploring a Chassahowitzka River spring was the start of week two.
North Florida river canoeing
For the second half of my two week Florida road trip, I was meeting up with my dad and fellow paddlers for excursions on several local rivers. I already wrote a post about the first trip on the Weeki Wachee.
Related post: Weeki Wachee Springs canoe adventure
Our base for these trips was the Chassahowitzka River Campground near Homossasa Springs. We gathered Sunday night around a campfire and each night we discussed the trip for the next day. The first trip was within walking distance from the campground. We loaded up our canoes and drove about a quarter of a mile to the put in along the Chassahowitzka River. We then drove our cars back to the campground to avoid the parking fee.
I absolutely loved the Chassahowitzka River Campground. We camped in the group area, but all the sites looked appealing. It was tucked way in the woods and each campsite had extra privacy thanks to the abundance of sal palmetto plants, which along with the Spanish moss gave the campground a strong taste of Florida’s essence. The campground is of course near the river as well. Chassahowitzka means “hanging pumpkin place” in the Seminole language.
The amenities at the campground were great. They had new bathrooms with clean and functional showers with hot water and good water pressure. The bathroom area had quality Wi-Fi, so the place was perfect for a base for a week of paddling. The campground also has canoe, kayak, and jonboat rentals. There is a bait store at the put-in, and the proprietors have a wealth of information about the river, so it is more than just a campground.
Many visitors to Florida completely bypass this part of the state if even think about it at all. It is sandwiched in between the panhandle and more popular areas farther south like Orlando and Tampa. Most visitors only see this part of the state at 75 miles per hour as they jet past on I-75 or I-10. Just south of the Chassahowitzka Campground, the area is densely populated and highly developed; furthermore, the area we enjoyed was quieter and much less developed in comparison.
This area is also well known for springs and spring fed rivers. The Weeki Wachee, the Ichetucknee, and the Chassahowitzka boast beautiful crystal clear water. Check out Visit North Natural Florida’s springs guide for more information on the springs and the area in general.
Exploring a Chassahowitzka River spring
Our trip agenda for the Chassahowitzka River adventure actually included stops at two springs. We paddled upstream to check out one spring and then paddled past the put-in to a little river inlet. We canoed up the narrow channel and continued as the section became shallower and even more narrow. Eventually we could not paddle anymore. We beached our canoes, and we continued up the river until reaching a dead end at a beautiful little spring.
This would be our lunch stop. We snacked and conversed and then proceeded to swim in the spring. There was a swinging rope that extended down over the water from high above a tree. I took one look at that and wanted to swing into the pool and drop into the middle of the spring. Unfortunately, this proved impossible. I tried to grab hold of the rope and walk back towards shore and then run and gain some momentum, but the rope was too high for me to haul it towards shore and not long enough. In waist deep water I could not gain any momentum while running. Each time I tried I lamely just hung from the rope and then dropped into the shallow water.
Perhaps the problem was I tried to think it out too much. In my many hours of Tarzan watching as a child, I do not remember ever seeing Tarzan for one second in a scenario like the above photograph. Tarzan did not size up the consequences. He just jumped from tree to tree and made it happen.
Despite the failure, the clear pool was gorgeous for just soaking in the cool water and snorkeling. There were a few fish hanging out in the crags between the rock faces where the water emerged from.
Back to the canoes
After lunch was over, we walked back to our canoes and kayaks and paddled back to the main channel. We saw several anhingas, egrets, herons, and a beautiful osprey in a tree right near the put-in.
The wind had started to whip up, so this ended our adventure for the day. We were planning to paddle towards the gulf and check out the main channel a little more, but the wind precluded this. As you paddle towards the gulf the river widens, so a strong west wind can be problematic.
We paddled back to the put-in and made an early day of it. This gave us plenty of opportunity to do our own activity before gathering around the campfire again. I went for a run in the myriad of rural streets that criss-crossed the area outside the campground while others biked and some just relaxed at the campground.
It was the perfect start for the second week of Florida adventure for me as I added another new river and spring to my already busy time in the sunshine state. I definitely will return to this campground and river again. There are a ton of bays, estuaries, and islands to explore on this river and the coastal area besides our two springs, so one could definitely spend several days on this river section alone.
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