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Florida's Wild River
American Roads Travel Magazine

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Perhaps the best kept secret in Citrus County is Chassahowitzka River Campground. We camped there and loved it. It is rustic and blends perfectly with its natural surroundings.  This little jewel is located just a block down from the boat ramp leading into the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.

The name of the river came from the Native American tribes living in the area when the Europeans arrived. It means “Place of Hanging Pumpkins.” At that time there were gourd vines that hung high in the trees and produced a type of pumpkin. They have now become extinct as has so much that was wild and beautiful in Florida.  

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A heron perches near the Nature Coast Outpost

Norman Busche, who owns the Nature Coast Outpost located right next to the campground store and office, is an experienced Florida wildlife tour guide, arranged a boat trip for us with Captain Al Hammaker into the hidden waters of the Chassahowitzka. Both Norman and Al travel this river daily. Norman is a featured wild life guide for the German television documentaries.  "Wir Sprechen Deutsch".  Since the river is accessible only by small boats few people get to experience its wonders. He is one who knows it intimately.



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Twilight on the Chassohwitzka River

The Chassahowitzka has been designated as one of Florida’s Outstanding Waters.  It bordering the 35,000 acre Chassahowitzka National Refuge filled with hidden treasure for eco-tourists: coastal estuaries, rivers, and salt marshes. It is home to the Florida black bear, manatees, herons, osprey, bald eagles, and many migratory species of water fowl. Off the first fork after leaving the Outpost is a salt water spring at a spot called “The Crack” that is wonderful for swimming. The main body of the river winds about seven miles. Norman told us this was his own version of Paradise. We did not find him wrong.

Captain Al’s boat is specially designed to navigate the shallow river. He built it himself of real wood. It’s 23’ long, 8’ wide and completely flat on bottom. Because it has such a broad base he told us we could stand up and move around. “This thing is like a dance floor. It won’t tip over.”  If you are a RVer looking for a great boat for rivers like this,CLICK HERE

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One of  the houses on the river

We passed some homes built right next to the river. There is no road leading to these places but the homes are unique and have been outfitted with generators, solar panels and composting toilets. Some were luxurious mansions: some modest cabins. All were highly individualized refuges for weekend or in some cases, permanent living.


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If you look closely in the area of the palm
tree trunk reflection you can see the springs
bubbling up.

One particularly stately estate once owned by the Lykes brothers of hot dog fame, is regularly rented to groups of Buddhist Monks as a retreat. Just off its dock, you can see Spirit Springs bubbling up. All in all, 22 springs feed the river. What better place to meditate. They then took us into the hardwood swamp. We saw anhinga, great blue heron, little blue, tricolor heron, green back heron, night heron, wood stork, American egrets and countless others. Manatee and alligator do frequent the river but we didn’t get to see any.  However in just a few hours on this trip we saw more wildlife than in days in most other places.

If you enjoy this article, you will also enjoy our soon to be released book, Wild About Florida: Central Florida. this is just a small sample of what you will find in it and the entire series of the Wild About Florida books

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.