National wildlife refuges offer us all a chance to unplug from the stresses of daily life and reconnect with our natural surroundings.
Located about 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge comprises approximately 31,000 acres of saltwater bays, estuaries and brackish marshes with a fringe of hardwood swamps along the eastern boundary. The northern boundary parallels, and includes, some of the Homosassa River. The refuge extends southward across the scenic Chassahowitzka River for 12 miles to its southern boundary at Raccoon Point.
Shallow bays support an abundant growth of wigeon-grass which provides food for various birds and the endangered manatee. Inland from the bays are the brackish creeks and ponds where muskgrass, watermilfoil and other foods grow in abundance. The eastern boundary provides a few thousand acres of swamp habitat where oaks, cypress, and red cedar grow. The outer islands consist mainly of red and black mangrove which provided habitat for colonial birds.
Seventy-six percent of the refuge is a designated Wilderness Area meaning land that will remain undeveloped and preserved in its natural state.
Chassahowitzka NWR has several activities available to visitors such as wildlife viewing, boating/paddling, fishing and photography.
Visitors to the Refuge can paddle the calm, quiet Chassahowitzka River to view crystal clear springs and an abundance of wildlife. Fishing, crabbing, and shell-fishing opportunities abound in the estuaries along the Gulf Coast. Motorized boating along with air-boating make for exciting sightseeing adventures. Walk the paths and climb the tower at Salt Marsh Trails to get an up-close and bird’s eye view of the unique habitat which over 300 species of animals call home.
Refuge trails and the boardwalk provide family-friendly wildlife andviewing areas. All trails are flat, offering easy walks without losing any of the natural opportunities. Some of the trails can get wet or muddy depending on the tide. Get a bird’s eye view of the marsh from the top of Lastinger Tower.
Rules and Policies
- Feeding, enticing, or disturbing the wildlife.
- Firearms or weapons of any kind except during designated hunts at which time firearms must be transported, unloaded, and encased or dismantled.
- Taking of turtles, frogs, and snakes by any means.
- Release of any wild or domestic animals.
- Taking (living or dead) or injuring any plant or animal (this includes parts) other than legally taken fish or waterfowl.
- Fires of any type, camping, or spotlighting.
The Chassahowitzka NWR is primarily accessible by boat and is located approximately 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, FL. A boat ramp, maintained by Citrus County, provides a launching point for boats on the Chassahowitzka River for a small fee. To get there take U.S. Hwy. 19 north from St. Petersburg (or south from Perry) to State Road 480. Proceed west on State Road 480, the Chassahowitzka Boat Ramp is located at the end of this road. The refuge begins approximately three miles down river from this boat ramp.
The Salt Marsh Trails parking area is just off Mason Creek Rd. in Homosassa. From US 19 turn onto Yulee Drive and continue until you reach Mason Creek Rd on the left just across from the Homosassa Elementary School.