Fish and Wildlife Service, Florida.
The Chassahowitzka Wilderness now contains a total of 23,579 acres and is managed by the Fish & Wildlife Service's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge Complex. All of the Wilderness is in the state of Florida. In 1976 the Chassahowitzka Wilderness became part of the now over 110 million acre National Wilderness Preservation System.
In the language of the Seminole Indians, Chassahowitzka means "Hanging Pumpkin," although no one seems to remember just how this region earned that moniker. Regardless, Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge encompasses 30,500 acres of mangrove islands, saltwater bays, estuaries, and brackish marshes, fringed with an oak-cypress-cedar hardwood swamp on the eastern side. Except for a northeastern portion, the entire refuge is designated Wilderness. The Homosassa River runs through the northern Wilderness, while the Chassahowitzka River marks the uppermost boundary of the southern Wilderness.
Originally established for the benefit of waterfowl, the area now provides critical habitat to a diversity of wildlife, including endangered species such as the West Indian manatee and whooping crane. The tidal bays, rivers, and creeks of Chassahowitzka NWR provide summer habitat for the West Indian manatee. These gentle aquatic mammals consume 10 to 15 percent of their body weight each day. With some animals exceeding 1,000 pounds, the abundance growth of musk grass in Chassahowitzka's shallow bays provides an important food source for manatees. While manatees frequent the refuge most often during the summer months, whooping cranes can only be seen on the refuge during the winter months. An experimental migratory population of whooping cranes has been migrating to the refuge to winter in the saltmarsh since 2001.
The Chassahowitzka Wilderness is located approximately 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, FL. A boat ramp, maintained by the 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 Chasshowitzka Boat Ramp is located at the end of this road. The refuge is located approximately three miles down river from this boat ramp. To get to the wilderness you will need a boat. The Homosassa and Chassahowitzka Rivers are ideal for canoeing and kayaking and a canoe trail borders the wilderness area along the eastern boundary for about 5 miles.
Hands-on information about the Chassahowitzka Wilderness and Refuge can be obtained by visiting the refuge headquarters, located in Crystal River, Florida. The headquarters can be accessed from U.S. 19, which runs through the Town of Crystal River. A directional sign is located on both sides of the highway, at the intersection of U.S. 19 and S.E. Paradise Point Drive. Turn west onto Paradise Point Drive which will shortly turn north into Kings Bay Drive. The refuge headquarters is located at this intersection (curve) at 1502 S.E. Kings Bay Drive, which is on the left side of the road, immediately adjacent to the Port Hotel and Marina.