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*see our 5-Bambi rating legend at the end of this review.
We’ve considered that sharing our newfound winter enclave tucked into a rare, delicate and gorgeous sliver of Old Florida might not serve to our advantage. Chassahowitzka (pronounced Chaz Ah Witz Kah) is a low-key tropical paradise which locals and regulars would like to keep low-key. Even the drive there seems to want to hold the secret close to home – remote fishing villages along Florida’s Nature Coast can be just as hard to find as they are to pronounce the names.
Going on no recommendation other than Jim’s careful research on RV Park Reviews we decided to secure a low-risk reservation (meaning our credit card is only charged upon arrival). Only rarely do we make reservations and then only in high-risk situations, and then only if there is no penalty – or a minor one – for cancellation. Many full-timers warned that our ‘No Reservations’ philosophy wouldn’t play well in wintertime Florida. But, ‘No Reservations’ is key to our lifestyle these days – we enjoy the challenge; it gives us more choices; helps us to stay frosty, light and ready to move. Sure, we might miss some nice places, but reservations can be a trap if the situation is less than expected. If I sound over-confident, it’s because I’m preaching to us. Even after eight months of LIB, we must constantly remind ourselves that we’re not limited to the two-week vacation commitment. Jim’s a COO/CFO – planning every moment is what he does, who he is. ‘No Reservations’ is quite a departure for us.
So, holding to our not-so-cocky convictions, we set out from Carrabelle to Homosassa and Chassahowitzka River Campground with our doubts …Yikes! What sorta place in Florida would take us on such short notice and for a whole month! Other than the Chula Vista RV Park and Marina which hosted us during our transition from House to Airstream, we haven’t stayed anyplace longer than two weeks. We reserved the month at Chassahowitzka because it was cheaper than reserving for two weeks ($397 per month or $213 per week or $38 per day). Also, our space was “firm” – no moving the trailer around from space-to-space, included full-hook-ups, laundry facility … and it was a block away from a kayaking mecca.
As the GPS guided us off a busy commercial corner of Suncoast Boulevard into a mossy and thickly shaded, non-conforming mixed-use, middle-class neighborhood – a church here, a dive-bar there … concern mounted that our destination might be just another depressing trailer-park like many we’d observed from the highway that day … Then, we turned the corner.
Whoa. Wow! Wow, wow, wow …
Chassahowitzka is a spring fed river.
Chassahowitzka means “pumpkin hanging place” in Seminole – probably due an extinct variety of climbing squash which was harvested along the bank of the oak, red cedar and cypress clear-water swamp.
Until recently The Chaz – as locals call it – was blocked by septic tank runoff and algal overgrowth. The Southwest Florida Water Management District cleaned up the spring in 2013. One of the most important natural areas of the region and designated as an Outstanding Florida Water Source by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Chassahowitzka with it’s relatively undisturbed swamp is a treasure to behold. Hopefully, the work will continue to protect this startling beauty of a river with it’s abundance of all that is good and right in the world. LIB isn’t here to tell anyone what to do before they die, but we’re so grateful to have our Chaz experience under our belts. From our perspective this place has it all …
Manatees – they just want safe clean water and love …
Thermal springs – an ecological marvel, this year-round spring is a manatee haven in the winter when scores of sea cows swim into the warm springs.
The Chassahowitzka River Campground is the best way to approach The Chaz. It is a state owned, county run (Citrus), privately and locally managed park and boat launch. Both RV (56 sites) and primitive (25 sites) camping are offered with some pull-thrus and some back-ins. Clean, quiet, and naturally landscaped, the Chassahowitzka River Campground offers some of the largest campsites we’ve seen in Florida. Our perfectly level, gravel space had full hook-ups, a freshly painted table and a fire-pit (which we didn’t use). Like all of the sites on the outer edges of the park, ours had adequate privacy with one side tucked into the densely wooded forest.
Mosquitos and no-seeums were only active in the evening hours and we were prepared, but still had to order more product. Maybe, since I grew up in Florida, the bugs don’t bother me, but … poor Jim
Chassahowitzka River Campground rents kayaks and canoes at the launch and charges $5 for parking. The launch and camp store is the busy area and is separated from the campground by about a city block. The dock is also a fishing area and you don’t have to wait long to see someone reel in a catch. But the primary reason people come to The Chaz is for the paddling
Because of the peace and quiet of the Chasshowitzka Wildlife Refuge, it was easy to forget that we were only five minutes from fresh produce and groceries. Within cycling distance are several excellent roadside produce stands, grocery stores and Farmer’s Markets. Citrus County is well-known for it’s produce and small family farms advertising fresh eggs, dairy and berries. We were also only about an hour from Tampa where we attended a huge RV show, made a Trader Joe’s stop and had lunch at The Soup Plantation aka: Sweet Tomatoes.
Eating out in Chaz, Homosassa and Crystal River is one amazing dining experience after another. We became obsessed with finding new places … searching through back-water areas for small, secluded water-front eateries that serve fish from their own boats and crab chowders from old family recipes. Nearly every day was a new lunch al fresco on a rustic deck somewhere overlooking an inlet, lake or swamp. And, you can’t beat the dinner entertainment … bald eagles perform close fly-bys, often with a squirming catch in their talons.
We didn’t encounter any alligators on these protected trails – only one feral hog. We had pepper spray, but didn’t have to use it. Whew! Take it from us, those guys are fast!!!
The annual Florida Manatee Festival:
Chassahowitzka River Campground also had the best WiFi we’ve experienced in a park since we left San Diego.
We give this wonderful campground a Four Bambi Rating only because it lacked a swimming pool, our requirement for a Five. However, we found a great community pool in Crystal River where we began each day with a morning swim.
|Our “BAMBI” rating system for Public and Private campgrounds and resorts explained:
– One Bambi: Should’a boondocked.
– Two Bambi’s: Better than a Cracker Barrel or Walmart.
– Three Bambi’s: Adequate for a short stay.
– Four Bambi’s: Great place! Met our expectations for an extended stay. Needs minor improvements or is not ideally situated for all our preferred recreation (walking, cycling, swimming, kayaking) without driving.
– Five Bambi’s: Destination Camping at it’s best! Critical as we are, there’s nothing we’d improve, and you can bet your sweet Bambi we’re going back!