Exploring the Refuge
Surrounded to the north and east by the Withlacoochee State Forest and to the south by a wildlife management area, the 31,000-acre Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) is part of a nearly unbroken crescent of protected public lands stretching from Apalachicola to Pasco County on Florida’s gulf coast. The refuge was established in 1943 as a winter preserve for migratory water birds.
The primary access to the refuge is a short distance down the river from our lodge. There you will find saltwater bays, estuaries and brackish marsh, teeming with over 250 species of birds, 50 species of reptile and amphibians and at least 25 different mammals including manatee, dolphin, deer, wild boar, bobcat and bear.
If you enjoy fishing we have inshore species such as sea trout, redfish, mullet, snook and tarpon. Fishing on the Chassahowitzka River and wildlife refuge requires a Florida state license. Get the combination salt and freshwater license to make sure you are covered since you’ll find both types of habitat here.
The vast expanse of salt marsh, hardwood swamps, crystal-clear springs and river are a canoe and kayak paddler’s paradise. Because the river and nearby refuge are in nearly pristine condition, the river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Waterway. With this designation the river system was given special protection to maintain the high quality of natural environment for generations of paddlers to come.
Video from the Chassahowitzka River
Dolphin on the Chassahowitzka River by Chaz Lodge
Dolphin Chasing Mullet by Chaz Lodge
Paddling on the Chassahowitzka by Diane Lewis
Manatee Playing with Kayak by Diane Lewis
Chassahowitzka Otters by Diane Lewis