Locals call it the “Chaz,” or the Chassahowitzka River, a waterway that winds through natural Old Florida in Citrus County, south of Crystal River and relatively unknown to many.
The otter family quietly slipped out of the water and onto the riverbank with barely a sound. On the opposite side of the river a raccoon was scouting the shoreline for breakfast within yards of her home, an uprooted Sabal Palm. Close by, I heard the loud grunts of a wild hog foraging for food behind the tall grasses. And if that’s not enough, a young alligator, in stealth-mode began crossing the river nearby.
Minutes earlier, we had spotted a manatee and passed a family of dolphins. Nature was clearly abundant as we paddled one of Florida’s hidden gems – the Chassahowitzka River.
Chaz-a-who? It’s a good thing you don’t have to be able to pronounce the name of this river to love it. Northwest of Tampa in southern Citrus County, the five-mile, shallow Chassahowitzka (Chass-a-how-itz-ka) will remind you of a “time before time” in Florida.
Referred to as the “Chaz” by locals, the river is fed by several tributaries and springs appropriately designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway. The combination of salt marshes, hardwood swamps and crystal-clear springs make it one of the most memorable experiences in the state.
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