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The Chassahowitzka River is calm and heavily forested around the dock area.
Chassahowitzka River Wildlife Tours
Closest available address
8215 W. Bounty Court Chassahowitzka, FL 34448
Call ahead for reservations, morning hours are best.
Best time to visit
The Chassahowitzka River Wildlife Tour is a pontoon boat tour of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge. The tour costs $175 for up to four people and lasts about 2.5 hours. It departs from and returns to Chassahowitzka River Campground. The refuge is mix of heavily forested creeks and bays as well as salt marsh and open water. It is mostly undeveloped, and is home to a variety of wildlife especially wading birds.
Chassahowitzka is an Indian term that means hanging pumpkin, which actually references a gourd plant. The 31,000 acre refuge was created in 1941 to help protect waterfowl. The refuge transitions from freshwater springs and creeks closer to shore to saltwater marsh and then to the open water of the Gulf of Mexico. Closer to the Gulf are a dozen or so private homes and lodges and related boat traffic. Although portions of the refuge are designated wilderness, motorboats are permitted. There are a range of habitats here and plenty of wildlife too including the reintroduced Whooping Crane. While it’s unlikely you will see one of the cranes, equally interesting manatees are more common and can be seen year round though their numbers tend to increase in summer.
Captain Ken was both the tour guide and boat operator. He was easygoing and pleasant and clearly liked the work and introducing people to the area. Ken had an eagle eye for spotting wading birds and also knew where to look for manatees. Observing a manatee and her calf up close was a memorable moment, but just being out on the water and in nature on a sunny day in January was enjoyable as well. There is less to see as the river opens up and gets closer to the Gulf of Mexico. We stopped briefly at a dock on a small island with a picnic shelter which could be a good place to eat lunch if you are looking for a longer tour option. This well run and low-key tour will mainly appeal to wildlife enthusiasts. Wading birds, osprey and turtles were fairly common. Advance reservations are required.
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