The "Chaz"

by  RennyB
  • Going to The Crack

    Going to The Crack

  • Entrance to Potter Spring

    Entrance to Potter Spring

  • The end of line at Ryle Creek

    The end of line at Ryle Creek

A self-supported trip created by RennyB

Trip Overview

“The Chaz”

Launch: Chassahowitzka Campground, 8600 W. Miss Maggie Drive, Homosassa, FL

Parking fee is $5 or $7 with a boat trailer

Paddle Time: a few hours to a whole day of adventure.

I heard about the Chassahowitzka River from Captain Traci Wood, owner of the Homosassa Manatee Snorkeling Center. Nobody uses the river’s full name. It is better known as The Chaz.

My neighbors, wife and I had gone out with Captain Traci for a scalloping trip. In the course of conversation, Captain Traci asked, “have you ever kayaked on The Chaz?” I had never even heard of this river, so Captain Traci went on to explain that it was a fantastic river to paddle. A few weeks later the four of us were out exploring the river.

This lovely river, The Chaz, was my first introduction to river kayaking. This river has it all: blackwater, spring runs, small caves, salt marshes and an abundance of wildlife, including bald eagles. Manatees are frequently sighted in this river along with otters, gators and turtles. The kayak launch is a part of the campground facility. Kayak rentals are also available. On weekends the parking lot fills up early.

There are varying reports about the length of the Chassahowitzka River. Wikipedia says 5 miles, says 5.6 miles and the locals say it’s about 7 miles. There is, however, a whole lot of paddling packed into this river.

The Chaz is fed from several spring sources: Chassahowitzka Spring , Seven Sisters, The Crack, Ruth, Potter, Rita Maria, Beteejay, Blue, Blue Run and many more unnamed springs. Chassahowitzka Spring is a first magnitude spring and is located to the right and almost directly off the kayak launch area. This spring is generally only visible at low tide, and swimming/diving is not allowed in this spring. The head spring is a very popular hang out for manatees.

Seven Sisters Spring is the most heavily subscribed spring, with The Crack a close runner up. As with most popular Florida destinations, visiting them on weekdays when school is in session means less crowds. During the months when school is not in session, and on weekends, both Seven Sisters and The Crack can be unpleasant shit shows. Seven Sisters Spring is shallow with several holes that connect to each other where people can swim through short tunnels.

From the kayak launch you paddle up river to the right to reach Seven Sisters Spring. It is about a 5 minute paddle. To find The Crack, you turn left (down river) from the kayak launch. About a half mile from the kayak launch there are two openings on the left side of the river. The second of these two openings is the entrance to Baird Creek. If there has been a lot of rain you can paddle right into The Crack. Under these high water circumstances the usually blue spring will be browned out. Most times, however, you will tie your kayak to a tree branch and walk the last couple hundred yards to the spring. You will know you have arrived by the bowl-shaped spring, the crowds and a rope swing (which has been removed, so I have heard, but have not verified for myself). Paddle time to The Crack is about 40+ minutes depending on your boat and personal strength. When I go to The Crack, it is always on a weekday and first thing in the morning. The camp store where you pay for parking opens at 8 a.m.

Far more interesting to me are the lesser traveled sections of the river. In order of distance from the kayak launch they are: Potter Creek, Crawford Creek and Ryle Creek.

Potter Creek

The entrance to Potter Creek is about a mile and half down river from the kayak launch. It is on the right side of the river. You will first pass 3 other right turnoffs, all of which go to Salt Creek. Paddle past the entrances to Salt Creek. Unless you have some sort of GPS with you, I would advise staying out of Salt Creek. It is a maze of short dead ends and it can be difficult to retrace your route, but not impossible. I have gotten turned around in there on many occasions and have lived to tell about it. Past the entrances to Salt Creek the river will get wider. In the distance on the right bank you will see a barn red fishing shack. When you can see the fishing shack, there will be a right turn off the river. This is the entrance to Potter Creek.

Potter Creek is a less frequented route. Otters and raccoons are often seen in this section of river. Potter Creek is not a twisty creek, but the entrance into Potter Spring will give kayakers are run for their money. It is about ¾ of a mile to Potter Spring. You will recognize the entrance to Potter Spring by the two tall palm trees stand guard on each side of its narrow entrance. The spring water runs swift through the beckoning chute. You need to get up a good head of steam in order to paddle blast your way into this spring. The water is clear, the vegetation on the surrounding banks is lush, and it is delightful to float inside this little oasis. Many people take a refreshing dip in this spring, mainly because they flip their kayaks in the current as they enter the spring.

Beyond Potter Spring is Ruth Spring. I have portaged out of Potter Spring to continue to Ruth Spring. I have also paddled to it if water heights are favorable.

Swimming in most of the springs I go to is not like swimming in sanitized State Park spring. There are no lifeguards, no docks, no steps, no handrails, no rules. If there are rules, it is because the spring is adjacent to private property. I strongly urge you to heed all No Trespassing signs. You are kayaking in Florida where wing nuts, psychos and toddlers are allowed to wield guns. These locations are wild. I have gotten out of my kayak and sunk into ooze up to my waist. I have dragged my kayak under and over trees and hauled it up 15 foot embankments. For me, the best kind of kayak day is when I head home filthy and soaking wet.

Crawford Creek

The best way to find Crawford Creek is to head down river, paddling along the left side of the river. It is roughly 3 miles to the entrance to Crawford Creek, which will be on your left. As you head towards the Gulf, the Chaz will become much wider. You will see functional and defunct fishing shacks on either side of the river. It is a rag tag collection of cabins and docks that evokes a primitive desire to live off the grid. Most of these properties rely on rain collection for a fresh water source and either solar power or generators for electricity. I think there are a few that have access to the electric power grid. The river has changed from wooded banks to tidal marsh.

At the entrance to Crawford Creek is a memorial plaque for Darrell Prine. Turn left and follow the current through the tidal marsh. Around one mile in you will paddle past a small cluster of fishing shacks on your right. At the end of these houses is the entrance to Blue Run Spring which is about a ¾ mile paddle off Crawford Creek. This is a nice side exploration, but the objective of going to the end of Crawford Creek is to see Beteejay Spring, or more accurately, the house at Beteejay Spring.

As you continue along Crawford Creek the salt marsh will lead to the surprisingly lush and shaded tropical spring run to Beteejay. The spring run is crystal clear water, narrow and twisty. As with several of the privately owned springs (waterways are legally public access) there is conflict and controversy when “owners” restrict access to springs. Beteejay is one of those springs.

As mentioned, the land around the spring is privately owned and there is a beautiful house built over the spring run with a connecting walkway. At the rear of the house there is a connected boat house, and the two boats parked under this structure blocked access to the spring. This was a very clever design. The spring is named after Betty and Jay Storch who found the spring and, according to public records, own the house and a sizeable amount of acreage around the springs.

I have gotten out of my boat in the creek and swam into Beteejay Spring. When I hopped back onto my kayak and turned around, there was an elderly woman up on the second story deck snapping photos of me and my paddling partner in crime. I came to find out that this woman is Mrs. Storch. The conversation started out frosty on her part, but she sort of warmed up to me after a bit of schmoozing. I have attempted to read the legalize regarding riparian rights, but that information was about as clear as mud. I told Mrs. Beteejay that I believed I was being respectful and observing her property rights by not stepping on her land. She countered that she owns the land below the water as well. I profusely apologized for causing her any distress and headed on my way.

One can continue paddling further up Crawford Creek. I have gone at least 2 miles past the Storch house, but there are portages.

Ryle Creek

About a half a mile beyond the entrance to Crawford Creek is Ryle Creek. It is also a left branch off the Chassahowitzka River. You will see an abandoned house on Garden Island. There is a dock protruding off the left side of the island. Paddle all the way to the left around the far side of the island and house. This will put you on the correct course of Ryle Creek. There are no signs to indicate that you are going in the correct direction. The creek is about 30 feet wide and ambles through salt marsh grasses. You know that you have arrived at the correct destination when the flora get tropically lush and the tributary ends at palm tree growing on a small mound of dirt protruding from the creek bank. To the right of the palm tree is a dock made out of decaying wood pallets. There is also a rusting bicycle handing from a wood post.

Technically, this is private land. The makeshift pallet dock provides a hazardous path to a dirt road. I was slightly concerned that this crossing was an ill advised idea, especially if I had taken a digger. If you follow the road left, it is a short walk to Super Spring. The deer or yellow flies (I still can’t tell the difference) are brutal back here.

I do not think many paddlers venture out to Ryle Creek. It isn’t glamorous and showy like Seven Sisters or The Crack. However, I observed lots of fish in the water along this creek, so I can imagine that this would be a good place to fish, for those who like that activity. I do not fish, and I can’t tell you about the different kinds of fish in each river or spring. Suffice it to say that there are fish in the waters pretty much everywhere I go.

Ryle Creek is a perfect location for people looking for solitude or for a very isolated fishing trip location. There will be no one else out there to scare away the fish.

The Chassahowitzka River is an interesting paddle because one starts at the head spring and everywhere you travel on this river is going with the current as you start your journey (with the exception of heading to Seven Sisters Spring). Keep in mind that however far away you venture from the kayak launch, your return trip will be going against the current on your trip home. The Chaz is very much impacted by the tides. Your paddle up river can be made extra strenuous if you happen to be heading up river when the tide is going out. Save some steam and muscle for the trip home. And bring plenty of hydration!

Trip Details

  • Trip Dates: 10/8/2023
  • Sport/Activity: Kayaking
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Water Type: River/Creek (Up to Class II)

Trip Location