Visiting the Chassahowitzka River: Many Manatees & a Gnome

By Diane Bedard Posted on January 24, 2019

Recently, NatureCoaster was part of an exciting adventure on the Chassahowitzka River.

Hunter Springs Kayaks is a wonderful partner with The team there has us go out on adventures and then write about them so our readers can get to know what’s available. It has been a great way for us to see more of the water side of fun and visiting the Chassahowitzka river was no exception.

Welcome to the Chassahowitzka River boat ramp, accessible through the Chassahowitzka Campground, which requires a permit to park. Be sure to check in at the campground store.

First, while we were waiting for our VIP guests, I tried the all clear kayak that Hunter Springs offers on some of their guided tours. It was large and caught the wind of the blustery day, but I sure loved the feeling of unity with the water that this unique watercraft offered.

I went out about twenty-five feet from the Chassahowitzka campground boat ramp, in the deep area just off the head spring, and was surrounded by manatees of all sizes.

A most amazing experience in the All Clear Kayak

And I went over several as I paddled around the area, looking down at the oblong, gray gentle giants below. It was very tranquil and then I heard a “whissssshhh” off to my left. I looked over and a manatee snout was lowering itself back below the surface as I heard another “whissshh” behind me.

In the bowl of the Chassahowitzka River, surrounded by manatees, the all clear kayak from Hunter Springs Kayaks helped me feel integrated with the environment.

I turned around and just caught another manatee snout going down. Another “whisssshhh” and another.

What a wonderful, immersive experience this was. I felt unified with the aquatic environment, floating over and watching the playful mammals move freely through the crystal-clear water. I believe this had something to do with the all clear kayak and it was a really special experience that I won’t forget.

three manatees
Three manatees image by Pat Manfredo.

Dave Perry, Jr. was our guide. Dave grew up in Citrus County and is a water-lover to say the least. He came out on his SUP, which Hunter Springs Kayaks also rents, and pointed out the pelicans in a tree on the banks, as well as a rope that locals may or may not use to swing into the deep.

The Guest of Honor is a Gnome

The rest of our tour arrived a short time later, and who was the guest of honor? The Roaming Gnome from Travelocity®! OK, I admit it. I was thrilled! We were working with Citrus County Visitors and Convention Bureau, VisitFlorida® and Travelocity® to film a video of the gnome visiting this amazing place.

roaming gnome
Yes, the real, authentic Roaming Gnome visited Florida’s Nature Coast. We went kayaking on the Chassahowitzka River.

Stay tuned for when the video is completed and NatureCoaster will post a link to it. Meanwhile, back to the Chassahowitzka. Did you know the name of this peaceful place means “place of hanging pumpkins,” so named by the Seminole tribes who lived here during the Second Seminole War (1835-1842)?


chassahowitzka river
The Chassahowitzka River is shallow in many places, especially during low tide. The water is crystal clear.

Dave explains that there are no more hanging pumpkin plants. They must have died out over the years.

We changed out kayaks to the totally awesome clear-bottom kayaks, which are easier to navigate with than the all-clear model and set out to seven sisters springs, one of the most tranquil places I have been to.

Paddling upstream, we passed the brown pelicans and one left the tree, flying overhead. They have always reminded me of pterodactyls, kind of prehistoric. I spot a great blue heron on the shore and take a quick segue to get a photo. I got video, so enjoy:

We paddled around the far side of a very small island because the water was too shallow to get through the other way. The Chassahowitzka river is shallow in most places, and some local favorites require you to get out of your vessel and carry it to get there.

The Roaming Gnome, affectionately referred to as “R.G.” by his handler, Andy Nagel, is safely ensconced between Andy and Monica Pedraja, content creator for Oribtz and just plain amazing photographer.

R.G. is safely carried on Andy and Monica’s kayak as we bravely paddle against the current and wind.

Seven Sisters Springs

I am fortunate to have Chris Joy from VisitFlorida® paddling with me. After we round the tiny island, we are privy to seven sisters, a small area with seven springs and several caves that provides a very serene backdrop for the Roaming Gnome to safely kayak in the all clear model for the camera.

He is dressed in a tiny lifejacket with the HSK logo on it. It is adorable. And he is safely pushed from Andy to Dave and back again for Monica to get the perfect action.

Monica catches video of R.G. traveling from Dave to Andy in the all clear kayak. He seemed to really like it too.

Chris and I are able to explore a bit and too quickly, “it’s a wrap.”

seven sisters springs
Check out this amazing spring at seven sisters on the Chassahowitzka River. Notice the clarity of the water in the pool.

Our little group heads back the way we came. It’s much faster going back because the current is with us, and it’s fairly strong on the Chazz. We return to our launch site and Miles Saunders from Citrus County Visitor and Convention Bureau cheerfully welcomes us to shore.

group photo
Left to right: Chris from VisitFlorida®, Monica and Andy from Travelocity® and Orbitz®, Roaming Gnome, Miles from Citrus County Visitor and Convention Bureau and Dave from Hunter Springs Kayaks.

A quick group photo, some business card and social media handle exchanges and we all head back to our various offices.

diane bedard and roaming gnome
Me and R.G.

I’ll be back to explore the Chassahowitzka River in more detail with Hunter Springs Kayaks – and the community which has a story. Meanwhile, get out there and paddle!



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