Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail
Emergency contact information:
Levy County Sheriff’s Office:
Citrus County Sheriff’s Office: 352-726-4488
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office: 727-847-5878
Hernando County Sheriff's office 352-754-6830
U S Coast Guard Station Yankeetown 352-447-6900 (North of Hernando
U S Coast Guard Station Sand Key 727-596-8666 (South of Hernando Beach)
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation
Commission 24-hour wildlife emergency/boating under the influence
Florida Greenway spoil island near Yankeetown
End: Anclote Key
Distance: 89 miles
Much of this segment is remote, where cell phone coverage can be
spotty. Being properly equipped and prepared and leaving a float plan is
very important. The coast here is shallow in places and low tides can
present a problem for navigation and when seeking to land or launch.
Keep a tide chart to help plan your trip. A GPS is necessary, especially
when paddling the winding route between Crystal River and Chassahowitzka.
There are also four straight days that require paddling more than 15
miles a day, so long distance paddlers attempting this segment should
be experienced and very fit.
Open water stretches
around the Crystal River power plants and Anclote Key will prove
challenging in high winds. Be sure to check the weather forecast before
attempting to paddle these sections.
Whether it is paddling
through miles of winding tidal creeks or along unmarred beaches, or
stopping at small coastal towns, this segment has much to offer the
nature lover. Plus, wildlife abounds. Constant temperatures in the
spring-fed Crystal and Homosassa rivers provide a winter refuge for
numerous manatees. White pelicans, wading birds and a glimpse of
endangered whooping cranes also add excitement to any excursion.
For cultural breaks,
friendly trail towns spaced a day or two apart offer museums,
restaurants, grocery stores, motels and campgrounds. Information on many
of the local communities along the trail can be obtained by logging onto
Extensive public lands are
the key to keeping the Nature Coast natural. Three coastal state parks
are featured: Crystal River Preserve, Werner-Boyce Salt Springs and
Anclote Key. To learn more, log onto
. In addition, the Crystal River and Chassahowitzka national wildlife
refuges protect thousands of acres. To learn more, log onto
Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area is another large tract of public
land just above Weeki Wachi, totaling nearly 34,000 acres. For more
information, log onto
segment includes the 23,000-acre St. Martin’s Marsh Aquatic Preserve,
which helps to protect the marshy wilderness between Crystal River and
Homosassa. To learn more, log onto
Near Inglis, paddlers
will pass the outlet of one of Florida’s largest public works
projects—the Cross Florida Barge Canal. Before completion, this massive
shipping channel was halted by President Nixon in 1971 and deauthorized
by Congress in 1990. Now, the former canal lands constitute a
world-class 110-mile recreational greenway, named after one of the major
barge canal opponents, Marjorie Harris Carr. To learn more, log onto
Leave No Trace principles
should be followed in camping at designated primitive sites in order to
keep them open for paddlers. To learn more about Leave No Trace
principles, log onto http://www.lnt.org/
Cross Florida Greenway spoil island campsite to Uncle Tom's Island
campsite, 17 miles
To begin this segment,
you can launch at the mouth of the Withlacoochee River near Yankeetown,
at the end of Highway 40, and proceed a couple of miles to a spoil
island that was created by dredging a channel for the now defunct Cross
Florida Barge Canal (see map). Primitive camping is on a first-come,
first-serve basis. You can also launch along the Cross Florida Greenway
itself, either at the Highway 19 ramp or at various pullovers along the
unpaved road leading along the canal to the Gulf.
After the campsite, you’ll
need to follow a GPS point on the map to a point where you can either
cross (at high tide) or make a short portage over the jetty bordering a
cooling canal for the Crystal River coal and nuclear power plants. This
is about two miles from the campsite and more than three miles from the
mainland. The jetty is wide and vegetated before this point and posted
with no trespassing signs. If you want to see pods of manatees in the
winter, you can paddle on the north side of the jetty towards the
mainland where warm water is released from the power plants.
After crossing the jetty,
you can aim for the mouth of Crystal River and pick up the channel
markers. A straight shot is about five miles. Many boaters camp on the
privately-owned Shell Island at the river mouth. Proceed up the river
until you reach Pine Island and the mouth of the Salt River to the
south, where you’ll begin paddling the established 17-mile Nature Coast
Paddling Trail, managed by Citrus County. This is a scenic and winding
route along the Salt River and other waterways that requires a GPS and
close attention to the maps. Signs along the route may aid navigation.
If you continue up the
Crystal River into King’s Bay, you’ll have a good chance of encountering
manatees. While some manatees live in the bay year-round, hundreds
frequent the waters in winter as they are dependent upon the constant
72-degree temperatures of the springs. These manatees represent
approximately 20 percent of the manatee population in the Gulf of
Mexico. Please keep in mind that it is unlawful to chase or harass these
gentle giants or to enter established manatee sanctuary areas. Some
manatees may be curious enough to seek your company. Numerous motels and
restaurants are accessible from the water in the town of Crystal River.
The Crystal River Archeological State Park, which features a museum and
various Native American mound structures, is not accessible from the
water. The closest access point is the Crystal River State Park Preserve
ramp, where you will have to hike about two miles.
Along the Salt River,
closely follow GPS points as you paddle through Dixie Bay and “The
Narrows.” About a half mile past “The Narrows” you’ll see the north
entrance to Salt Creek. Uncle Tom’s Island is a remote tree island
surrounded by marsh about a mile up Salt Creek on the left. You’ll need
to follow your GPS to find it. This campsite is ideally suited for a
maximum of 8 people or 4 small tents and is available free of charge on
a first come-first serve basis.
2. Uncle Tom's Island campsite to Chassahowitzka River
Campground, 19 miles
From the campsite, you can exit Salt Creek at the south entrance (see
map). Continue along the scenic Salt River where you can stop for a rest
break at John Brown Park, just past the Highway 494 Bridge. You’ll then
proceed through Greenleaf Bay and Shivers Bay where you’ll see numerous
opportunities for rest stops.
When you reach the Homosassa River, proceed up
the river less than half a mile before turning south into Battle Creek.
Be wary of boat traffic and fast moving airboats in this area,
especially near the entrance of Battle Creek. For a lunch break or
overnight option, you can travel up the Homosassa River a little over a
mile to Homosassa Resort next to a public boat ramp.
The resort offers food, lodging, a kayak outfitter, and the
entertaining ‘Monkey Island’ observable from an outside bar.
As you proceed into the
31,000-acre Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge through Porpoise
Bay—where porpoises are frequently seen—follow your GPS to the entrance
of Seven Cabbage Creek. This creek entrance is narrow and vegetated and
can easily be missed. More than one paddler has mistakenly paddled up
Rose Creek—very scenic, but there is no outlet. If you stay in the main
channel of Seven Cabbage Creek, you should be fine, although a winter
low tide can be problematic. To the north, down a side creek, is an area
marked by the refuge as off limits. This is where young whooping cranes
are roosting for the winter and should not be disturbed. You might be
lucky enough to spot one of these large white birds as they often range
a short distance from their roosting area until they are ready to
Leaving Seven Cabbage
Creek, proceed up the Chassahowitzka River. A good spot for a break is
the Dog Island Rest Area about 2.5 miles upriver along the northern
bank. Managed by the refuge, this spot has a low dock, composting
toilet, picnic tables and a pavilion. No camping is allowed in the
refuge. The public ramp along the river is another 3.5 miles upriver.
The river becomes increasingly shallow and clear as you proceed
upstream. You'll pass several houses and fish camps that are only
accessible by water. Numerous springs, often found along the many side
streams, feed this scenic river. Just past the ramp, you can paddle
through the small town of Chassahowitzka, which has a classic Old
Florida look. About a mile past the public ramp, you can also paddle to
a fish camp that offers cabins for rent and a restaurant.
You’ll need to secure
your kayak near the rental boats at the ramp and walk a quarter mile to
the county campground. Call 352-382-2200 or log onto
http://chassahowitzkaflorida.com/ for more information. You’ll find a snack bar and small
store at the public ramp. Although out of the way, this is a scenic and
campsite along Ryle Creek (see map) in the Chassahowitzka Wildlife
Managment Area is available to paddlers in case of an emergency such as
foul weather or injury. This campsite is remote and unimproved and is
about a mile in from the creek mouth on the left side. Leave No Trace
guidelines should apply. Access may be difficult during extreme low
3. Chassahowitzka River Campground to Riverpoint Landing Motel, 20.5
By following the suggested route through the refuge
from the Chassahowitzka River and leading out South Blind Creek, you’ll
save some distance and there is a good channel, even at low tide.
Otherwise, you may have to paddle a mile or so past the mouth of the
Chassahowitzka River before you can proceed to the south. For several
miles through the refuge, there are few if any accessible areas of dry
land suitable for a rest break, so this will be one of the more
challenging segments of the trail. Pine Island Park, with its water,
restrooms and picnic area, will likely be a welcome sight. There is an
unofficial campsite about 2 miles before the park known as 10 Palms (see
You can take another rest break after about three
miles at the Bayport fishing dock or nearby ramp as you proceed up the
Weeki Wachee River and turn into the Mud River. Riverpoint Landing Motel
(352-592-0097) is at the end of the Mud River along a canal about two
miles from the Bayport dock. If the motel is full, there is a
possibility that paddlers can camp on a spit of land near the motel and
use outside restrooms and laundry facilities. The Mud River is a tidal
river with a mild current compared with the swift-flowing Weeki Wachee
Other overnight opportunities in the area include the Hernando
Beach Motel, about three quarters of a mile in from the coast in
Hernando Beach, 352-596-2527. Advanced reservations are recommended.
Restaurants are within easy walking distance of all the overnight stops.
For a more detailed map of the area that shows various amenities such as
restaurants and stores, log onto:
For more info about Hernando County, log onto
4. Riverpoint Landing Motel to Hudson, 16.5 miles
A good rest break is
Norfleet’s Fish Camp in the Old Florida town of Aripeka, after about 9
miles (352-666-2900). Water, restrooms and snacks are available. Camping is possible on
an emergency basis.
Hudson is a larger town
where you can land at the city boat ramp just past the park (paddle
around point and a short distance up canal). Across the street from the
park is the Inn on the Gulf, where you can rent a motel room. Call
727-868-5623 for rates and reservations.
5. Hudson to Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park campsite, 4.5
option is a primitive campsite at Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State
Park, less than a half mile up Hope Bayou. A recent addition to the
state park system, this scenic park primarily consists of open marsh
and tidal creeks, protecting four miles of coastline. Be wary of
airboats as they also use the park. Call the park at 727-816-1890 if
you plan to use this campsite.
The Salt Springs Alliance and the West Coast
Airboat Club have recently completed a pavilion at the Hope Bayou
primitive camp. The project was financed through fundraising by the
CSO and constructed by volunteers.
Salt Springs State Park campsite to Anclote Key State Park, 11.5 miles
After a couple of miles, you can take a rest break at Brasher Park,
which has restrooms and water. Here, you have a choice of hugging the
coast and accessing other public parks such as Rees Park and Anclote
Beach Park before paddling to Anclote Key, or making a straight beeline
across open water to the island. Weather will certainly be a determining
factor. The closest point to the northern end of Anclote Key from the
mainland is 4 miles, near the town of Tarpon Springs. Crossing at this
point could add a couple of miles to your day’s total. The famous sponge
fishing town of Tarpon Springs is not very accessible by kayak, but you
can paddle up the Anclote River to view it from the water or hike about
3 miles by road from the Anclote River Park. The town features a free
museum, numerous restaurants and gift shops.
At Anclote Key, camping
is allowed on the north end of the island. A series of hiking trails and
a sandy beach offers great opportunities to explore this 3-mile long
undeveloped island. Kayaking along the mangrove-lined bay side is
inviting as well. The south end has picnic shelters, grill and a
composting toilet for day users, while the north end has no facilities.
At the south end, a 19th century lighthouse is still operational. Due to
bird nesting, dogs are not allowed on the island.
Camping is free on
Anclote Key, but you must first check in by calling 727-638-4447. Be
wary of crossing open water stretches to and from the island as winds
can cause dangerous paddling conditions.