Before we took off for the Nature Coast, everyone we ran into kept telling us, “you have to paddle the Chaz”. We take most advice people give us pretty seriously, but when we hear it more than once, then we really pay attention.
So naturally stop one on our nature coast walkabout was a paddle trip along the Chaz. The first thing you should know is that the reason people call it the Chaz is because its real name is Chassahowitzka. Say that three times fast, heck say it once, it’s a mouth full.
It might be tough to say, but it most certainly lived up to all the hype. It was absolutely stunning! If you want to check out the video, hop on over.
Where To Go & How To Get There:
The best place to start a paddle along the Chaz is from the Chassahowitzka Campground marina. They have a great sandy launch for kayaks, canoes and paddle boards as well as a concrete launch to accommodate motor boats. If you don’t have your own form of river transportation rentals are also available. If you’ve already got your own boats $5 will get you a parking pass good for the whole day.
We chatted with a few locals before hitting the river and everyone insisted that the crack was the place to paddle to. So away we went. The getting there was pretty simple, turning left (downriver) from the marina launch brought us out into the main current.
The Chaz is a part of the larger Chassahowitzka Wildlife Refuge, so naturally we expected to see a huge variety of critters. As we glided along we rolled on by blue and tri-colored herons, a few sunbathing turtles, and of course a healthy population of fish.
*Traveler’s Tip: We don’t just love our paddle boards for their form. By standing up on a flat surface, we have an elevated point of view, so we get to see all kinds of things other folks in canoes and kayaks might not. If you haven’t tried one out yet, you should!
On a weekend the best way to locate the entrance to Baird Creek which will take you up to the crack is to look for the large conglomeration of people crowding off to the left of the river. On the weekends it can be quite the party. No people? No problem, just look for the split in the river and hang to the left.
During certain times the entrance to the creek can get low, as in there is almost none there, you’ll have to get off and portage your ride. The bottom is generally sandy and easy walking.
Something no one mentioned to us before heading out, was how important it is to watch your feet. The further we paddled into the creek the more common sightings of water moccasins gliding along the surface of the water and hiding out in the nearby grasses became. We generally aren’t skittish of snakes, but when you know a venomous fellow is nearby it’s in everyone (including the snake’s) best interest to use caution.
Baird creek follows a narrow and winding path that eventually brings you to a broad wide spring with gorgeous aqua colored water. Not knowing what we were exactly looking for, and without a single other soul around to ask, we almost thought that was it and turned around. Fortunately we didn’t.
An even narrow creek eventually leads into a small and shallow space, which even if you’ve never seen it before couldn’t be mistaken for anything other than the crack- because thats what it looks like- a crack in the forest’s wall. And it’s amazing.
You can get out or off your vessel, wander around. At the very back there’s a beautiful spring and swimming hole perfect for a dip and complete with a rope swing.
On our way back upstream we wandered past the marina just a bit and explored Seven Sister’s Spring. Full of caverns ( large enough to swim through, but its suggested you don’t) the water is crystal clear and great spot to get away from the crowds on the main part of the river for some scenic relaxation.
Our whole experience on the Chaz cost us a whopping $5.00 for a parking pass, and we spent about 2.5 hours on the river. It was a perfect way to spend an afternoon.
It’s also worth nothing the campground where the marina is located has incredibly reasonable camping rates, and looked really nice from what we saw of it!
Feeling tipsy? We’d love to know where you think the best paddle spots are so we can start planning our next trip! As always, thanks for reading!