Brochure of Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) in Florida. Published by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).
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Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge 1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL 34429 352/563 2088 www.fws.gov/chassahowitzka U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service 1 800/344 WILD http://www.fws.gov May 2010 U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Located about 65 miles north of St. Petersburg, the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge is comprised This blue goose, designed by J. N. of approximately 31,000 acres of saltwater bays, estuaries and brackish “Ding” Darling, marshes with a fringe of hardwood has become the swamps along the eastern boundary. symbol of the National Wildlife The northern boundary parallels and includes some of the Homosassa Refuge System. River. The refuge extends southward across the scenic Chassahowitzka River for 12 miles to its southern boundary at Raccoon Point. USFWS Habitat and Wildlife The refuge was established in 1943 primarily to benefit waterfowl in an area long famous as a wintering location for ducks and coots. Today, although waterfowl numbers in central Florida have declined, the refuge has become increasingly important for the endangered West Indian manatees which utilize many of the refuge’s tidal bays, creeks and rivers. USFWS Chassahowitzka is one of more than 540 refuges included within the National Wildlife Refuge System. This unique network of lands and waters, administered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is managed specifically for the protection of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and represents the most comprehensive wildlife resource management program in the world. cover photo: USFWS Chassahowitzka is unspoiled estuarine habitat along Florida’s west coast that serves as an important breeding and feeding ground for marine life. Inland from the bays are the brackish creeks and ponds where muskgrass, watermilfoil and other foods grow in abundance. The eastern boundary provides a few thousand acres of swamp habitat where oaks, cypress and red cedar grow. The outer islands consist mainly of red and black mangrove which provided habitat for colonial birds. Many species of birds, including double-crested cormorants, great blue herons, green herons, ospreys, white pelicans, and various species of waterfowl and songbirds are observed on the refuge. Other animals inhabiting the refuge include numerous alligators and raccoons. River otters are seen occasionally exhibiting their aquatic skills. Deer, turkey, black bear, and predators such as the bobcat are occasional residents of the refuge. Endangered and threatened species including nesting bald eagles, West Indian manatees, woodstorks, green sea turtles, Eastern indigo snakes and an occasional peregrine falcon are observed on the refuge. The refuge provides a place for approximately 250 species of birds, over 50 species of reptiles and amphibians and at least 25 different species of mammals. Because of this, visitors are likely to see a variety of animals during a journey through the refuge. photo: USFWS/Joyce Kleen photo: Capt. Larry D. Campbell photo: Mike Lockart photo: USFWS Shallow bays support an abundant growth of wigeon-grass which provides food for various birds and the endangered manatee. photo: USFWS photo: USFWS Management Management objectives are oriented toward preserving and protecting the land and wildlife resources of the refuge. This requires an active law enforcement program designed to prevent disturbance of wildlife populations and the destruction of habitat. The entire state of Florida is a fire ecosystem that has historically burned every three to ten years. Prescribed fire is used on the refuge to mimic the natural fire regime. This improves habitat and food availability for several wildlife species including endangered and threatened species. Seventy-six percent of the refuge is a designated Wilderness Area meaning land that will remain undeveloped and preserved in its natural state. photo: George Gentry Visiting the refuge The refuge is only accessible by boat. Public boat ramps in the area of the refuge are limited, so visitors are advised to consult the enclosed map for the boat ramp access. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Units of the National Wildlife Refuge System stretch across the United States from northern Alaska to the Florida Keys, and include small islands in the Caribbean and South Pacific. The character of the refuges is as diverse as the nation itself. Because of the need to protect refuge lands and wildlife resources, special regulations have been enacted. These regulations concern public access and use of the refuge. Between April 1 and August 31, special posted slow speed restrictions zone apply to portions of the Chassahowitzka River for the protection of manatees. Airboat Use Airboat use on the refuge is restricted to Hernando County waters and posted routes in Citrus County. Operators are required to have a refuge airboat permit. Free permits, which describe refuge regulations, are issued from the refuge headquarters. Firearms/ Weapons Firearms/weapons are prohibited on the Refuge except during designated hunts at which time firearms must be transported unloaded and encased or dismantled. Hunting Special hunt regulations apply to the refuge. Consult Refuge Manager for current regulations. See map for location of hunt area and areas closed to hunting. Fishing County and state commercial/ sport fishing regulations apply. Consult Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for current regulations. Camping Camping is prohibited on the refuge. Fires Fires are prohibited on the refuge. The Service also manages National Fish Hatcheries, and provides Federal leadership in habitat protection, fish and wildlife research, technical assistance, and the conservation and protection of migratory birds, certain marine mammals, and threatened and endangered species. photo: Gaylen Rathburn Boating Speed More Information If you would like more information about this refuge, the Refuge System, or if you would like to volunteer, please contact: Refuge Manager Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge 1502 Southeast Kings Bay Drive Crystal River, FL 34429 352/563 2088.