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Latest update: April 2021

Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area... Florida

Unpaved Eco-biking on Public Lands

Located on Florida's Gulf Coast 15 miles south of Crystal River, Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area (WMA) preserves a large block of Florida habitat. Bicycling is allowed on the many miles of limestone roads and logging trams. Hiking trails are located at the Indigo Lane Trailhead, and two top cave diving sites are at Buford Spring and Eagle's Nest Sink.. Entry and exit is from the same point along US 19. Cars share the WMA roads, but we only saw a few on our visit. (Map link and photos below.)

chassahowitzka wildlife management area, eco-biking

Map link...
Chassahowitzka WMA Biking


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Location: Citrus County (US 19, north of Centralia Road)
Mileage:
Varied: park roads, trams
Surface:
Limestone, crushed rock and shell, packed dirt, sand
Trailheads: US 19, Indigo Lane (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Homosassa Springs, Crystal River

Bike Shops/Rentals:

N/A

CHASSAHOWITZKA WMA... Comments and Photos

We stuck to the named roads, bikeable though often rough - not a casual recreational ride. Some shady spots, but mostly open to the sun - better during cool weather. There are signs at the road crossings, easy to follow but having a map is useful - not always available at the entry, it can be downloaded from the link at the bottom of this page. Pay a per person day-use fee at the entrance (next to the hunter's sign-in). Picnic tables and restrooms are available but no other facilities - bring water and snacks. Florida law requires bikers under 16 to wear a helmet. During hunting season, wearing orange or other bright color is recommended. Hunts are usually over by afternoon.


Entry Station to Indigo Lane Trailhead and return (loop, about 7.5 miles)

Entering off US 19 near Centralia Rd. there's a hunter's sign-in and day-fee pay station with parking, restrooms, and picnic facilities. From here, we followed Rattlesnake Camp Road and Three Bridges Road, and visited Buford Spring and Indigo Lane Trailhead. Completing the loop, we returned on Three Bridges Road to Thunder's Crossing, then on Gopher Road back to the entry station. The road surface is hard-packed, but rocky.


Buford Spring

Off Three Rivers Road, a parking area and sign "Attention SCUBA Divers" mark the entry to Buford Spring, Considered one of the most beautiful in Florida and with the 2nd largest diveable cavern in Florida after Wakulla Spring, it's popular for scuba and cave diving with a maximum depth of 165 feet. Divers must be at least 18 years old and obtain a permit . A 4/10 mile path (one-way) leads from the road to the spring, now including a boardwalk built in 2019 to mitigate environmental damage done by visitors/divers who previously had to trek through deep swamp mud to reach the spring. While we're not divers, we enjoyed the hike on this scenic and easy trail and boardwalk.


Indigo Lane Trailhead

Indigo Lane Trailhead has parking and picnicking, no other facilities. Two loop hiking trails run from here. Cypress Circle (1.5 miles) circles a cypress dome, while Wild Turkey Trace (3/4 mile) loops through open woodlands.


Entry Station to Eagle's Nest Sink and return (about 13 miles out and back)

Off Rattlesnake Camp Road about 8/10 mile from the entry station is South Road. Turn here, then right on Old Bayport Road to Eagle's Nest Sink, about 6.5 miles. The road is bikeable, a bit smoother in this section (we biked on Old Bayport Road). It was dry on our trip, but there are several "Low Water Crossing Ahead" markers so be alert under wet conditions. Also along South Road, at Wild Buck Road, is the entrance to NJoy Spirits Distillery, a whiskey distiller located within the WMA providing tours, tastings and sales. Closed the day we visited, more information .


Eagle's Nest Sink

Parking and restroom available, a short boardwalk (100 ft.) leads to the Sink. Called the "Mount Everest" of cave diving, under its unassuming surface are a network of caverns down to over 300 feet - a permit is required. While divers must be 18 or older, only certified cave diving teams with specialized equipment are encouraged, there have been multiple deaths here.

More Information

About Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area:

Once center of a booming lumber operation based at the sawmill fown of Centralia (1910-1922), Florida acquired the land in 1985. Chassahowitzka Wildlife Management Area covers almost 34,000 acres with diverse habitat - forested wetlands, wet hammock, salt marsh and sandhill communities. It contains Chassahowitzka Swamp, the largest hardwood swamp south of the Suwannee River and important in protecting the Florida aquifer. Activities include hiking, biking, horseback riding, and hunting. Tram roads built in the early 1900's to haul lumber from the swamp to the railroad today are used for hiking and off-road biking. Wildlife include bear, bobcat, gopher tortoise and fox squirrel. Birdwatching is abundant - the WMA is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

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