Chassahowitzka Main Spring (or Devil’s Punchbowl)
Summary of Features
- Scale - 1st magnitude
- Scenery - good-excellent
- How Pristine? - near developed area; spring pristine
- Swimming - no, lies in boat lane
- Protection - very good
- Crowds - boat traffic over spring
- Access - very good
- Facilities - excellent
- Safety - fine
- Scuba - no
- Cost - $1.50 to park; more for canoe/boat rental
From intersection of U.S. 19 and U.S. 98, go west on Highway 480, a.k.a. Miss Maggie's Drive. Follow 1.7 miles to the end, passing small homes and the Chassahowitzka River Lodge on the right. Turn right at signs for the Chassahowitzka River Campground and follow to headwaters. From the boat ramp, go upstream about 100 feet to the spring, in the middle upper portion of the basin.
For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery, and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring, go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site at the following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
This spring is the headwaters of the Chassahowitzka River. The opening appears to be about 25 feet deep, and the water is fairly clear. Flow from a long (about 20 feet) vent creates large, mild boils on the surface, and large fish may be seen swimming in the water. The spring forms an oval pool that is about 100 feet across and 175 feet long. The depth and salinity of the water vary with the tide. Behind the spring (to the east), another spring run and a manmade canal enter the spring pool. Land to the north, west, and southwest of the pool is undeveloped and is marsh, hardwood swamp, floodplain forest, and abundant in wildlife. There is housing and development to the east and south.
- The spring is the site of a campground that includes primitive and modern camping, a camp store, boat rentals, a telephone, and restrooms.
- The Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge begins 3-4 miles below the main spring. It is accessible only by boat, and is closed to human visitors from October 15-February 15 each year to protect wildlife. The refuge provides sanctuary for 250 species of birds, over 40 types of reptiles and amphibians, and more than 25 types of mammals ("Chass. National Wildlife Refuge," U.S.F.W.S., n.d.).
- JF saw a manatee in the spring in September 2000.
- Swimming and snorkeling are not allowed in the main spring basin because of motorboat traffic.
- There is a $1.50 fee to park at the site and there are additional fees to rent canoes or motorized john-boats.
- At one time during the prohibition era, the Chassahowitzka was used by bootleggers to transport illegal liquor. During this period, the river was sometimes referred to as the "Case-o-Whiskey" River (Bergen & Bergen, 1997, p. 60).
- Mobster Al Capone owned a house along the river.
- The name of the river is derived form the Indian words for "hanging pumpkin." This variety of edible pumpkin can still be found in the area.
- The area is abundant in wildlife, and the authors have seen several types of heron, vultures, hawks, osprey, kingfishers, mullet by the thousands, needlefish, jacks, a manatee, and other animals when visiting.
- In a book published in 1876, Charles Hallock described a visit to this spring:
We soon reached the head of the stream, and found an enchanting spot, one worthy of the pencil of an artist. The basin of the spring of the Chisiowilski is about one hundred feet in diameter, and the depth of the water in the spring thirty-eight feet. The water is as pellucid as air, and the most minute object can be plainly seen on the clear white bottom. From appearances, the water issued from an opening several feet wide and four high. Looking over the side of the boat, we noticed hundreds of sheepshead, cavalli, bream, trout, and read and black groupers swimming in the basin (p. 331).
The Chassahowitzka is still virtually unspoiled. The main spring, the largest in the spring group, is actually the most developed. It is a little hard to see without diving, which is not allowed, and is therefore actually one of the least interesting sights in this lovely area.
- Other Chassahowitzka River springs (Solution Holes, Crab Creek Springs, Lettuce Spring, Houseboat Spring, Salt Springs, Potter Spring, Ruth Spring, Beteejay Spring, Blue Run Spring)
- Blue Spring
- Crystal River
- Homosassa Springs
- Weeki Wachee Spring
- Rainbow Springs
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Withlacoochie State Forest
- Fort Cooper State Park
- Homosassa Springs State Wildlife Park
- Crystal River State Archeological Site
- Rainbow Springs State Park
- Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge