Fun and fruit in Citrus County – Homosassa, FL

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Crystal River Preserve State Park Trail

With our 2nd anniversary celebration week out of the way (hey, we’re always looking for something to celebrate), we’re back to posting about “regular” stuff.  We have been fortunate to enjoy mostly gorgeous weather lately, and being outdoors and active beats sitting in front of the laptop anytime.  We’re continuing to slowly make our way up the Florida panhandle, seeing even more of the unspoiled and laid back nature here.  And the temperatures seem to drop a few degrees with each stop we make – maybe we’re moving too fast after all?

We exhaled a sigh of relief when we arrived at Chassahowitzka River Campground in Homosassa (Steve’s review here).  Why?  At our previous two stops we had dealt with terrible road noise and jetliners roaring overhead.  The reason is that the RV parks most frequented by snowbirds save their best sections for the regulars who come down for extended stays every year, while the transient folks like us get relegated to the noisiest sites right next to the roads.  Of course, that’s the way it should be, but it didn’t make our stay in those busy areas very pleasant.  Oh well, that’s behind us now and our new home base was a county-owned property that was rustic and near a river – a long way from the sounds of the hectic life.  Peaceful days and restful nights could be had once again!

Chassahowitzka River Campground

Back to the quiet life – this is more like it!

We were in the midst of Citrus County, with its four main towns within an easy drive of each other.  While registering for our site, the office staff gave us a list of 41 points of interest in the towns of Crystal River, Homosassa, Inverness and Floral City.  We couldn’t see them all in just a week, so we selected and timed our “must-do’s”, taking into account some forecasted rain.  But first I inquired, “If this is Citrus County, then where are all the citrus trees”?  The reply was that the county was originally named for its abundant citrus trees, but citrus production declined dramatically after the “Big Freeze” of 1894-1895. Today, citrus is grown at only one large grove, Bellamy Grove, within the county.  We did see many roadside stands selling fruits, mostly the very yummy Honeybell oranges which we had heard weren’t in season any longer.  Well, we got some!

Of the two nationally protected areas in Citrus county, we chose to explore a section of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge.  The Refuge itself is over 31,000 acres that were set aside by the federal government in 1931 to protect the rich waterfowl habitat there.  It also happened to be located only about three miles down the Chassahowitzka River (called “The Chass” by locals) from our campground.  And our site was only a short walk from a boat ramp, which was the ideal starting point for exploring the river and it’s surrounding springs, creeks, water trails and wildlife.  After forking over $30 to rent a kayak for the day, we paddled off early in the morning to avoid the crowds and we were richly rewarded.  The river was very clear, shallow and calm.  

Chassahowitzka River Campground

We paddled leisurely along as we viewed bald eagles and an abundance of egrets, great herons, little blue herons, ospreys, ducks, manatees, turtles and more.  We can’t remember a place with such a variety of wildlife packed into such a small area!  It was a very relaxing day of paddling, experiencing nature and just being in a quiet place surrounded by all of that unspoiled beauty.  Awesome!

We drove to the county’s smallest town, Floral City.  It is known in the area for its Avenue of Oaks, which are at least 125 years old.  We came here to refresh ourselves with what Floral City is really known for, fresh-squeezed orange juice from Ferris Groves.  The business began in 1930 as a roadside fruit stand and has grown to include a retail store with a gift fruit business.  The juice was excellent, and we ended up hauling a gallon of it and a bag of oranges home with us.  Yum!  Did you know that Florida provides 80% of the orange juice sold in the country?

Our next outing was to take on the claim to fame for the city of Inverness – Withlacoochee State Trail.  It is Florida’s longest paved multi-use path, and a recognized National Rercreation Trail.  At 46 miles long, it stretches from Inverness all the way to Trilby in Pasco County.  This trail made it into our top seven biking trails, for it is shaded in many parts and has ample comfort stops along the way.  Since it also passes right through Floral City, it’s a great trip to include a break for lunch (which we did) and pick up some fresh orange juice at Ferris Groves.  We began our ride at the Inverness trailhead and quickly discovered how popular this trail is, as we had lots of company from other cyclists, walkers and runners.

On another day, Steve and I decided to hit the walking trails at the Crystal River Preserve State Park.  There were several trails to choose from and we decided on the longest one, a 7-mile loop.  This trail was characterized by marshes, swamps, hammocks, flat woods and tidal creeks.  We didn’t really have any wildlife to entertain us, so with my camera on standby we got some good exercise.  Although there was a mosquito warning, we were in luck as the skeeters apparently decided to take that day off.  Yay!

The RV park manager mentioned there was a restaurant nearby that the locals raved about, called The Freezer.  We decided to give it a try for lunch and were very pleasantly surprised.  The place was packed, and we ended up getting the last two seats at the bar. Very informal and with a simple menu, we heard their boiled peel-and-eat shrimp were to die for.  And they were!  I got a pound of them, while Steve tried the Talapia and was extremely happy with it.  We really struck gold when we discovered this out-of-the-way place, and we’d recommend it to anyone coming within 50 miles of it – it’s that good!

Lastly, the final outing was an “alone time” for me, as Steve decided to stay home and do some little maintenance chores on Betsy.  Like most folks, we need to be away from each other once in a while and this was a perfect way to do just that.  Being alone, no one can whisper in my ear, “How many pictures do you have to take of that bird?”

So off I went on my merry way to Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park…to be continued!

Homosassa Springs

Next Up:  Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park

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33 thoughts on “Fun and fruit in Citrus County – Homosassa, FL

  1. Water looks awesome clear! $30 is pricey but maybe for those nature sights, it’s all worth it. I also love, love the big trees shading the road. And look! Cherry Blossoms, weeee!

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    • Really $30 is an all day rental. But you are right, some of the rivers in Florida are filled with wild life and the water is so clear. There is only a few Cherry Blossoms here.

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  2. So glad you are enjoying our little corner of Florida. We have lived in Citrus County (Lecanto)for 30 years. I have followed your blog for almost a year and really enjoy learning about your adventures. We will depart on our full time RV adventures in June, traveling up the east coast to Maine. Your posts have been a real asset as we plan our first trip. Hope to meet you somewhere down the road.

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    • Oh yes we enjoyed our stay and there are still a lot to do and see. One week was not enough.

      Wonderful! Im glad our adventures gave you some ideas. I would venture to say, go all the way to the Maritimes from Maine. As you can see in my posts its a beautiful country as well. I hope our paths will cross, maybe out west.

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  3. I think you just chose your campgrounds for their fun and unpronouncable names – Chassahowitzka, Withlacoochee, Ochlockonee River! lol 😀 You’ve just reminded me – I got some lovely bird photos at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. I ought to do something with them. I’m looking forward to yours!

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    • I know the names are hard to pronounced. We even met a friend at Apalachicola and Ochlockonee is in the town of Sopchoppy!
      When where you at the park? Perhaps you can compare if something new has been added.

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  4. We really enjoyed the Crystal River area when we were there for a short time. Isn’t it great being back in nature again? Terry and I are still laughing at Steve’s comment of “how many pictures do you have to take of that bird?” as this is the dialogue we quite often have. 🙂

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    • I am never satisfied with one, I guess its because these birds are just amazing to watch and I would like to capture them. I actually viewed my shots over and over again.

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      • I do the same, reliving those memories. The birdlife here in Florida is exceptional. I am visiting with my sister and niece and the three of us went to Merritt Island Nat’l Wildlife Refuge today where I spotted my first glossy ibis. 🙂

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  5. Glad to read that you are having a wonderful time filled with lots exercise and good eating:) We’ve heard that the rivers up that way are great for kayaking because they are so clear. Good you got to paddle for the day. The fresh OJ is a real treat. We take some with us in the freezer when we leave. It sure is hard to go back to the store juice when it is gone.

    Can’t wait to hear about your alone day:)

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    • Yes, Pam the rivers here are shallow and very clear, which I m sure you and John would really like. I do missed those fresh OJ and there’s none the farther northwest we go.

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  6. Great review and EVERYTHING you are saying is making me think of heading back to FL, maybe winter 2015 or 2016?? Those Honeybells are the BEST glad you got luck and found some.

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    • Wayne, If you consider FL, I strongly urge booking a year ahead to snag FL state parks, they are the best.

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      • Yep we would be planning way ahead, and maybe we should start now. We still have a lot of stuff we want to do/see out west but time flies and before we know it…

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  7. What a wonderful area. You’ve had a nice variety of stuff to do. The shrimp is making my mouth water!

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    • Lisa, the gulf shrimps are pink and they are really yummy quite different than what we were used to. Each town has their own way of preparing their shrimp which is very appetizing.

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  8. Glad you found a nice quiet site to call home for a bit. I loved my alone time while in Rockport….no questioning whether I took enough photos yet 😉 I know you have a bunch of bird photos to share in your next post and I’m looking forward to it 🙂

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    • Thanks Ingrid, the alone time was perfect to snap hundreds of poses from birds and other animals 🙂

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  9. You guys would enjoy hanging out with Sherry and David of http://directionofourdreams.blogspot.com/ – They are very active, too and it seems like your interests are very much alike. They paddle, they bike, they hike and they are down there in Rainbow Springs State Park–don’t know how near you they are. My atlas is packed so I’m not sure, but I’m curious. If you don’t know their blog, you will enjoy it even if you don’t run into them. Sherry gives a wonderful description of rivers, lakes, bike paths, etc. to enjoy (as you do). She and David have been paddling with the manatees of late!

    Love your pictures. Glad you’re having so much fun.

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    • Thanks you, I just check them out and they are also enjoying their time at Rainbow State Park. Too bad we are too far from them I could have plan a meet up. Most of the rivers up north are really great for paddling too.

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  10. You and Steve sure know how to have a great time and find the neatest places to go. The day of kayaking sounds like so much fun! Like you, we are always interested in the NWR areas for exploring. Lucky you the skeeters had the day off at Crystal River!

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    • True the skeeters were not there but I was attacked by noseeums and had been welting and itching for days.

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  11. That shrimp looks so good, Mona. 🙂 So glad the mosquitoes were taking the day off, so that you could really enjoy the wonderful scenery.

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    • We were lucky we went there before the soaking rain hit the following day. I can’t tell you how many shrimp dishes we had been enjoying along the gulf coast. yum!

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  12. Boiled peel-and-eat shrimp…top of food chain…hehe

    What a lovely area. We would really enjoy all the hiking. I love the idea of seeing bald eagles. We have only seen one and that was up in Washington. What a beauty they are!

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    • We were really amazed at how many Bald Eagles hang out here in Florida, especially here in the north west FL.
      The shrimpies were delish, wonder if we get the same in TX.

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  13. We stayed at Chassahowitzka River Campground a few years ago and rented a kayak. It’s a beautiful place to paddle. Have fun at the Homosassa Wildlife Park.

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    • With the kayak rental down the road, there is no excuse not to enjoy the clear shallow waters of the river.

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      • You are so right about the kayaking there. I really enjoyed your post. It brought back fond memories of our stay there. Such a beautiful area of Florida that not a lot of people know about. Have fun!

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  14. What a fun area to visit! This has been on our list of places to go, and your post makes it even more appealing. Kayaking, biking, hiking, a quiet place to camp in nature, fresh citrus and great shrimp! Just our kind of place.

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    • Laurel, you can bring your kayaks and launch from there. This is just as pretty as the rivers you have kayak too. This was an excellent stop for us for the fun things we did.

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