Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Silver Springs State Park - Florida

   Silver Springs State Park is home to glass bottom boats, which do 30 or 90 minute tours of the area, including a group of springs considered to be one of Florida's largest first magnitude springs.  It got its start as a steamboat destination. In the 1860's Hubbard Hart purchased a steamboat which he used to bring tourists from Paloka to Silver Springs.  The steamboat offered a 24 hour trip, but was safer and faster than the roads.  Hart was key in developing Silver Springs, attracting a railroad depot there for connecting trips and building a hotel at the springs.  Considered one of Florida's first tourist attractions, the park has offered glass bottom boats rides since the late 1870's. 
    Like many early attractions, it is now a state park.  Over the years Silver Springs was used as the backdrop for early Tarzan movies, and also appeared in Creature from the Black Lagoon, among other films. The park has many other components; a camping area, an outdoor stage, a reconstructed village (open on weekends only) the boat tours and smaller museums.  Also off to the side is a canoe/kayak rental and launch.  The launch (and the boat tours) are an additional fee to the park entrance.

   The launch is in a corner of the parking lot, away from the main entrance.  It leads on to a small channel, like that shown above.  (This picture was taking coming back along a connecting channel.)  Spanish moss dripping from live oak, adds a certain serenity to the trip.
    Because we were there when the park opened, the boats were not yet at their docking stations, and we could glide over the various springs, admiring the depths and water life.
    Another picture showing how still and quiet the park was, and how clear the water is.
   We paddled by a variety of springs, some are known for their depth, or for their use in movies or TV scenes; one has a boat sunk into it, others are known for attracting turtles.
  In the 1930's the park offered "jungle cruises."  In an effort to enhance the experience, Colonel Tooey placed some rhesus monkeys on an island.  According to the woman at the entrance gate, Colonel Tooey had been told monkeys did not swim, and would be confined there.  By the next morning the monkeys were gone and now can be found from the Carolinas to the Keys.  There are still several troops on the ground, each with their own personality.  We didn't happen to spy any, but I did learn that anhingas have a cry very similar to squirrels, and sort of like a monkey.
   We did see lots of turtles and fish though.

   And several birds, including these ibis.
   We were a little worried either that the current from the springs would be fairly strong, or that the back channel behind the springs would be too shallow for the nine inch fins of our paddleboards, but neither was the case.
   The back channel was also filled with interesting sights and a fair number of animals.  At one point, Mark heard a splash and saw a three foot long alligator, fish in mouth, take off in the river.  The alligator swam by my boat, a dark shadow moving quickly.  We didn't manage to capture it on film, but let's pretend Mark is observing the alligator above.
   The back channel also passes by another sunken boat, a reconstructed "cracker" village, fort and steamboat landing, so there was plenty to entertain us on our journey back.
    The loop we did was just under two miles, pretty short, but considering we got to travel over several springs (in many parks the more active springs are roped off for swimming),  see all sorts of scenery and wildlife, plus enjoy a shady paddle, it felt like a great deal.  Those seeking longer paddles can head down Silver Springs River.  Though you may not be able to get all the way to Palotka anymore, you can certainly paddle a number of miles. 

Wikipedia Silver Springs Park
Map of Florida Springs
Florida State Parks information about Silver Springs

Summary:  Entrance to the park $8, launch fee $4 per boat, kayak and canoe rental's available.  Portapotty by boat ramp, flush toilets in the park.  Glass bottom boat tours are an additional fee.  Displays, and food available in the park.  The park sometimes shuts early for concert events.  Two mile loop with gentle current, longer trips available down the river. 


  1. Very nice- especially like the beautiful reflections

    1. Thank you, there was a lot of quiet water in Florida.