Silver Springs was one of the earliest attractions in the Ocala area, with visitors arriving by steamboat and stagecoach over a hundred years ago to see this natural feature. However, the first European to witness the springs was probably Hernando de Soto, a Spanish explorer who visited the area in the early 16th century.
Although many of the sideshows and attractions have come and gone, the springs continue to gush. This natural theme park offers the chance to experience Old Florida at its best.
The unspoiled Florida surroundings made Silver Springs the natural choice for the filming of six Tarzan movies starring Johnny Weissmuller. Monkeys brought in for the filming were later released and their offspring now inhabit the area. Cute moms with babies on their backs can be seen on the riverbank as tour boats pass by. Other films shot on location at Silver Springs include The Creature from the Black Lagoon, filmed in the 1950s, along with the 1960s TV series Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges. The cabin that served as his dressing room can still be seen on the river bank.
Today the springs are part of the 350-acre nature theme park of Silver Springs, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The spring waters bubble up at a constant 72°F in the natural basin which is 300 feet wide and 80 feet deep, accommodating the largest artesian spring in the world.
Glass bottom boats are a great way to see what’s happening below the surface of the moving waters. Trips are on pontoon boats with open sides and glass bottoms for viewing the underwater world. Tours include an experienced narrator who explains some of the facts about the springs and the aquatic wildlife. It is so exciting to see fish of all sizes swimming below the boat along with turtles, crawfish, snails, clams, and other creatures.
On the boat trips, alligators can be seen dozing on the river banks as visitors walk on the paths nearby, oblivious to their presence. There are many different species of turtles swimming and sunning themselves on logs along the edge of the Silver River along with herons and other wading birds.
The Big Gator Lagoon is home to some of Florida’s largest alligators, reaching up to 13 feet in length. Other exhibits include White Alligators, some of the rarest reptiles on earth. They are nicknamed “Swamp Ghosts” and you will understand why when you see them.
Thrilling rides in the park include the 80-foot high Lighthouse Ride which gives great views of the park from the gondolas. Watch the Free Flight show of raptors, owls, Amazonian parrots and cute ducks. See the alligators and crocodiles being fed by keepers, and learn about venomous snakes at the Snake Show. Walk the boardwalks through the pretty floral garden or rest your feet on a tram ride along the Wilderness Trail, towed behind a Wrangler Jeep.
Silver Springs is certainly a full day out with plenty of activities suitable for all ages, from tots to grandparents. The park also puts on a program of outdoor concerts, car shows and special events throughout the year and many well-known performers including Crystal Gale, Roy Clark, Tanya Tucker and Clint Black have performed here.