Silver Springs State Park

Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park in Ocala features one of the largest artesian springs in the world. Artesian springs occur when groundwater, under pressure, is forced to the land surface. This happens because the pressure in the aquifer is greater than the atmospheric pressure at ground level.

A group of springs comprise the first-magnitude headspring and produce an average daily flow of over 550 million gallons of water. The outflow or spring run is called the Silver River. It flows for 5 miles and is the largest tributary of the Ocklawaha River.

History

The park has an interesting history. Silver Springs was Florida’s first commercial tourist attraction. Glass-bottomed boat tours of the springs had begun in the late 1870s. In the 1920s the land around the springs was developed into a park called Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. It featured native animal exhibits, amusement rides, and 30- or 90-minute glass-bottom boat tours. Due to segregation in the South, a second area was developed downriver for the entertainment of African-Americans. It was called Paradise Park and had many of the same attractions. Paradise Park closed in the mid-1960s when the main park was integrated.

Rhesus monkeys came to the park in the 1930s when a tour boat operator released them on an island for the entertainment of those on his jungle boat tours. The monkeys, however, escaped and began to reproduce and expand their territory. They can sometimes be seen along the river, but boaters should keep their distance and not feed them.

At least 20 movies were filmed at Silver Springs, including “Rebel Without a Cause” starring James Dean, “Distant Drums” starring Gary Cooper, the James Bond movie “Moonraker,” “Creature from the Black Lagoon,” and six Tarzan films. Episodes of the TV series “Sea Hunt” were also filmed there.

With the opening of Disney World and other theme parks, attendance at Silver Springs began to dwindle. The Florida Park Service took control of the property in 2013. But the glass-bottom boat rides continued operating and a canoe/kayak launch was built near the headsprings.

Park Activities

Silver Springs State Park has 3 entrances. The main entrance is located on State Road 40 at 5656 East Silver Springs Boulevard, Silver Springs, FL. The camping and Museum entrance is on State Road 35 at 1425 NE 58th Avenue, Ocala FL. The equestrian entrance can be found approximately 1.3 miles east of the Main Entrance on State Road 40.

The main entrance provides access to the headsprings area, the glass-bottom boat tours, the canoe and kayak launch, the ornamental gardens, and paved trails along the river. Canoe and kayak rentals are available, or you can launch your own boat for a fee. A restaurant is located on site.

The camping entrance gives access to a campground with 59 developed campsites and 10 modern cabins, nature trails, a picnic area with 3 pavilions that can be rented, a canoe/kayak launch on the river, a pioneer cracker village, and the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center operated by the Marion County School Board. Camping reservations can be made on-line at the ReserveAmerica website.

Equestrians can reach the horse trails through the equestrian entrance.





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