Silver Springs State Park, near Ocala
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Silver Springs State Park, near Ocala, is a blissfully beautiful place with tall trees of all shades of green and clear, blue-green water. You can take a glass bottom boat ride to see the spring vents, where water flows out of the Florida aquifer. From the moment you enter the historic palace-like gates you know you're in for a treat. You walk past an old-fashioned promenade of shops with a pizza place, hot dog place, and ice cream store, to the glass bottom boat docks. This is one of the first places that glass bottom boats were ever used, starting in the 1870s!
The glass bottom boat ride is not to be missed! You see perfectly through the clean glass to the deep springs below. There are many springs and the captain will show you each one. What a joy! You also look down on grasses moving with the current, and little fish! There are statues on the river floor, left behind by movie crews. Many animals can be spotted such a yellow and green turtles atop logs, and alligators, yes alligators! Many people have encouraged me to swim in springs telling me that alligators avoid the cold spring water and can't be found there. Well, there was one alligator swimming happily in the spring water when we visited and one sunning on a mat of brown algae, and this left me feeling nervous about my swims at other Florida springs.
You can't swim or fish at Silver Springs.
After your boat ride, you can walk around the gorgeous gardens with their tall trees! There is a horseshoe-shaped palm tree- take your photo there and you'll have five years of good luck. Bring mosquito spray because mosquitoes love areas with manicured lawns. There is a concert stand and a large lawn in front of it.
While at Silver Springs, you can also rent kayaks to explore the 4 1/2 mile Silver River that runs down from the spring vents and meets up with the Ocklawaha River. There is also a water park called Wild Waters, open since the 1970s, with wave pool and water slides.
Silver Springs was the first tourist attraction in Florida. Many presidents have visited, such as Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge. The first movie shot here was The Seven Swans in 1916, followed by many movies such as the Tarzan series and Creature from the Black Lagoon. There have been many imaginative theme parks at Silver Springs over the decades, but only the water park remains today.
Mats of brown algae have formed in the spring due to lawn fertilizers and septic runoff. These mats smother the native eelgrass that manatees feed on, hence the manatees don't come to Silver Spring anymore. Also, industry has drawn water from the aquifer leaving the spring with 350 million gallons per day instead of 510. The construction of Adena Springs Ranch could do more damage to the flow and create pollution from cattle and horses.
Other wonderful springs to check out in Florida are Ichetucknee Springs State Park near Gainesville, , and Madison Blue Spring near Highway 75 on the way to Georgia, Blue Springs State Park near DeLand, Wakulla Springs near Tallahassee, and the Venetian Pool in Miami.
Florida has the largest concentration of freshwater springs on earth, with 33 First Magnitude springs (springs that produce over 65 million gallons per day).
A nice restaurant in Ocala town is Pronto Pizza with counter-service New York Pizza by the slice in an attractive restaurant with decorative copper ceiling tiles.
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Silver Springs State Park is located at 5656 E. Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs FL 34488, call (352) 236-7148, near Ocala. For the glass bottom boat tour, you enter the park off Highway 40, roughly across from Silver River Inn (slightly to the east).
Open daily 8am-sunset, and until 8pm on Friday nights to allow campers to arrive, if you call ahead.
Glass bottom boat tour lasts 1/2 an hour, and is open daily 10-6.
Admission is $8 per car.
Glass bottom boat tour is $11 per adult, $10 for seniors and children aged 6-17. Children aged 5 and under ride free.
Kayak rental $14 first hour, $7 additional hours; double kayak rental $18 first hour, $9 additional hours.
Wild Waters Water Park open M-Tr 10-6, F-Sn 10-10. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for children aged 12 and under. They are open from June to first week of Oct. Call (352) 877-2267 to confirm they are open.
This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.
Overall Visitor Rating:
|We toured this spring in January. Beautiful grounds.|