Intro / Description
I spent some time at Silver Springs State Park in late May. This is Florida’s newest park, created in October of last year when the former Silver Springs and Wild Waters commercial attractions were merged with Silver River State Park. Lynn and I used to visit when our kids were younger and the commercial attractions were going strong. But that was a while ago and it’s a different place now.
Silver Springs headwaters – A glass bottom boat returns to the dock before a storm
Florida’s renovating Wild Waters and has already re-opened some of the water rides. The Glass Bottom Boats still run in the Silver Springs area, although the jungle river boat tour and antique car museum that I remember from past years are gone. It’s a little soon to say what the park will look like after the state is finished merging the areas together, but it always was and still is a fine place to visit.
Info for Photographers
There are hiking and biking trails throughout the park, but I think the real attraction is the water. You can rent canoes and kayaks or bring your own, and there are several places to put in. I used the launch close to the headwaters. It’s a short paddle to the main spring. It’s also very close to the Fort King paddle trail (where the Jungle Cruise used to go) which is open to paddlers now for the first time since the 1800s!
In addition to the put in I used (off the Silver Springs parking lot) there’s also one inside the main park, but it’s about a 1/2 mile carry to the water – too far for me! One other place you can put in is at Ray Wayside Park where you can paddle upstream to the spring. Silver Springs also offers guided kayak tours and a shuttle service to / from Ray Wayside.
A view from my kayak – Along the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
Here are a couple of articles from other sites about paddling at Silver Springs. Take a look – they like it as much as I do!
If you can’t go on a paddle, at least ride the glass bottom boat or take an air boat excursion. You’ll get to see more of the scenery and wildlife than you can from the land.
Airboat ride on the Silver river
Tripod/Monopod: I did have mine, but didn’t use it as much as I thought I would. It’s a very wooded area and landscape opportunities aren’t as numerous as they are in some other places.
Lenses: Bring what you can carry. I got the most use out of a normal range zoom (~24-70), but longer and wider would be nice to have in your bag if you need them. If you have any waterproof equipment, bring it for paddling expeditions.
Best time to visit: It’s starts getting very warm in May and doesn’t cool off until September or October, so plan accordingly. If you’re going on the rides at the water park or kayaking, the heat is a bit more tolerable. I went during the week. Weekends will be crowded.
There’s a variety of wildlife, but not as much as some other locations in Central Florida. For instance eBird lists 112 species at Silver Springs vs 293 in Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. I spotted Ospreys, Cardinals, Black Vultures, Red-bellied Woodpeckers, a few wading birds, Alligators, Deer, Turtles, Cormorants (on the water and in nests, and one swimming underwater), Barred Owls (calls and one in flight), Hawks and a few other species. There are recent reports of Manatees in the springs. And although I didn’t find any, there’s a troop of feral rhesus macaque monkeys descended from ones let loose in the 1930s.
Typical Turtle – Along the the Fort King paddle trail near the Silver Springs headwaters
The River side of the park is home to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Education Center (open to the public on weekends and holidays). Tours through the pioneer cracker village are offered once a month, except in the summer. You’ll have to call the park for details.
Finally, 60 campsites are available along with 10 very nice, two bedroom cabins. I’d recommend staying for one or two nights so you have some time to explore. There are also several other great areas nearby including the Ocala National Forest, Rainbow Springs State Park, Juniper Springs Recreation Area, and Salt Springs Recreation Area.
Click on any of these photos to go to Flickr where you can see larger versions. My Silver Springs album on Flickr includes these and a few other photos.
Silver Springs State Park is a wonderful place to visit and an especially wonderful place to paddle!
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