Category Archives: Must do list

Death Valley National Park, California

As you may have gathered from last week’s post, I got home on October 24th from a trip to Death Valley National Park.  Four of us from the Photography Interest Group (me, Tom M., Kevin M., and Kevin K.) were out there together, exploring this waterless wonderland on our longest, farthest group photo expedition yet.

When you think of the desert in the western US, you might imagine extreme heat and monochromatic scenes of empty barren land.  If so you probably haven’t been to Death Valley.  There is some empty barren land:

Badlands sunriseBadlands sunrise – This was my first visit to Death Valley and what I thought it would look like. 

And there are sand dunes and wind-blown textures:

Photographing Mesquite Flat DunesPhotographing Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes – A distant photographer lines up his shot.

But there are so many more things to experience there.

It’s the largest national park in the contiguous US at over 3.4 million acres.  The habitats are varied and the elevation ranges from 282 feet below sea level in Badwater Basin (the lowest point in North America) to more than 11,000 feet at the top of Telescope Peak.

Badwater panorama from Dantes ViewPanorama of Badwater from Dantes View, looking west toward Telescope Peak

Wait – did I say “waterless wonderland”?  When we arrived on October 18th, there was an epic rain storm in progress that caused flash flooding, road closures, downed power lines and other damage inside the park.  If you’re interested, I’ve posted a short video on YouTube that we made on our drive into Death Valley, showing the rain storms and some of the flooding we ran into.  And you can read this article on the National Parks Traveler webpage about the floods and damage.

Many of the places we wanted to see weren’t accessible while we were there.  The good news is that there were more than enough locations we could still get to, and the water created some rare views of the area.

Death Valley FloodsDeath Valley Reflections – Some locations had 5 inches of rain.  The following morning, we saw large pools of water west of route 190 and north of Furnace Creek.  It was a long walk (~1.5 miles from the road) to get close, and at times I wondered whether it was a mirage.  I’m guessing it’s rare to see the mountains and clouds reflected in standing water at this spot.

And are there any waterfalls in the desert?  You wouldn’t think so, right?  We decided to find out one day and after a long drive, hike, and rock scramble through a gorgeous canyon, we arrived at Darwin Falls, which seems like a miracle in the middle of such arid country.

Darwin FallsDarwin Falls – This desert waterfall in Death Valley had about a 40 foot drop. It’s spring fed and  flows year round, although the rains may have added some water while we were there.

There’s a lot of history in Death Valley too.  The Native American Timbisha tribe have lived in the valley for at least 1000 years.  Gold and silver mining started in the 1850s and Borax was discovered in the 1880s.  There are also several ghost towns to explore in the park and the surrounding areas.

20 Mule Team Wagon Train20 Mule Team Wagon Train – Used in 1885 to haul Borax From Death Valley to Mojave.
Borax Museum, Furnace Creek, California

Landscapes and scenery aren’t the only things to see.  There’s very little light pollution in the area.  The milky way is easily seen and we viewed an active Orionid Meteor shower on the morning of 21 October.

There’s also a surprising amount of wildlife.  While hiking back from the Mesquite Flat Dunes we spotted some motion ahead that turned out to be my first sighting ever of a fox in the wild.

Fox at Mesquite DunesKit Fox at Mesquite Dunes – We saw it from a distance. At first I thought it was a coyote, but Eric Vanbergen on Flickr suggested it might be a Kit Fox. Judging by the info on Wikipedia, he’s right.  I made the photo handheld (with my tripod still attached!) using a 24-120mm lens that I was using for landscapes. This is a small crop from the frame. It was nice of the Fox to stop, stand in the light, and look at the camera for me – but it should have come closer!

We also saw several of these, curiously along or as they crossed the road.  They’re large enough (~3 inches across) to spot as you drive by.

Classic Death ValleyClassic Death Valley (Photo by Kevin McKinney – used with permission) – We saw several Tarantulas while we were there.

And birds:  The National Park Service official bird list has hundreds of species that frequent Death Valley.  On this page they have some info on where to look and migration patterns.  Kevin M. also had a good time birding in places around and on the way to the park.

Here’s one last photo.  We’d been searching for a Road Runner all week but hadn’t seen any.  On the last afternoon we finally sighted this one as we drove by the visitor’s center. Of course, none of us had our camera gear – thank goodness for iPhones!

Greater Roadrunner, running“Beep Beep” – A Roadrunner outside the Visitor Center at Furnace Creek. I think this is the one the rangers have nick-named “Robbie”. It’s very tolerant of humans and went about catching and eating bugs while we watched.  

You can view many more photos from our trip at these links:

This is really more of trip report than a review or guide.  With so little time on site, I’m not qualified to give you much specific advice on photographing Death Valley.  But here is some info I found very useful:

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. We are really blessed in the US with all our national parks.  Now – visit one and make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Vacation, part 2: Shenandoah National Park

On July 4th, 1936, in the Virginia Blue Ridge mountains along Skyline Drive at Big Meadows, President Roosevelt dedicated Shenandoah National Park.  Since that time, people have greatly enjoyed wonderful vistas, beautiful waterfalls, quiet wooded hollows, hiking, wildlife and the night sky.

Shenandoah sunrise at Spitler KnollSunrise at Spitler Knoll

I’ve been to Shenandoah many times.  It’s the first national park I ever visited – too long  ago to admit.  I hiked there with our Boy Scout troop from Bowie, Maryland when I was a very young man .  Hiking’s a major activity at the park – the Appalachian Trail runs along and crosses Skyline Drive in many places.

Appalachian trail viewAppalachian trail view

Lynn and I also took Mike and Mary there when they were younger and we have fond (and scary!) memories of hikes with those two scrambling over rocks and along ridges to be first to see a view.  On one of our visits, we also picnicked with our good friends the Sullivans, and hiked with the kids down to Dark Hollow Falls.

Dark Hollow FallsDark Hollow Falls – A gorgeous waterfall, although crowded at times since it’s one of the closest ones to Skyline Drive.  (Photo from 1996).

To get the most out of your visit, you need an up to date guide-book.  We had one from our previous visits (printed in 1988!), but unfortunately we didn’t realize how out of date it was.  Fires and other events have changed places in the park, sometimes quite dramatically.  Fortunately, we found updated books at the park.  One example of the changes:

Dead eastern hemlock treesDead eastern hemlock trees – Hemlock Springs, Shenandoah National Park. We really enjoyed hiking through large stands of hemlock trees the last time we were there, 20+ years ago.  Now, 95% of the Hemlock trees in Shenandoah have been killed by the hemlock woolly adeligid, an invasive species introduced by humans. 

Weather can vary in the park.  All of our visit was beautiful, but we spent one day completely socked in with heavy rain and visibility of 50 to 100 feet.  I had fun walking around in the fog looking for photos, while Lynn wove a White Oak basket from scratch.

Rain drops in the mistRain drops in the mist

We saw lots of wildlife while we were there.  The deer are all over and not very skittish, since animals are protected in the park.  We also saw 2 black bears – exciting!  I didn’t look too hard for birds, but managed to spot at least one life bird (Dark-eyed Junco).

If you search the web you’ll see things to do in the surrounding area too.   We’ve been to Luray Caverns in the past, although we didn’t have time to explore outside the park this time.

In summary, Shenandoah National Park deserves to be on your bucket list.  If you haven’t been there yet, just go.  If you have been there, you know what I mean.

You can see larger versions of the photos above by clicking on them and some other photos from our trip in this album on Flickr.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

 

Lion Country Safari

Intro / Description

I’d heard about Lion Country Safari and I’ve wanted to visit for a while.  Lynn and I finally got a chance to go last week.

“Lion Country Safari is a drive-through safari park located in Loxahatchee (near West Palm Beach), in Palm Beach County, Florida. Founded in 1967, it claims to be the first ‘cageless zoo’ in the United States.  In 2009, USA Travel Guide named Lion Country the 3rd best zoo in the nation.”  Wikipedia’s Lion Country Safari Page

Striped stareStriped stare

There are about 5 miles of paved roads running through several large areas divided by water and fences with more than 1,000 animals throughout.  I haven’t been to Africa, but it seems like a wonderful place to get a small taste of what safari might be like.

Info for Photographers

Rhino napRhino nap

Access for photographers is excellent.  It’s similar in some ways to Animal Kingdom in Orlando.  The photo ops for most of the large African animals  are better than the safari ride at Animal Kingdom.  At Lion Country Safari you go at your own pace in your own car.  At Animal Kingdom, you’re in a vehicle with others that you have no control over and most of the time you’ll have to shoot from the moving / shaking vehicle.  That said, Animal Kingdom does have some animals that Lion country Safari doesn’t have and in some cases with much better photography access.

Photo hints:

WildebeestWildebeest

You’re cautioned to drive slowly and not stop too close to the animals.  You’re also supposed to keep your doors locked and windows shut at all times.  I did cheat and one of the rangers yelled at me on a loudspeaker – “Close your window right now!”.  I did, of course and felt a little embarrassed.  The ranger probably would have been embarrassed too if she knew she yelled at the Central Florida Photo Ops lead writer!

When we drove through the zebra herd, I was a little leery of stopping behind any of them – I believe they have a very powerful kick.  But in general we felt very safe and I didn’t have any problems positioning the car for the shots I wanted.

Tripod/Monopod:  Nope.  You’ll be in your vehicle – so they aren’t useful.

Lenses:  Long lenses are good, although the animals are very close at times.  You’ll do fine if you have at least a 200mm equivalent lens.  Zooms are also very helpful to frame your composition from inside your car.  Unless it’s very overcast you should have plenty of light, but you’ll want to use a wide open aperture to blur out distracting detail (e.g. fences, etc.) and to keep your shutter speed high.

Best time to visit:  The animals are most active early in the morning.  Plan to drive through at least twice (no extra charge):  the light and the animals activities / positions will change.

Other:

The entrance fee is $31, although you can find discount coupons on-line.  This includes both the drive through safari park as well as the walk through safari and amusement park areas.  Lynn and I didn’t really explore the amusement park side, for more info on this, please see the Lion Country Safari web page.

We stayed at Jonathan Dickenson State Park in Jupiter, Florida in one of their small cabins and it made a great base of operations for exploring the area.

Our cabin at Johnathan Dickenson State Park

Our base of operations at Jonathan Dickenson State Park

Summary

We both liked Lion Country Safari.  The animals all seemed well fed, healthy, and even interested in the visitors.  They do animal rehabilitation, sanctuary, and research and seem to take very good care of the residents.  It’s one of the best zoos I’ve been to and I wish I’d gone sooner.  You can see more Lion Country Safari photos in this set on Flickr.

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157650144549843
Website:  http://www.lioncountrysafari.com
Address / Phone: 2003 Lion Country Safari Rd
Loxahatchee, FL 33470
(561) 793-1084
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

 


On a different subject, this blog celebrated its 8th birthday last week – the first post was published on May 4th, 2007.  That’s a long time ago in web years!  I hope that my photography and writing has improved at least a little since then.  Many thanks to everyone stopping by to read the articles and comment on them. It really helps to motivate me!

Now – go make some photos!

©2015, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Pioneer Settlement at Barberville

The Pioneer Settlement for the Creative Arts in Barberville, Florida was founded in 1976. Lynn and I first went there when our kids were little – sometime in the 1980s. It’s grown a lot since then and the non-profit organization that runs it has kept it up and added many more buildings and displays than I remember.

Three of us from the retired chapter of the Photography Interest Group went over on November 19th.  The centerpiece of the campus is the original Barberville High School.

The Schoolroom
The Schoolroom – This is in the Barberville Central High School, built in 1909.  It was added to the National Register for Historic Places in 2002.  The window light and the wooden floors and desks were lovely the morning we were there.

The photos in this post are from just four of the buildings / displays that you can tour.  There are 22 in all.  I have photos of several more that I haven’t processed yet.  As I finish them, I’ll add them to this Barberville set on Flickr.

The store below was originally at the turpentine operation in Bakersburg, Florida.  It was moved to Barberville in 1984.

The H. L. Wynn Country Store
The H. L. Wynn Country Store – Get your insurance and your livestock feed, all in one place!

The only building at Barberville that isn’t from Florida is the log cabin.  It was built by Mr. Jim Lewis in 1875 in southern Georgia, and moved to Barberville in 1992.

Log Cabin Porch
Log Cabin Porch – complete with laundry!

The blacksmith’s shop was built in 1987.  The Florida Artist Blacksmith Association uses it for their monthly meetings and to work on their projects.

Tools of the trade
Tools of the trade – I love the huge bellows and the overwhelming number of tools available.

Check out the Pioneer Village web site for much more information.  They have many special events scheduled including their upcoming annual “Florida Christmas remembered”.  I think it’s worth another visit back to see the decorations.

Barberville is only about an hour from Orlando – right where SR 40 crosses US 17.  It’s well worth the trip.  If you have kids, they’ll like the exhibits, demonstrations, and animals.  Adults will enjoy seeing how Floridians used to live.  And as a photographer, it’s another “target rich environment”.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos!
©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Acadia National Park, Maine

Sometimes, you can arrive at a “bucket list” location and it’s disappointing when it doesn’t live up to your expectations.   So let’s get that out-of-the-way now:  That won’t happen at Acadia National Park.  It’s an utterly awesome place.   If you haven’t been there yet, make sure it’s on your own bucket list.

Jordan Pond and "The Bubbles"
“The Bubbles” mountains from the southern end of Jordan Pond.  I used a polarizing filter for this and I like the way it renders the nearby rocks through the water and the trees on the left.  ISO 100, f/16, 1/10 second, at 16mm.

This place on the south shore of Jordan Pond is one of the most iconic views in the park.  I looked and was surprised there weren’t any holes worn in the rock from all the tripods over the years.  But I didn’t let the fact that everyone takes a photo here stop me – I couldn’t resist making one of my own.

I’ve wanted to go to Acadia for a long time.  My friend Kevin M. went last year and raved about it.  When Mary Kate suggested I go up with her, it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.

It’s a landscape photographer’s paradise.  I spent almost 6 full days there.  I met MK and her coworker Ryan on Friday evening and they left Sunday afternoon.  Fellow Photography Interest Group member Tom M. arrived Monday afternoon and we stayed until Thursday morning.  It’s brimming with photo ops:  rugged shorelines, sandy beaches, granite mountains, calm mirror like ponds, beautiful forests, gnarled trees, lighthouses, fishing villages, whales, birds, and more.  It felt like there were photos everywhere I looked.

Acadia is small for a national park (at least compared to some of those out west) but it still covers a very large area.  And getting from the Bass Harbor Head Light all the way to the Schoodic Peninsula can take some time, especially with traffic during the peak summer season.  This map shows where I made my photos.

Acadia National Park Photo Locations

You can see I made it to much of the park, but I missed an even larger part of it.  Not to mention that I mostly stayed close to the car.  I didn’t explore any of the hiking trails and carriage roads.  I guess I’ll have to keep it on my bucket list and go back!

I visited several places more than once and the changing light and weather made them look very different.  Bubble Pond, Schoodic Point, and Cadillac Mountain were my favorites.

Looking west from Otter Creek Drive
Looking north-west from Otter Creek Drive, with Cadillac Mountain in the distance.    A 5 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/160 sec, at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

I found the spot above just driving around, not from a guidebook.  The fog in the distance and the lily pads in the nearby pond called out for a photograph.

Schoodic Peninsula is in all the guidebooks and you must go there.  We spent hours looking for compositions hidden in the rocks, cliffs and waves.  Just make sure you’re careful.  The rocks can be slippery and unexpected waves have washed people into the water.

Schoodic Point Waves
Schoodic Point Waves.  I used a Hoya ND400 filter on this to slow my shutter speed.  Even though the sun had been up for a while, I could expose at ISO 100, f/16, 4.2 seconds, at 16mm.

Sieur de Monts is in all the guide books too and when I saw photos of the birch forests I knew I had to stop there.  Tom and I initially made a wrong turn, but finally found it.  And what a wonderful place it was – well worth the walk!

Paper Birch and sedge grass forest
Paper Birch and sedge grass forest, along Jessup’s Path.    This is a 6 frame panorama, captured in infrared and converted to B&W.  ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/100 sec at 28mm (equivalent focal length).

We saw wildlife too.  On Saturday morning, MK and I took the Puffin / Whale tour offered by Bar Harbor Whale Watching.  It was a bit foggy, but nice enough and the captain managed to find both Atlantic Puffins and Humpback Whales for us.  We also saw several lighthouses that we wouldn’t have spotted otherwise.  In addition to the puffins, I photographed four other new life birds:  Arctic Terns, Black Guillemots, Great Shearwaters, and Great Black-backed Gulls.  And there may have been a few others that I didn’t recognize / identify.  Back on land we saw deer a couple of times, and (heard about) a bear.  But sadly, no moose.

Two Humpback whales show their tails after surfacing.
Two Humpback whales show their tails on the way back down after surfacing.  We watched a group of three feeding together.  As the boat idled they often came close.  Researchers keep track of the  whales and ID them from the patterns on their tails and backs.  The whale on the left is “Bottleneck.” (HWC #8807) and was first sighted there in 2004. The other whale is “Vee” (HWC # 0372) and it was first sighted there in 1983 and has also been seen in Puerto Rico.
ISO 400, f/8, 1/1000 sec, at 155mm.

After the boat tour, MK and I drove up to Prospect Harbor to visit Janet M.  She was Mary’s music teacher in Orlando and retired to Maine.  She and her husband Arnold are outstanding tour guides – they drove us around the Schoodic area and showed us many sites from a local’s perspective.  And then they shared a delightfully delicious dinner of Maine Lobster Mac and Cheese, salad, and Maine Blueberry pie for desert.  What wonderful hosts!

There’s a lot of information available about this area, so I won’t try to write an exhaustive how-to guide,  Instead, here are some of the references I used.  I bought and read these two books and I’d recommend either one (or both):

If you search the web, you’ll find a great many Acadia sites.  Here are a couple I looked at:

And you can also find out a lot on Flickr:

Finally, I’ll offer these hints that may help when you go:

  • I brought a full (and heavy) photo backpack and used a lot of the gear.  We flew into Bangor on smaller planes so be careful that your photo luggage meets the carry on restrictions.  I was very glad I had a wide-angle lens, my IR modified camera, a tripod, and polarizing and ND400 filters.  Kevin M. loaned me his 70 – 300mm lens and I used that for whales and puffins.
  • I filled up my camera memory cards for the first time in a long while.  Bring extra, or some way to back them up so you can safely erase them.
  • Atlantic Puffins are small – and far away from the boat!  There’s one tour that actually puts you on the island where they nest inside blinds close to the birds.  But I heard that the waiting list is over a year long.
  • Whales on the other hand are large and sometimes close to the boat.  You can get some good photos even with a phone.
  • Make sure you practice your photography skills before you go.  And know your equipment – no new gear right before the trip.  You want to know what to do when you get there, not figure it out in real-time.
  • Guidebooks and research are helpful, but don’t get too focused in on what others have photographed.  Photo ops are easy to find and I enjoyed trying to put my spin on some of the well-known locations.
  • It’s crowded in July and August.  Especially Bar Harbor and the main park visitor center.  But you can avoid those areas and find places / times where there’s no one else around.
  • The food (especially seafood) is wonderful – arrive hungry!
  • I’m from Florida, but the weather was hotter than I thought it would be (highs in the 80s) and the biting bugs were worse than I thought they would be.
  • The weather varied too.  There was some fog / mist and drizzle.  I was actually glad, because the coast of Maine is known for that, and it gave us some distinct looks.  Bubble Pond looked very different depending on the time of day and the wind and visibility.  But fog did spoil one sunrise (after getting up at 3:30 am!) and Tom’s offshore lighthouse tour.  So plan on some reduced visibility and stay a few days longer if you can so you can go back to some locations.
  • Finally, enjoy yourself.  Relax – don’t get overwhelmed.  Create a lot of memories, not a lot of stress.

Bar Harbor Blue
Bar Harbor Blue – The town lights at night from Cadillac Mountain.   ISO 200, f/8, 25 sec, at 120mm

 I thoroughly enjoyed myself and came home exhausted.   I took too many photos and spent too much time going through them after I got home.  But I like how they turned out – please take a look at the other ones in my Flickr album when you get a chance.

I’ll leave you with a short conversation I overheard on the top of Cadillac Mountain while Tom and I were photographing Bar Harbor after dark.

A little girl, pointing at Tom and I: “What are they doing Daddy?“.
Her father:  “Taking pictures with really big cameras.
Girl:  “Do we have one?
Dad:  “No, but Mommy wants one.
Girl:  “Why don’t they use their phones?
Dad:  no answer

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos! And use the biggest camera you can!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

First Light

I spent several exciting days in Maine last week exploring Acadia National Park and some of the surrounding area.  Mary Kate went on business up there and invited me to tag along and sight see.  Thanks again, Mary Kate!

I’m still going through all of my images from the trip, so I can’t really write an article about it yet.  I’ll work on it over the next week or so and add photos to my Maine / Acadia album on Flickr as I finish them.  You can take a look there for a preview of what’s coming.  For now, here are a couple quick photos.

Cadillac Mountain in Acadia is the highest point on the east coast of the US, and going up to the summit to see “the country’s first sunrise” is popular.  When MK, her coworker Ryan, and I got there at about 4:45am, the parking lot was already filling up.  This was the view about a half hour before sunrise.  If you look at the larger version on Flickr, you can see the lights in Bar Harbor on the near shore.

First light - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
First Light

It turns out that the first sun light hits the US on Cadillac Mountain only in the fall and winter. So we really didn’t see the “first light” – but even so it was a pretty sunrise.

Sunrise panorama - Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park
Sunrise panorama

Please be sure to check back for the rest of the story on this absolutely fabulous place.  It’s a landscape photographer’s dream and there’s wildlife around there too!

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.

Silver Springs State Park

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, view 2
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

Photo hints:

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
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

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.

Other:

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
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.

Cracker cabin
Cracker cabin

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 ForestRainbow Springs State ParkJuniper Springs Recreation Area, and Salt Springs Recreation Area.

Summary

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!

My Gallery /  Flickr photo set:  https://www.flickr.com/photos/edrosack/sets/72157644924434114
Website: http://www.floridastateparks.org/silversprings/default.cfm/explore.html 
Address / Phone: 1425 N.E. 58th Avenue, Ocala, Florida 34470(352) 236-7148
Central Florida Photo Ops Rating:  A Central Florida Photo Op must do!

P.S. – In the good news department, it looks like those of you that subscribe to the blog via email are getting the updates.  If you’re having any issues, please let me know.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog.  Now, go make some photos!

©2014, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved.