1425 NE 58th Avenue
Ocala, Florida, United States 34470http://www.floridastateparks.org/silverriver
This park has more than 14 distinct natural communities, dozens of springs, and miles of beautiful trails. The adjoining Silver Springs attraction houses the headwaters of the Silver River, which flows through the park into the Ocklawaha River. Visitors can kayak / canoe down the crystal clear river, hike or bike along one of the nature trails, or just sit and watch for the wide variety of birds and wildlife. The picnic area features three pavilions with grills that may be rented for group outings and a playground for the youngsters. For overnight stays, the park has a full facility campground and 10 luxury cabins.
Silver River is considered one of the top five paddles in Florida, as it is is exceptionally scenic, with sand and grass bottom, fish swimming about, and plentiful wildlife, including some interesting exotics.
Tourism in Florida began shortly after the Civil War and the industry launched with steamboats chugging from Jacksonville south down the St. Johns, into the Ocklawaha ending at Silver Springs, the source of the Silver River. Silver Springs is one of the state's most powerful first-magnitude springs. Since its inception, the tourist attraction at Silver Springs has been frequently filmed and many black and white Tarzan movies were produced along Silver River. Ester Williams also swam for Hollywood in Silver Springs – a boat was sunk near the main spring in the making of that movie. Also, the remains of a steamboat from the 1800s rest conspicuously in the river closer to the Ocklawaha. Wildlife includes otters, alligators, large gar, and bass. Mud fish can be spotted on the clear bottom and alligator and spotted gar reach epic size. Rhesus and spider monkeys frequently come to the bank to gaze at paddlers...they undoubtedly spice up the diet of alligators on occasion.
One urban legend regarding the monkeys is that they are descendants from those that escaped during a filming of Tarzan, but the more likely scenario is the one on the Silver Springs theme park site that suggests one of the concessionaires operating the Jungle Cruise boat ride placed the monkeys on an island in the river and they swam off and disappeared into the neighboring forests back in the 1930s. Many a debate has occurred over removing them, since they are not indigenous to Florida, but they are so very popular, the US Forest Service and various Fish & Wildlife agencies have refrained from taking action.
© April L. Gustetter