Silver Springs State Park has two sections. One is the older Silver River Park with the usual natural trails and campgrounds. It is adjacent to what was, up until 2013, an older, commercial theme park that no longer has all of its roadside attractions such as wild animal shows, reptile and snake shows, and swimming beach.
Silver Springs first opened in the 1870s and is said to be the original location for glass-bottom-boat rides. Over the years it had its ups and downs, and was finally overshadowed as a tourist destination by the Disney parks. Many of the older commercial buildings are in good shape but closed off. I wonder what the state park system will do with them. For now there still is a restaurant, a concert venue, attractive grounds, and the glass bottom boat trips.
Have you ever wondered what is below the surface of the water?
The center section of this flat bottomed boat is plate glass and you can look down into the water from the comfort of your seat. It's better than snorkeling because you don't have to get cold and wet!
Its electric motor is very quiet and the captain answers any questions you may have.
When we were at the dock we were over shallow water and could see lots of water plants. While waiting for the rest of the passengers we saw turtles and fish.
The water was very clear and still except for where the many springs roiled the water with their output.
We passed over and stopped to examine several of the springs.
Each was a deep area with a large deeper crack or hole from which the waters gush out. 550 million gallons per day flows out of them, and the water is very pure and crystal clear. The river they head is clear for nine miles downstream.
We saw lots of fish. Most were in groups of three or four, but this was a larger gathering. Our Captain told us that when it was a commercial attraction they would feed the fish and more of them would come to the boats. As a state park, no wild animals or fish are fed so fewer fish are seen.
The glass bottom boat ride only lasted a half hour, but the $10 fare was well worth it. Our Captain has worked at the Springs for 41 years and had a pleasant, well-informed patter.
As our afternoon wound down we took a walk around the grounds. We noticed something swimming in the springs. It was not a turtle, not a gator, not a child. It was in fact a river otter. Just one of many critters that call this park home.
On Friday, we plan on walking the trail that boarders the back edge of our site. On the map it looks like an easy loop. I'll write about it next time.