With the news this week of the St. John’s River Management District permitting Sleepy Creek to make a daily withdrawal of 1.4 million gallons of water from the aquifer for a cattle ranching operation despite the warning from scientists that its impact will be detrimental to Silver Springs, the Silver River and the Ocklawaha River, this picture of John (the cute boy with his hand on the center rail) and his mother riding the glass bottom boat at Silver Springs in the early 1960s seems appropriate.
He and I both remember cruising upriver in the glass bottom boats amazed by the crystal clear water, gushing springs and abundant fish. Despite the 30% reduction in water flow and many fewer fish in the spring and river, Silver Springs is still a natural treasure, but you can only wonder how much longer that will continue.
TBT Lesson #60: Visit Silver Springs and take a ride in the glass bottom boat before it’s too late (and if they still take these group photos…buy one.)
It’s official. Silver Springs is the newest Florida State Park and last week I made my first visit. It was both exciting and disappointing.
Exciting to be charged only $8 per car or $5 for a single person instead of an $8 parking fee in addition to the $30+ admission price of the former theme park. Exciting to see canoes and kayaks launching from the park. Exciting to eat a picnic lunch at the tables overlooking the spring. Exciting to watch the glass bottom boats continuing to cruise through the spring.
Disappointing that much of the park is blocked off and not accessible to the public. Disappointing to see how dilapidated the park has become…buildings, fences, former attractions literally falling apart. Disappointing that the ice cream parlor isn’t open since enjoying an ice cream cone while rocking and watching the glass bottom boats was a favorite activity at the park.
However, despite the many disappointments, I’m optimistic about the future of Silver Springs State Park. We spoke to Marty in the restaurant and she told us of the plans to expand the menu and add an ice cream parlor. We met the young man working the canoe and kayak rentals, and he told us of their goals to increase their services.
I need to be patient. The park had only come under state control about two weeks before our visit. It’s going to take some time to bring Silver Springs back to the popular attraction of yesteryear.
Today Silver Springs officially joins the Florida State Park system. In fact, if you go to the Florida State Park website you’ll find that the Silver River State Park is now the Silver Springs State Park. The campground, cabins, bike and hiking trails, canoe and kayaking launch and rentals, and horseback trails located at the Silver River park have joined with the former Silver Springs attraction to create an incredible state park for those interested in the natural beauty of real Florida.
The famous glass bottom boats will continue to usher guests over the headwaters of the spring, but for the first time canoes and kayaks can be launched from the spring as well.
On Saturday we attended a celebration at the park in which Clyde Butcher, Florida’s Ansel Adams, shared his photographs of the rivers, springs, and natural areas in north central Florida as well as his passion for the restoration and preservation of Florida’s environment. Since the event was held at the Silver River State Park museum, the guests were able to view the exhibits that chronicle the history of Silver Springs and anticipate the return of the glory days of the park now that it will be in the care of the Florida State Parks.
Best of all, the admission starting today is more affordable to both residents and tourists at $8 for a car with as many as 8 passengers or $2 for walkers or bicyclists. The park can be accessed on the State Road 40 entrance as well as the former entrance to the Silver River State Park on County Road 35. I’m looking forward to spending more time at Florida’s newest park!
I’m looking forward to the new state park at Silver Springs. As a child, my family visited Silver Springs on a family vacation to the Sunshine State. In fact, I still have the photo we purchased of my family on the Jungle Cruise (funny how I remembered it as the Glass Bottom Boat). Parents, brother, sister, grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousins all visiting the park together. I also found a picture of John’s family taken on the Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs. Both pictures were taken in the 1960s at a time when the park was famous not only for its crystal clear water and glass bottom boats, but for the television shows and movies filmed on the river.
Over the years we’ve visited and taken our children to the park and even swam in the springs one summer in the 1990s. Yearly passes provided fun days on the river, strolling through the park, and eating ice cream while sitting in rocking chairs overlooking the water, but recent years haven’t been good to the park. Overpriced admission. Short hours. Unpredictable schedule. The result…too few visitors to enable the management company to properly maintain the facility.
Joining the Florida State Park system provides an opportunity to bring back the park as an attraction noted for its natural beauty. Concentrating on hiking and bicycling trails, canoeing and kayaking, and restoring the park as an environmentally friendly facility is something to celebrate. Let’s hope that next year at this time, as we celebrate Earth Day 2014, the state park at Silver Springs is on the way to recovery as a place focused on the real Florida.