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.)
Nobody would ever all me a triathlete. I don’t run. I don’t swim. And I ride a bike so slowly it takes excellent balance to stay upright.
However, after completing the Tamiami Triathlon last year (a real event sponsored by the National Park Service), we decided to make a triathlon an annual event. The three events in the Everglades, completed over the course of two days, included a hike through the swamp, a paddle across the bay, and a bike ride on a paved trail in Shark Valley so we decided to create our own set of similar events at one of Florida’s state parks.
After looking at several options, we decided to make this a one day event right in our backyard at Silver Springs State Park. We started with a bike ride on the Ross Trail through the Silver River portion of the park. Upon our return, I noticed the sign that indicated the trail was for advanced riders and since I returned alive, I guess I can now consider myself an advanced mountain biker.
Before embarking on phase two, we ate lunch on the picnic tables in the grassy area by the museum, and then rode our bikes on the path along CR35 to the entrance of Silver Springs on SR40.
We rented a two person kayak from the rental concession and paddled to the Silver River and then up to the springs. The path took us by several of the attractions from the old park..an Indian village, a fort, and the jungle cruise, and of course, there were plenty of turtles, gators, and birds along our leisurely path.
Finally, for the hike, we biked back to the Silver River entrance and hiked along the Sinkhole Trail…not the best marked trail, but a nice walk and a good way to end the day.
We began at 11:30 Sunday morning and completed the Silver River Triathlon by 4:30 that afternoon. Another Triathlon in the books and looking forward to next year’s event.
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!