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Updated: 11/07/2013

Silver River... Paddling with Monkeys

Note: As of October 1, 2013, Silver River State Park and Silver Springs Nature Theme Park combined to become Silver Springs State Park. Most excitedly, the Fort King Waterway is now open for paddling, the first time since the 1870's. See photos below! The glass-bottomed boat rides and concert series will remain, but to create a more natural park the exotic animal exhibits and amusement rides have been closed. Efforts to improve the water, which has suffered from pollution, are also being undertaken.

Silver Springs State Park is a popular Florida destination well known for the glass-bottom boat rides and for the monkeys that inhabit the area around the park. The first-magnitude spring is the largest natural artesian spring in the world, producing 550 million gallons of water per day. These waters form the Silver River, an excellent and scenic Florida paddling destination. (Detailed map, photos and more description below.)



View Larger Map
Distance: 6 miles (Silver Spring to SR40)
Location: Marion County (Ocala)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: Silver Springs State Park; Ray Wayside Park (Ocklawaha River at SR 40) (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: At the state park (link, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Silver River State Park, Silver Springs Nature Park, Ocala

Rentals are available or you can launch your own vessel at the park. You can also paddle upstream from the Ray Wayside Park launch on the Ocklawaha River (the Silver River is a tributary of the Ocklawaha) and then enjoy the float back. Due to the water output, the paddle upstream can be strenuous but the clear water and lush subtropical vegetation make this one of the most scenic in Florida. Fishing is prohibited, as is landing along the shores of the river.

Silver Springs was the oldest and one of Florida's most popular tourist attractions, including filming the 1930's Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller and the 1950's Creature from the Black Lagoon. Today's Silver Springs State Park has playground, restaurant, camping, hiking and equestrian trails, off-road biking, paddling, glass-bottomed boat tour, museum and interpretative exhibits. When paddling within the state park, remain in your watercraft and watch for the glass-bottomed boats. At Ray Wayside Park are parking, restrooms, picnicking, and boat ramp.

Wildlife include the usual alligators, otters, birds and fish, but don't be surprised by the monkeys! Monkeys were brought onto a river island as a tourist attraction thinking they would not swim, but today bands of monkeys range over 40 miles. Feeding is prohibited, the monkeys can be aggressive and paddlers should use caution.

Paddling at Silver River
(hover over photo for larger view)
Silver Springs State Park Launch
Managed under a concession to Discovery Kayak Tours. Rent or launch your own vessel.
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Launch area at end of parking lot From launch area across parking lot to Silver Springs entrance A short haul from outfitter to launch Launch at Silver Springs State park,
easy on-easy off
Spring Basin
This area can be reached by a short paddle from the launch area, or paddling up the Silver River
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Paddling upstream Paddling downstream Boarding for boat tour Glass bottomed boats Underwater view
Fort King Waterway
The waterway was formerly open for the jungle cruise only. Remnants of tourist exhibits remain,
most will eventually be removed. Watch a video of paddling on Fort King Waterway (coming soon).
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  This was the old dock for jungle cruise     Fort King replica
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Indian village replica     Exiting onto the river
Silver River
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Canal from state park launch to river Underwater This tour boat was looking at a sunken sailboat  
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    Launch at Ray Wayside Landing
The Monkeys
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Other Wildlife
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More information on Silver Springs and paddling on the Silver River (opens in a new window):

- Florida State Parks - Silver Springs State Park
- Florida State Parks - Silver River State Park Brochure (pdf)

See also: Paddling Ocklawaha River

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