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Silver Springs State Park and Silver River...

Paddling Clear Spring Waters, with Monkeys (maybe)

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. (Note: this may change as the State now considers the monkeys a health hazard, more below.) 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 and photos below.)

paddle Silver River, kayak, canoe

Silver River Paddling Map


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Distance: Varies; 6 miles from Silver Spring to Wayside Park
Location: Marion County (Ocala)
Difficulty: Easy to moderate (when paddling upstream)
Tidal: No
Launch points: Silver Springs State Park; Ray Wayside Park (near Ocklawaha River at SR 40) (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Silver River State Park, Silver Springs Nature Park, Appleton Museum (Ocala)

Silver River... Comments and Photos

Many or most visitors paddle out and back from the launch at Silver Springs State Park, taking in the main springs and perhaps the Fort King Waterway, all within a short distance of the launch. Others paddle the entire Silver River, either up and back from Ray Wayside Park (a real workout in any kayak) or with the assistance of a shuttle service (or two cars), one-way about 6 miles from the State Park to a short canal leading to the landing at Ray Wayside Park. Heading downstream, the canal is on your left, just upstream from where the Silver River joins the Ocklawaha River. Fishing is prohibited at the Springs and along the Silver River, as is disturbing the river bottom, or walking anywhere along the natural banks of the River - designed landings only.


Silver Springs State Park Launch

Rentals are available, or you can hand-launch your own kayak or canoe. It's a short carry from parking area to the launch. Launch is easy on and off.

 


Spring Basin

This area can be reached by a short paddle from the launch area, or by paddling up the Silver River. When paddling within the State Park, remain in your watercraft and watch for the glass-bottomed boats.

 


Fort King Waterway

From the State Park Launch a short distance on the right (before the park bridge) is the old, man-made Fort King Waterway, an alternative route to the Silver River. The waterway was formerly open for a jungle cruise only but reopened to paddling in 2013 (for the first time since the 1870's) when Silver River State Park and Silver Springs Nature Theme Park combined to become Silver Springs State Park. Remnants of tourist exhibits remain, most will eventually be removed to return the park to a more natural state.


Kayaking on the Silver River

From the State Park Launch downstream to Ray Wayside Park (parking, restrooms, picnicking, and boat ramp) is slightly under 6 miles. The volume of output, the clear water, and lush subtropical vegetation make this one of the most scenic spring runs in Florida. You can also kayak upstream from the launch at Ray Wayside Park - a strenuous paddle, but then relax and enjoy the endorphins on the float back.


Monkeys and Native Wildlife

Wildlife include the usual alligators, otters, birds and fish, but don't be surprised by the monkeys! Believing they could not swim (we've seen young ones jumping from tall trees into the river for fun), monkeys were located on an island in the river as a tourist attraction. Today bands of monkeys range for over 40 miles. Feeding is prohibited, the monkeys can be aggressive and paddlers should use caution. Note: the monkeys are now considered a health hazard. As an "invasive species," the State is making plans to remove or (likely at best) reduce the population. After dart guns were used in the process of collecting blood samples, the monkeys seem to know something is up and sightings have become more rare.

The Monkeys

Other Wildlife

 

About Silver Springs State Park

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 a restaurant, camping, hiking and equestrian trails, off-road biking, paddling, playground, glass-bottomed boat tour, museum and interpretative exhibits.

Also visit us here: Paddling Ocklawaha River

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