The springs were caves, cracks or just holes in the sandy river bottom, spewing out gallons and even millions of gallons of fresh water.
The springs were caves, cracks or just holes in the sandy river bottom, spewing out gallons and even millions of gallons of fresh water.

Spring Hunting on the Silver River

Spring Hunting on the Silver River

It is no secret that I have been slightly obsessed with springs this year. Ever since my dip at Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest over the holidays, I seem to have caught the “spring fever,” and the mad desire to go “spring hunting.” According to the folks at FloridaSprings.org, our beautiful state is home to over 1,000 known springs, from the big-wigs like Silver Springs and Wakulla Springs, where millions of gallons of water forcefully blow out of the earth, to the tiny bubbly boils pushing up from the sand along the Rainbow River. Having already explored the land portion of Silver Springs State Park with my girls, I returned to do some spring hunting on the Silver River.

The Silver River contains 120 springs and the head spring alone spews out 550 million gallons of fresh water a day. That’s a lot of water!  Unfortunately, due to the State Park rules, no swimming is allowed, so exploring these springs are by boat, kayak or canoe. Kayak and canoe rentals are available at the park, or owners of such light craft can launch at the boat ramp in the park ($4 launch fee). I had brought my mom along for this particular spring-hunting expedition, and the winter storms were already threatening, so we chose to enjoy our spring hunting adventure via the  warmth and comfort of the Silver Springs Glass Bottom Boats.

We explored the Silver River springs via the comfort of a glass bottom boat.
We explored the Silver River springs via the comfort of a glass bottom boat.

Silver Spring’s historic Glass Bottom Boats have been taking visitors over the springs since the mid-1800’s!  The boat we rode in luckily was not that old, but a freshly restored model from the 1960’s. Inside the boat, the center section is cut away and replaced with thick glass. Guests sit around the edge of this center piece and can either check out the underwater view or look up and enjoy the cypress trees, blue herons and Anhinga birds drying their wet wings along the riverbanks.  So forgoing any snorkels, or rain for that matter,  Captain Christopher took us and several other guests out onto the Silver River for some spring hunting- 1800-style!

One of the 120 springs on the Silver River.
One of the 120 springs on the Silver River.

Even though the weather above was turning foul, the fish were unaware, happy in their own world. We began our spring hunting expedition over the “Star”Spring, so named as a tribute to the Silver Screen actors and actresses that graced the Silver Springs Attraction, like Johnny Weissmuller , who shot scenes of his Tarzan show at Silver Springs in the 1930’s & 1940’s. A mere crack in the earth, tiny limestone rocks bounced around by the mouth of the crack like bubbles, forced into their tiny tango from the water’s force. Most of the other springs were the same, cracks in the earth, though the “Abyss” spring was a giant deep hole, straight down. According to our Captain, a diver had been sent down to measure depth and got to 80 feet before he could fit no further, though the cave itself continued on. Holes had punched through the sandy floor of the river near other springs, more water escaping? And the remains of an Indian dugout canoe rested near another.

I noted that the springs on the left side of the Silver River (heading away from the head spring) were crystal clear, whereas of the right side of the river, they tended to be overgrown with algae and growth. Also, at the mouth of each of the smaller springs sat a large black fish that reminded me of that dragon the main character tames from the How to Train Your Dragon movie- black, fins on the side like little wings and a long tail. These fish sat at the spring mouths like dragons, waiting for  their prey to emerge from the caves!  I asked about them and was told that particular fish was non-native to Florida, and an  invasive species of fish from South America. Apparently they are found in most Florida fresh waterways now.

Staying dry on our glass bottom boat, we had the perfect (warm) views of the springs on the Silver River.
Staying dry on our glass bottom boat, we had the perfect (warm) views of the springs on the Silver River.

The head springs themselves I have seen many times in my youth. Three Greek statues from a movie once filmed there remained on the base of the sandy floor. The Silver River headsprings have seen many movie shoots, from James Bond to the iconic Sea Hunt. A massive cave, and one of the largest artisan springs in the world, yawned beneath the water like a whale’s mouth.

Our glass bottom boat headed back to the dock and the drizzle that would turn into a torrential four hour monsoon began. (Most of the Marion county region would suffer flooding before the day’s end). But our day had ended. And we both agreed that viewing the 72F springs on the Silver River from the comfort of a warm glass bottom boat was the best way to experience Florida spring-hunting on a chilly winter’s day.

Spring hunting on the Silver River
Spring hunting on the Silver River

Things to Know Before You Go:

  1. Entry fee to Silver Springs State Park is $8 per car load.
  2. Glass Bottom Boat tickets are sold at the gift shop: $11 adults, $10 senior & kids, and children 5 and under free.
  3. There are concessions available in this park.
  4. Kayak and Canoe rentals available (see the gift shop) launch site is at the far end of the parking lot (on the hill).

 

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