Taking it Easy at Silver Springs State Park: A Historic Florida Attraction
Our recent foray to Silver Springs State Park was completely accidental. The girls and I had just emerged from the wilds of the Ocala National Forest and we had a couple of hours to kill before dinner. Sure, we could have gone further into Ocala and hit the Paddock Mall, but we still had our wilderness explorer/spring-hunter hats on and a frugal budget to boot, and the sign for Silver Springs loomed up ahead.
Silver Springs State Parks sits on the edge of the town that was built up from it. Formerly a famous Florida icon, the past decades have been unkind to this natural beauty, and recently it was rescued and reclaimed by the state and given “State Park” status, much like other Florida legends such as Homosassa Springs, Weekie Wachie, and Rainbow Springs. The historic Silver Springs Attraction is now combined with the adjacent former Silver River State Park (different entrances to access the different sections.) We only toured the Silver Springs Attraction section on this occasion
Being a born “Yankee,” I can remember when my parents would pack us up in the station wagon and head south to the sunnier climes of Florida. We would check into Sun Plaza Hotel across the street from Silver Springs and tour the scenic landscapes and parks of Florida. The Sun Plaza hotel still exists- I think the playground even looks the same, but Silver Springs Park is much different from it’s “hey-day” that I recall. My husband’s mom honeymooned at Silver Springs and her version of the “hey-day” is far different from mine, so it is sufficient to say that Silver Springs has gone through numerous metamorphic changes throughout the years. But this was my first visit since it became crowned a State Park.
Gone were the wooden boardwalks through the alligator-filled swamps of the Ross Allen Reptile island. The bridge to the island had vanished completely. The legendary glass-bottom boats however still were taking park guests out over the magnificent springs, just as they had in the 1800’s. The main spring, one of the largest artesian springs in the world, pumps out 55o million gallons of fresh water daily.(source: Floridasprings.org). That’s a whole lot of fresh water!
Unfortunately, to be honest, our little trio of travelers were exhausted from our long day and we chose to lounge in the late afternoon sun in the rocking chairs scattered across the deck overlooking the head springs. Even when we did get the energy to move, we wandered the trails to the next bench or rocking chair along the way and sat a while, taking a lengthy pause at the former boat house at the far edge of the park, now a covered deck with views of the Silver River and the cypress swamp.
The former Silver Springs Attraction is now a rest stop, or a place of quiet contemplation (Plein Air artists take note!). The park may no longer be the wild child of it’s youth, fêting silver screen stars and A-listers, but it retains a calm dignity of old age. It will be interesting to see what comes next for this former pageant beauty.
Things to Know Before You Go:
- Entry fee to this State Park is $8 per carload.
- The Glass Bottom Boat ride is extra: $11 per adults, $10 for students and seniors, 5 and under free.
- Kayak and canoe rentals are available at a separate kiosk located on the far side of the parking lot.
- Concessions are available in the park. There is a museum and gift shop as well.
- Plan for 1-2 hours and relax. Take advantage of the rocking chairs and scenic views.
- There is NO swimming here.
- There IS Camping and cabin rentals at the adjacent Silver River Park section. Call ahead for rentals.
Do you have a Silver Springs memory?
Other stories that may interest you:
- Exploring Juniper Springs
- Wakulla Springs Revisited
- Things to Do in Fanning Springs
- Top 5 Places to Find a Manatee
- Exploring Scott Springs, Ocala’s Hidden Grotto