A Pedacito Of Reconnecting With Nature & Water At Silver Springs State Park Near Ocala, Florida
Updated: 5 days ago
Staying in the "productivity loop" can be exhausting and one of my favorite ways to ground myself is by immersing myself in nature, even if for just a couple of hours. If you live in Central Florida or are visiting for a few days, take a day trip less than two hours north and experience the beauty that is the natural side of Florida.
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Quick History & Overview Of Silver Springs State Park
Silver Springs State Park is located at 5656 E Silver Springs Blvd, Silver Springs, FL 34488, which is about 1.5 hours north of Downtown Orlando and just a little longer if you're driving from the attraction's area. This historic park is centered around the beauty of the natural springs ecosystem that is common all around the state.
Silver Springs has a rich history, some of which may surprise you! This incredible ecosystem has been a life source for native species and early humans for over 10,000 years and has been a source of leisure and adventure since the early 1800's. The aquapher-fed water source pumps out over 73 million cubic feet of limestone filtered water per day and maintains a refreshing 74°F water temperature year round.
The Silver River forks and joins the Ocklawaha River a few miles downstream providing access to much of Northern Central Florida including a connection to the St. John's River. The spring's access to the St. John's River assisted in the development of the Ocala area as it provided a vital means for transporting supplies and crops in and out of the region.
In 1924, Coloniel W.M. Davidson and Carl Ray acquired the rights to the springs and began investing into the development of Silver Springs as a natural tourist attraction, including the introduction of the first versions of the famous glass bottom boat tours.
Activities At Silver Springs State Park
As with most of Florida's State Parks, there are lots of activities centered around history and nature at Silver Springs State Park. For nature lovers, there's hiking, paddling, wildlife spotting, and glass bottom boat tours.
The glass bottom boat tours are one of the main attendance drivers to the park and are available for an additional fee. The 30-minute tours cost $12 per child or senior, $13 for adults, and children 5 and under are free. You can book a your tour in advance by clicking HERE.
If you're more of a history buff, check out the Cracker Village and the Silver River Museum. The Cracker Village is a replica of a 19th century pioneer village with "cracker" style homes representative of traditional Florida architecture.
A visit to the village immerses patrons into the daily lives of early Floridians as actors dressed in traditional clothing provide tours of the village. Tours are only offered twice per month, so if you want to include the Cracker Village in you Silver Springs experience, you'll want to check out their webpage ahead of time.
Although we didn't get to experience the Cracker Village on this trip, we'll definitely be going back to learn more about the culture of early Florida life.
There are a couple different entrances into Silver Springs State Park so be sure to check the map below before you arrive so you don't get lost. For paddling activities and glass bottom boat tours, use the main entrance on Silver Springs Boulevard. There's a large sign making it hard to miss; I've included a picture of the sign below.
If you're taking your horses out, use the entrance a little futher down Silver Springs Boulevard for the equestrain trails. For the campground, cabins, hiking trails, and the Silver River Museum, use the entrance on NE 58th Avenue.
Paddling At Silver Springs State Park
The reason we drove up to the Ocala area to visit Silver Springs State Park was to connect for a couple of hours with nature. We opted for a 2-hour guided kayaking tour operated by Get Up And Go Kayaking, which utilized clear kayaks! The clear kayaks were perfectly sized for one or two people and provided stunning views of the wildlife below the surface.
There are closer springs to the Orlando area (Wekiwa Springs State Park and Rock Springs/Kelly Park), however they often reach capacity early in the morning, especially in the summer months. So, if you're looking for convenience and less hassle, I recommend booking a guided tour.
You don't have to worry about queing up super early or rushing over to rent a kayak or canoe before they are sold out. Additionally, a guided tour provides you with a richer experience as you have a knowlegable guide who can provide meaningful insight to make your trip all the better.
Silver Springs State Park also offers rentals for kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards. To be honest, even though there were lots of people on a Saturday afternoon in July, it wasn't as bad as the parks closer to Orlando. Unlike many other state parks, parking is ample and you don't have to go through a guard shack beforehand; this usually causes bottlenecks at other parks. Additionally, you pay for admission at the gate or choose to go straight to the "Paddling Adventures" rental area and skip the admission fee.
Water has always been a grounding source for me! When I am stressed, angry, worried, I am drawn to water. I tend to look at this in a couple of different ways, but generally I feel that water reminds me to be fluid, to go with the flow, and not dwell on things that you can't control. I am reminded that even though water flows around obstructions it still has the power to shape the landscape over time, which reminds me of the strenght of patience and endurance.
Silver Springs State Park is a perfect place to get out and experience that connection to the water. Most of the main paddling areas are pretty expansive, offering great views of wildlife and their natural environment. Here you'll see lots of colorful fish, underwater grasses, turtles, alligators, various species of birds, and even manatees. We were lucky enough to encounter two massive manatees swiming gracefully near us as they too enjoyed this Saturday afternoon.
After launching our kayaks we set off into the main springhead area until we took a right into a more narrow canal that made for the perfect 1.5-2 hour loop. In the narrower canal there was more tree cover offering shade from the afternoon sun. There are also several abandoned props from old movies that were filmed here, chosen by film makers because of Silver Springs' ideal underwater conditions.
What To Bring When Paddling Silver Springs
Unlike boats, space and weight to be considered when taking out a kayak or canoe. How long you're going to be out on the water will likely dictate what you will need to bring along.
Without a doubt, you have to figure you're going to get wet. The goal is usually not to fall into the water, but you will defintely get wet from the paddle between strokes and potentially during the occassional Florida rain shower. Additionally, even on cloudy days, the sun's UV rays make their way to the surface. Make sure to wear comfortable light clothing that covers your skin and can get wet.
If you're trying to get some sun, make sure to bring sun block. Hat and sunglasses are always a good idea whenever you go out in Florida. Oh, and bring water shoes