Saturday, November 17, 2018

Silver Springs State Park–Ocala, FL

We loved this campground; the sites have a lot of space, and there are some pretty cool things to do in the area!

Campsite at Silver Springs State Park

Andy at TrailheadCheck in time is a little later (3p) than a lot of the other state parks, but they were very accommodating when we arrived at the ranger station at a little after 1p.  They gave us a pass to visit the main section of the park where the glass bottom boats are, so we stopped at the cafeteria there for lunch while we waited on our site to be available.  The burgers and fries there are pretty good!

The park has two main loops for camping, and the sites are very spacious.  There is a separate loop with cabins as well, and north of all of the camping areas is a museum, and a Florida Cracker pioneer village.

During our stay, we visited the northern section of the park, rode the glass bottoms boats, and got in a little hiking.  The highlight of the trip was our first time zip lining.  We’re going to have to come back, maybe in the spring, to go kayaking down the silver river.  I was hoping to see the wild monkeys on this trip, but we might have better luck if we head downstream.

Related Posts

River View-2
Hiking the River Trail
Boat on Silver River
Touring the Main Park
Zip Lining at The Canyons
Silver Springs Museum

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Shower / Bathhouse
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29.201018, -82.051326

Friday, November 02, 2018

Zip Lining in Ocala, FL

Andy Tina

Andy and Tina Zip Lining

While camping at Silver Springs State Park, we stopped by The Canyons Zip Line and Canopy Tours.  Neither of us had done this before, and we had a blast!  We’ll definitely be doing this again.

Zip Lining in Ocala

The “Canyons” are actually the remains of an old phosphate mine – I think the mine closed sometime around 1930 – and the landscape is pretty gorgeous. 

The tour starts with some on-the-ground instructions and a demo zip-line that is only a few feet off the ground, to get everyone familiar with the equipment, and hand signals.  After that we were off and zipping.  There are two guides; one is there to send us off, and the other goes ahead to meet us on the other end.

The guides did a great job – I’d encourage everyone to check this spot out if you’re in the area.

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Silver River Museum–Silver Springs SP

Shovel Tusked Mastadon-2
Shovel Tusked Mastodon – The strangest fossil I’ve ever seen

The Silver River Museum at Silver Springs State Park is operated by the Marion County school system.  Admission to the museum is only $2 per person (it is not included with admission to the park), and the funds are used to fund the classes and facilities for the students.  The museum is located in the park on the south side of the river.

Shovel Tusked Mastadon-3
Shove Tusked Mastodon
Tina and the MastedonAndy the Short Faced Bear
Fossils and Interpretive Dance

The museum has two main themes – Florida Paleontology and Florida Archeology.  There is a plaque near a dinosaur display that says there are no dinosaur fossils in Florida, however there are plenty of others.

Dugout Canoe

The archeological displays include prehistoric Indian artifacts as well as artifacts as recent as the 1800’s to early 1900’s, and outside the museum is a Florida Cracker pioneer village from the 1800’s. Some of the buildings are replicas, and some (I believe) are authentic.

Florida Cow Hunters
Florida Cow Hunters
Turpentine Industry-2
Turpentine Industry
Turtle Pipe
Turtle Pipe

Of course, the museum is airconditioned, so there’s another good reason to visit while at the park. 

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Touring Silver Springs State (Theme) Park

Silver Springs Park Entrance

Silver Springs State Park is the site of the oldest tourist attraction in Florida, and walking through the park is like stepping back in history.  From the driveway on SR-40 to the fountain at the entrance of the park, one can appreciate just how “grand” this must have been in it’s hey-day, and imagine the size of the crowds that must have visited every day.

Springside MallAfter entering the park the “Springside Mall” is on the left, and the boat launch is on the right.  The mall has a gift shop, cafeteria, and an ice cream shop.  The cheese burger and fries at the cafeteria is pretty good; we stopped here for lunch twice.

Boat LaunchThe boat launch is where the glass bottom boat tours start.  This tour is a must-do for anyone in the area.  It doesn’t take too long, and the guide will describe the boils, types of fish, as well as some of the archeological finds in the spring.

Old Theme Park MapThese are the two main sites that remain from the original theme park, but there used to be so much more.  I found an old them park map online that isn’t that old (it’s from around 2006), that shows just how much the park had to offer.  Even the water park has been left to the elements.  At the park, they do have paper maps available, but I had no luck finding one online to share here.

Inside Boat-2We started our tour of the park with a ride on the glass bottom boat.  This tour has been around since 1878 when this area was known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park (and our tour guide told us that he has been running a boat tour here for the past 50 years). 

Mushroom bowls-1The boats are set up with a bench seat that wraps around the center viewing area, so everyone has a good view of everything in the water.  There’s a short video down below that shows a couple of the highlights from the tour.

Paved Walk-2After the boat tour we walked headed to the east side of the park to walk along the nature trail.  This is a one mile loop through a forest of pines and oaks.  We had our eyes out for the famous Florida monkeys but didn’t see any on this trip.  This seems like a perfect spot for them.

Ross Allen Island-1On the west side of the park there is a boardwalk that goes around the perimeter of Ross Allen Island.  Back in the day, the island had several attractions, but the only things remaining are the stage where the reptile shows were held, and one or two of the covered pavilions overlooking the river.  The whole boardwalk (including the stage and pavilions) are well maintained, and there are no visible remains of what was removed.

Kayaks-1One thing that we didn’t have time for on this trip was to rent a canoe or kayak and go paddling down the river.  We’ll do that on our next visit, but I mention it here to note that the launch (and rental) is on the south side of the parking lot.

The park is also famous for movies and TV shows.  Several Tarzan movies were filmed here, as well as (one of my favorites) The Creature from the Black Lagoon.  Also, the Sea Hunt television series was filmed onsite.  This is piece of old-Florida history as well as recent history many of us remember from these old shows.  It’s good to see that it is being maintained by the state park system. 

Glass Bottom Boat at Silver Springs State Park

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Andy is Mike NelsonCreek Trail trailhead
Sea Hunt Photo and Trailhead
Boat on Silver River
Glass Bottom Boat
Tina and Andy
Trail Selfie
Silver River
Glass Bottom View-4
Top of Fish

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Hiking the River Trail–Silver Springs State Park

Kermit’s Cousin Lives Here

Andy at TrailheadThe trailhead for this balloon trail is in the northeast section of the park, right next to the Silver River Museum.  It is easy to spot, with a large sign hanging over the entrance.  The trail itself is a very easy two mile hike – the entire path is about the width of a small forest road that is dry and very well maintained.

Trailview-2Starting from the trailhead, the first (roughly) third of a mile goes through a forest of oaks and pine trees, and the slope is slightly down hill.  After that point, the trail passes through a small swamp.

After passing through the swamp, there are two different rest areas that would make a great spot for a picnic.  The real jewel of this trail for me is just after the second rest area.  This is the canoe launce on to the Silver River.

Cypress on the RiverThere are a couple of canoes locked up next to the launch, but the rangers told me that they are only for staff use – they no longer rent canoes on this end of the part; only at the main park area.  The views here are really nice though.

Near RiverWhen I cycled down this trail, this is where I turned back, but when we hiked it, we followed the full loop.  From here the trail is covered in short grass instead of dirt like the trail has been up to this point. 

RIver under TreeAbout another third of a mile down the trail is another access point to the river.  This one is more rustic, but there is an old wooden bench hidden back under the trees.

Trailview-3The loop portion of the trail continues around for about a half mile before linking back to the main trail that we followed from the trailhead.  The inside of the loop is mostly palms while the outside is the same sort type of flora that surrounded the main portion of the trail on the way to the river.

Along this trail, we didn’t see a lot of wildlife, but we did come across a small black snake, and a tortoise. Kermit’s cousin was an unusual looking frog… I believe it is a Leopard Frog, but I’ve never seen one with skin that was blueish green/turquoise before.

Overall, this is a nice short hike that is well suited for just about all skill levels.  It also makes for a nice bike ride.

River Trail Cycling

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Black Snake-2
Black Snake
Cypress Knees
Cypress Knees
Forest Glenn-1
Forest Glenn
Golden Orb Weaver
Golden Orb Weaver
Golden WebRiver View-1
Golden Web and River View
Swamp-2Twisty Vine Andy
Swamp and Twisty Vine

Friday, May 11, 2018

Lake Manatee State Park–Bradenton, FL

Someone described this park better than I ever could when they said “It’s a great spot to go camping especially if you’re looking for a quiet spot to relax and do nothing.

Lake Manatee Swimming Area-1
Swimming Area on Lake Manatee

Our site was on the southern portion of the first camping loop; there are shadier spots on the northern parts of the loop, but this was a great spot for us.  While we were here, we went canoeing on the lake – though the website didn’t mention it, they do have canoes available for rent.  There are a couple of (very) short hiking trails, but they go through mostly scrub land.  The trails really aren’t long enough to bother with a day-pack… a bottle of water is fine since I don’t think they were less than two miles long.

Photo Montage of our Trip

While in the area we visited the Gamble House to see some old Florida History, and also stopped by to see the ruins of “Braden Castle”.  The Gamble House was kind of interesting, but I’d suggest passing on visiting the Braden Castle ruins.  They’re pretty much just a pile of coquina with a placard on them, in the middle of a trailer park.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Biking through Little Big Econ SF (and flying along the river)

I started this trip at the equestrian trailhead on Snow Hill Rd. and road my bike through a neighborhood just south of there  to the hunter’s entrance to the state forest.  There are “no parking” signs all over the neighborhood, so they’ve essentially made this their own private trailhead.

Two Ponies-3
Ponies grazing in the shade

CorralAlong the way through the state forest property, this path goes through five gates that are used to control livestock.  There are a few domesticated horses and ponies back here, so the general rule of leaving the gates as they are (open or closed) after passing through them does apply.Wooden Bridge

There are a few other remnants of the ranch that used to occupy this state land.  A couple of the more interesting structures are a corral and an old wood and metal bridge.  The bridge is still maintained since the forest roads are still used.

The overall distance from the trailhead to the camping shelter is about 4.5 miles; it’s an easy hike or bike ride.  There were only a couple of very small patches of sugar sand that I had to walk my bike through.

River View-1
River View
Camping Shelter
Camping Shelter
River View-2
River View

There are a couple of picnic tables by the camping shelter, as well as a fire ring.  This is the spot where I stopped to do some filming of the river.  Take a look – I think it came out pretty good.

I also had my GoPro filming the trip on the way out.  If you would like to get a feel for what the area looks like, this shows the forest roads leading all the way out.

The map below shows the locations of the major landmarks along the way.  Clicking on the “Wikiloc” icon on the map will take you to the page with more map details.

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Equestrian Trailhead
Equestrian Trailhead
Historic Marker-1
Historic Marker (Side 1)
Historic Marker-2
Historic Marker (Side 2)