Saturday, October 20, 2018

Touring Silver Springs State (Theme) Park

Entrance
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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Anhinga
Anhinga
Andy is Mike NelsonCreek Trail trailhead
Sea Hunt Photo and Trailhead
Boat on Silver River
Glass Bottom Boat
Tina and Andy
Trail Selfie
Promenade-1
Silver River
Glass Bottom View-4
Top of Fish
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