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  • Writer's pictureBrian Childress

Silver Springs State Park - Ocala/Marion County, Florida

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Located in north central Florida just east of Ocala, Silver Springs State Park has been a natural landmark destination since the 1870s. 

Since the mid-19th century, the natural environment of Silver Springs has attracted visitors from throughout the United States. Glass-bottom boat tours of the springs began in the late 1870s. In the 1920s, W. Carl Ray and W.M. "Shorty" Davidson, after leasing the land from Ed Carmichael (upon whose death the springs were left to the University if Florida), developed the land around the headwaters of the Silver River into an attraction that eventually became known as Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. The attraction featured native animal exhibits, amusement rides, and 30 or 90-minute glass-bottom boat tours of the springs. The 1934 'Princess Donna' is the oldest and only remaining operational boat from this by gone era. The "Princess Donna' currently operates on Jug Creek in Bokeelia Florida. In 2013, the State of Florida took over operations of Silver Springs and combined it with the adjacent Silver River State Park to form the new Silver Springs State Park. The T. W. Randall House on the National Register of Historic Places is located to the northeast.

The park offers kayaking, canoeing, hiking, camping, and rides on glass bottom boats. Swimming is not allowed inside the park spring rivers.

There are bathrooms and portable toilets inside the park. Don't expect to find much food inside the park but the park is directly next to the City of Ocala which offers many nice restaurants, grocery stores, and convenience stores.

Wildlife to expect include alligators, turtles, snakes, various species of fish and birds, manatees, and free-ranging monkeys. A colony of rhesus macaques was established around Silver Springs around the spring of 1938. The monkeys were released by tour boat operator Colonel Tooey to enhance his Jungle Cruise ride. A traditional story that the monkeys were released for scenery enhancement in the Tarzan movies that were filmed at that location is false, as the only Tarzan movie filmed in the area, 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son! contains no rhesus macaques, in part because of the species' bad temperament.

Our experience: this is a fantastic place to visit for people who enjoy kayaking, canoeing, hiking, and getting close up to wildlife. Because we assume the wildlife are used to human contact and the fact they are protected inside the park, we were amazed how close we could get to the wildlife. All animals inside the park would literally allow you to come up beside them so long as no contact was made with them. As for kayaking and canoeing, you can rent these boats there or bring your own. Once on the silver river, the clear water allows you to see marine life around and under you. The hiking trails we saw were very well maintained and free of trash. We also camped there overnight and the campgrounds were nice and clean with fire pits, picnic tables, and power/water hookups for RVs. There is also a full bathroom and shower facilities inside the campground.

Overall, this is a great place for family and friends. We highly recommend.

Park location and contact:

5656 E Silver Springs Blvd

Silver Springs, FL 34488

(352) 261-5840

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