After we left the Ocala National Forest, we drove towards Ocala and made a stop at Silver Springs State Park. It’s taken me some time to rack my brain and then look at Google Maps, but Chris and I had been here before in maybe 2007 or 2008. I recall a trip to Potts Preserve to look for orchids and maybe geocache and then a driving up to Ocala to geocache and I feel like we did something else in Ocala but maybe not. But, I did remember being somewhere near the town of Silver Springs because when we arrived there in June I definitely remembered the area.
A quick look at the map had me realizing on our previous visit we were at the older portion of the state park on the south side of the Silver River. Because, as we learned this time around, the main area where the glass bottom boats were used to be a private facility. And it looks like that when you pull into the area as the parking lot is expansive and there are giant signs that are decidedly not reminiscent of a state park. I think the tour guide said that the state purchased this portion of the park five or six years ago, so definitely after we’d left Florida.
Since we’d missed going on a boat tour earlier in the day and the sky had cleared up with the storms moving off into the Atlantic, the late afternoon was turning out to be rather pleasant. Being mid-week, the park in this section was rather deserted. After paying the entrance fee to the park and the fee for the glass bottom boat ride on the river, we meandered along the Old South-esque storefronts. I’d be curious to know what was in there originally but now there was a small outfitter for diving and snorkeling, a gift shop—the previous gift shop must have had a lot of items in it because the state park was really trying to stretch out what it had throughout the store, a small nature center, and a quick cook restaurant and ice cream shop.
The glass bottom boat tour turned out to be really cool! The tour itself wasn’t as long as I expected based on what we paid, I thought we would go down the river more than we did, but we did see several of the springs that create the Silver River, which drains not far downstream into the Ocklawaha River. Only about five other people were on the boat with us, including another kiddo, and the boat operator seemed slightly bored after I’m sure having to repeat his spiel multiple times that day.
The most interesting parts were an old dugout canoe from a tribe before colonization, and then what is suspected to be a boat from one of the Spanish explorers in the 1500s. And considering the commercial aspect of this part of the park historically, I can’t believe either of those are still in tact!
Chris took a video but it was too long to upload to Flickr and I haven’t gotten it up on to YouTube yet. Maybe I’ll share the link when I get it up there! Stopping by Silver Spring State Park was a great end to our long day across Florida! We topped it off with dinner at The Mojo Grill which had a diverse enough menu that we ate there both nights in Ocala!