In addition to the wonderful river, Silver Springs has a network of trails that will take you down by the water or over to the headsprings. I walked the River Trail (blue) every morning to the boat launch and often walked the Swamp Trail (orange) in the afternoon to make sure I got 10K steps each day. I’m sorry my map picture isn’t better but if you look closely you can see the orange swamp trail, near the middle of the map. It has an overlook symbol on the river and the blue river trail, to its right, has a boat launch symbol.
The trails in the upper right on the map are accessed from the other side of the river and can be hiked or ridden on horseback. The Ross Allen Camp Loop in the lower right is a wilderness trail and can be biked. The tent symbol in the lower middle indicates the campground.
I’ve already shown pictures of the River Trail in my last post about walking to the river and picking up my kayak each day.
Here are some pictures of the Swamp Trail whose trail head is very near the River Trail but takes you further up the the river for your view and through a swamp of course.
A very nice boardwalk takes you across the swamp and its eerie black water.
The trail ends at the river where there is a deck with benches and a gate to allow the school kids to board a Silver River Museum boat for environmental education tours of the river. These are sponsored by the county who owns the museum. I’m sure it is a highlight of the kids who get to do it.
Here’s this same dock from the river paddling upstream. It’s on the far left.
A closer shot. The gate is locked and there is no public docking allowed here.
But for those who don’t get to to go on the educational tour,or paddling on the river, here are the views from the dock.
Heading back, it’s a long boardwalk.
Though I always hiked the river trail over to launch the kayak in the morning and often did the Swamp Trail in the evening after dinner, I sometimes hiked mid day as well on the other trails. These are a conglomeration of pictures from the Sinkhole Trail and the Sand Hill Trail and the Old Field Loop.
I thought these were particularly beautiful shelf mushrooms.
After David’s death some RV friends suggested I join some solo women groups on Facebook which I really do not use. But I took their suggestion. Through them I met Donna. From this distance away I cannot remember how Donna knew I was at Silver Springs but bless her heart she drove several hours to come one afternoon and have a chat and lunch with me.
We walked down to the boat launch and had a very pleasant visit. Thank you so much Donna. It was wonderful to meet you. I’m sorry it has taken me nearly two months since our visit to get this posted.
The longest combination of trails in the park will take you to the Spring Head which is the home of the Glass Bottom Boats and was Florida’s first tourist attraction – Silver Springs. Before the state bought the attraction, the state park was known as Silver River State Park but now the entire thing is known as Silver Springs State Park.
My hike started near the campground where the trail is sandy and strewn with Live oak leaves.
When I got to the Sand Hill Trail I was expecting sand hills. Sand yes. Hills no.
Ultimately the sandy trail continued but the ecosystem turned to tall pines.
Tall pines with a Saw Palmetto understory.
Without this sign, I would never have known to turn off the clearly used trail to one that I could barely see.
I came in at the back of the parking lot as the trail sign implied and the first thing was the public boat launch. I think you can use this launch without paying for entrance to the attraction. They also rent kayaks and canoes here and offer shuttles from the Ray Wayside Park at the end of the Silver River where it empties into the Ocklawaha River.
From there I headed over to the Ross Allan boardwalk named for the famous herpetologist and showman who started Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute at Silver Springs in 1929. Allen was a very colorful character who among other things stood in for Johnny Weismuller in the Tarzan Movies filmed at Silver Springs. Check out this short info link about him. It’s a hoot.
The boardwalk takes you over what is known as the “Fort King Waterway” which is a created scenic narrow, twisting canal once restricted for use only by the attraction’s jungle cruises. Left over from the era of the commercial attraction, along the waterway’s shores there is a re-creation of Fort King, a stockade style wooden fort built during the Seminole wars in the 1800s. I’ve shown pictures of the buildings in my previous kayaking posts. Kayaking is the only way you can see it. It is not available on foot.
I’m looking down into the waterway. A very different view from the many times I’ve paddled here and looked up.
Walking the boardwalk you really do feel like you are in the sky scape.
Because of Covid much of what is at the headsprings is closed including the tours, other than the Glass Bottom Boats, and the programs in the amphitheater.
This covered spot mid way along the boardwalk is most likely a shady respite in the middle of the hot Florida summer which is the most heavily visited time here.
Lots of fish in the water but no fishing allowed.
On previous days, that would be me. During the summer this large covered area would be a great spot to watch the many kayaks coming by.
Tropical plants with large leaves.
The programs amphitheaters. All these pictures were taken along the boardwalk.
And then I wandered around the park itself. Although it is not as lush with subtropical flowers and non natives as it was in its heyday, the state has kept the native plants and they are lovely. It’s early but the azaleas and the camellias were blooming on this day.
The home of the famous glass bottom boats. Very deserted today with the social distancing requirements although the boats are still going out.
I actually recall having my picture taken in this exact spot in the mid 1950’s with my parents and my Aunt Carrie and Uncle Ollie who lived in Ocala. I wonder what happened to that photograph? Today, sadly, I’m all alone.
The view from the edge of the spring head looking back at the Glass Bottom Boat launch. It’s a beautiful blue sky puffy clouds day as you can see.
I’m not sure the purpose of this patio but it’s beautifully painted just behind the statue of Chief Osceola of the Seminole Indian Tribe.
The statue of Osceola faces the water. The painted patio is behind him. If you cannot read the interesting inscription on the statue’s base, click the picture to enlarge it.
There are many paths to walk in the headsprings park and some are along the river. This is a particularly nice restful view on an uncrowded day like today. I sat and watched the Glass Bottom Boats go by on their tours of the Cormorant rookery and other sights.
The camelias were finishing but there were still lovely blooms. I know this park would be spectacular later in the season. It is only March 2nd now.
I can only imagine the delightful smell of the Wisteria on this trellis when it is in bloom.
I spent the entire afternoon hiking over, wandering around and hiking back. It was 12000 steps and over 5 miles. I was a good tired when I got back.
Tomorrow I head north for other trails in parks I have not visited before. One in Georgia, one in South Carolina and one in North Carolina.
If you are interested in seeing more and other stories and pictures of this wonderful state park, I believe we have been here at least once each winter for years. You can search for other posts by typing Silver Springs in the box at the top left of this post.