Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Back to Florida's Silver Springs State Park

We returned to this great state park on the southeast corner of Ocala. We expected a week of solid showers and overcast skies, but saw some sun during the stay.  The park remains the same since our last stay.  Well maintained by the rangers and hosts, the park and facilities are among Florida State Parks finest. This is the Camping Entrance.

We are in site 42 again. Level, small gravel, decent privacy from the street and other sites and, for our "B", ample room.  The sites have 50/30/20 amp, water, grill, fire pit, picnic. Thirteen of them have sewer. Twenty five are pull-through.  All are at least partly shaded. Seems like most are full shaded. 

And, they have 10 very nice cabins. Veranda, big yard, fire pit with benches. Nice.  And, I've seen several deer in the loop when passing through. No RV?  This is the place.

One of the attractions at Silver Springs is the fantastic museum and cracker village. However, this time of the year they are closed during the week as classes are held for youth here. One of the classes got out of the classroom for a while to toss some hatchets at a target. Other classes were indoors learning about the local area history, wildlife and other related subjects. Visit on the weekend to see the attraction.

While they were throwing hatchets, I snuck a few photos of the village. For more of the village and museum see my previous blogs on this park.

On the church porch.

At the blacksmith's shop.

The cane crusher. (one or two horsepower, literally)

Vital instructions.

One of the village houses. The rangers hold guided tours. Very interesting and informative.  Or, one can self-tour.

There are seven trails in the park ranging from .8 miles (Old Field Loop) to 4.5 miles (Bike Trail) in length.  My favorite is the swamp trail, 1.9 miles. Left fork.

 It's got a boardwalk....

....and leads to the Silver River.

Amazingly, with all the recent rain here, including today, there was no standing water in the swampI've been here when these knees were not visible.

Ran across this deer on the swamp trail. It actually turned and started running down the path towards me as I was trying to compose another shot. But, then it broke off at the tree and headed in the woods. I guess that's a thank goodness. Never know.

At the river this Great Blue Heron was struttin' on a large mass of floating grass at water's edge.  On the last visit there were a couple of turtles and a good size alligator. This was much prettier.


The Swamp Trail, Sinkhole trail, and Old Field Loop, are mostly this type of defined sand/leaf covered  trail. There are sections of more shade and less depending on the type of trees the trail traverses through. Little elevation change and relaxing hiking.

The River Trail (to the left) and the Bike Trail are used by powered vehicles also, thus are compacted sand/limestone service road type trails.

The River Trail ends at the Silver River boat launch.

One big ugly Snapping Turtle hanging out under the ramp.


There is a River Field Loop off the River Trail that for the most part parallels the river. A grassy, short, easy hike. It's usually pretty quiet here and you are always wondering what's around that corner. On one visit it was a family of wild pigs. Another, an alligator. 

But, this time just a large Eastern Tiger Swallowtail.

 And these two insects ensuring the continuance of their existence on a Nuttall's Thistle.

 Along the loop is an outtake that gives you a glimpse of the river.  There is a bench to sit and enjoy the river and shore. Or, feed the mosquitoes.

And the flora along the edge. Purple Pickerelweed and red Leafless Beaked Ladies'-Tresses. 

This is the Sandhill Trail. Very easy hike of 1.7 miles. A short section is shared with the Springs Connector Trail, a 2.3 mile (one way) foot or bike trail to the spring head and the old theme park.  A good setting for deer and black bear.  Had hoped to see deer, not so much black bear. 

But saw only the following:

Eastern Fence Lizard. Bright blue underside.

Six-lined Racerunner.

Twin-spot Skipper.

And many Gopher Turtles.

And some of the flora:


Tree art of the trip.

Florida Greeneyes.


???? No bigger than a nickel.



Wild cactus.

A short drive from the campground is the Main Entrance. The state took back control of the park in 2013, closed the rides and the zoo, destroyed the invading flora, and is creating a more natural attraction, and preserving the spring itself. Doing a good job. This is a good day trip in itself. If you are staying in the campground, your site sticker is good for free admission to this part of the state park.

But, they kept the glass bottom boats and tours. The 30 minute tour doesn't go far down the river, but you get to see where the water comes from and where the movies were made. The tour is interesting and just the right length.

One of the many openings emitting many gallons of water from the aquifer into the spring.

Statues from the I Spy tv series left after filming. Many tv and movie films were shot at the springs.  Most memorable to me was The Creature From the Black Lagoon. 

Besides the wonders of floor of the spring the boat circles a small island teaming with wildlife. Alligators, turtles, heron, cormorant and more.

Getting those wings dry. Cormorants have no body oils and must dry their wings frequently.

A nesting cormorant family. The two juvies are just about ready to fledge. 

The old environmentally unsafe buildings were torn down and replaced with a town center with gift shops, restaurants, and meeting rooms. The Twin Oaks Mansion Stage building and Event Lawn provides plenty of room for various events.

Some of the flora around the town center and glass-bottom boat launch. 

Rent a kayak or canoe and travel the 1.1 mile Paddling Trail. or, bring your own and put in at the campground River Trail boat ramp or at the spring head. Best way to see the springs and river in my opinion.


The Ross Allen Island Boardwalk.  Dedicated in September,  2016 to commorate 3 years since Florida State Parks took control of the Park. The boardwalk is about a quarter mile long loop.  Nice walk through the swamp and hammock.

Along the loop is a pavilion for events and also this amphitheater along the river for events and ranger interpretive nature talks.


A short unofficial path off the boardwalk to the river behind the amphitheater.


The spring head area has been completely replanted, the spring cleaned of grasses and algae.

The gardens have been renewed with native shrubs and trees, and friendly non-native ornamentals. Wild flowers abound. Parts of the gardens are not being mowed allowing native grasses and  herbs to grow.  Very nice walkabout.

And plenty of paved pathways to enjoy it all. For hikers there is a .75 mile nature trail, Creek Trail loop.  A word of caution on the paved paths: feral monkeys exist. Walk away.

A palm trunk snakes through an observation deck at the springhead.  Which came first?  The palm or the deck?

In addition to the Camping Entrance and the Main Entrance there is an Equestrian Entrance.  Bring your horse and enjoy 15 plus miles of equestrian trails traveling through Florida's hammocks and wetlands.

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