My trip began when I rented a canoe at Silver Springs State Park where a three-person Old Town Canoe rents for $7/hr. It's a half mile walk from the parking lot to the river, so if you want to bring your own canoe or kayak, you'll need a a cart. The path down to the river is a beautiful walk, but the star of this park is obviously the river which flows from Silver Springs to the Ocklawaha. The first hour of the rental is free to allow for the time it takes to walk the path to and from the river.
While the water wasn't as crystal clear as I remember from childhood, the visibility is still good enough to see fish floating below. It seemed like bream followed the canoe as I took underwater photos. It was almost visual overload as there was beauty in all directions; amazing flora and fauna on land, in the water and in the air. Despite the drought and the water issues, this river is absolutely gorgeous, a natural treasure worthy of protection.
Throughout the river there were deep spots where the color of the water appeared to change to a vibrant cyan and the bottom was no longer visible. Had their been a boil on the surface of the water it would have been apparent that these were springs. But because the surface was smooth I was unsure.
As I approached the springs at the beginning of the river, a glass bottom boat floated over a spot where millions of gallons of fresh clear water bubble up, and there was no surface evidence whatsoever of the spring's existence. I heard that week that the flow levels were lowest ever recorded. I also noted what I had seen in my last visit in 2010 – lots of algae and reduced water clarity. What I saw on this day was that the health of the springs where suffering.
The State Park Ranger who rented me the canoe said the way back would be quicker than going upstream due on the current from the springs. But the wind offered more resistance than the current which seemed relatively insignificant on this day. The trip up and back, with multiple photo stops, took me 4 hours. I learned that taking photos while trying to negotiate a canoe by yourself is no easy task!
Two days after my trip, the attorney for Frank Stranach, the Canadian Billionaire requesting the right to pump millions of gallons a day from Florida's aquifer, published a long editorial in the Gainesville Sun entitled "Adena Springs permit won't hurt Silver Springs." He said: "environmental stewardship needs to be based on science and facts and not emotion or fear."
My response is to take a look at these archival images from the State Archives and compare them to the ones I took on Friday. My concern is that those who have no point of reference will think the current conditions of the spring are acceptable. Those of us who witnessed the glory and grandeur of this natural wonder when it was relatively unspoiled must be heard. These springs are in critical condition. Even now, regardless of what happens with Adena Springs Ranch, they need our help. Should the permit be approved, there is strong possiblilty Silver Springs could end up like Wakulla Springs, where the glass bottom boats rarely leave the dock. From what I witnessed, Silver Springs are not far from that now.
If you'd like to help join the movement to push back against those who would put Silver Springs at risk, here's how you can help: