When I heard that one of the results of Silver Springs conversion from privately operated attraction to publicly operated state park was a new kayak trail, I couldn't wait to try it out. The route, formerly closed off for the jungleboat cruise, is now open for canoes and kayaks. You can launch your own kayak for $4, or rent one for $20 for 2 hours. They also have 3-person canoes for rent. Electing for convenience over economy, I left my kayak at home and was glad because the folks running the kayak operation were helpful and considerate.
Here's the launch site for the new paddling trail, it's near the south end
of the Silver Springs parking lot.
The trail does a loop that is less than 1.5 miles long and takes
between 1 and 2 hours to complete.
|The water has good visibility but you may not always like what |
you see, in this case rampant algae.
|Many of the sets from the jungle cruise still remain; |
this appears to be an Indian village.
|There are some wonderful trees along the trail, this live oak |
dwarfs the re-created fort.
|Birdwatchers will enjoy this paddle quite a bit. I followed this Little Blue Heron all the way down the run. I saw four alligators, but none of them was very large.|
|Like on my previous canoe trip up the Silver River, |
I saw a good number of fish like this gar.
|I also saw some decent sized bass.|
|I think the water clarity in the Silver River was better |
than on my previous visit in May of 2012.
|The conditions were far from pristine, however, and I saw ample evidence of compromised water quality.|
|The glass bottom boats have been restored and rides |
are offered for an additional charge.
|The great thing about paddling up to the springs is that you can spend as much time over the springhead as you like, at least until the next glass bottom boat comes.|
|The iconic Horseshoe Palm seems to be thriving.|
|I sat over the spring basin for some time once the tour moved on. Sadly there is no longer a surface boil or any noticeable current at all from these first magnitude springs.|
|At the left are the statues from past |
film production at the spring.
|The spring basin is still one of the most stunning natural wonders in Florida.|
|Healthy looking eel grass in the spring basin.|
Overall I had a fabulous morning at our newest state park and would recommend it to anyone who is a lover of the Florida landscape. The old attraction part of the park is still very much a work in progress and I am hopeful that it will soon be a vibrant, vital enterprise for Marion County. It is also my hope that the water quality can be improved and the spring will be restored to it's earlier grandeur. It is one of the Florida's brightest gems and to continue to let it lose its luster would be sacrilegious.