Silver Springs

South of Silver Springs Ocklawaha photo by Matt Keene

Twenty-five springs comprise Florida’s Silver Springs which provide approximately 66 percent of the Ocklawaha River’s flow. It is the largest artesian spring in the state.

By the late 1870s and 1880s, Silver Springs was world famous due to its unusual beauty. Travel writers came from far and wide to make the 22-hour steamboat trip from Palatka to Silver Springs. The steamboat era was replaced with glass-bottomed boats. Then came Silver Springs heyday with over seven attractions including famous Ross Allen’s Reptile Institute. From 1949 to 1969, African Americans were served by nearby Paradise Park, Florida, which closed when Silver Springs integrated racially. In 2013, the State of Florida took over operations of Silver Springs and combined it with the adjacent Silver River State Park to form the new Silver Springs State Park.

The building of the Rodman/Kirkpatrick Dam blocked natural fish migration from the St. Johns River and Atlantic Ocean, negatively impacting the fish and aquatic species that made the glass bottom boat rides so famous. Gone are the magnificent channel and white catfish, the striped bass, American eel, and large schools of mullet that helped clean the eel grass.

Although some manatees precariously make their way to Silver Springs through the metal and concrete structures at the Buckman Lock, scientists predict that 500 plus manatees would make Silver Springs and the springs of the Ocklawaha their home if the St. Johns and Ocklawaha rivers were reconnected.

The Silver Springs Basin Plan identified restoration of the Ocklawaha, reconnecting and restoring the Silver and Ocklawaha Rivers, as one of three critical goals to improving the health of Silver Springs.


5656 Silver Springs Blvd. (SR40 east of Ocala, Fl)
Silver Springs, FL 34488

Hours: 8 a.m. to sunset

Schedule: Open 365 days a year

Costs/Fees: General admission plus additional charge for Glass Bottom Boat rides.

Amenities: Café and gift shop, canoe and kayak rentals, glass bottom boat tours (extra charge), view of the head of Silver Springs, cabins (need to book well in advance)

Conservation Significance

  • Approximately 66 percent of the Ocklawaha River’s flow comes from Silver Springs.
  • Silver Springs offers one of Florida’s premier views of clear groundwater flowing to land surface and an excellent example of the connection between rocks and water over geologic time.
  • More than 25 springs that have been documented in the upper part of the Silver River.
  • Silver Springs State Park covers 4,000 acres of conservation lands.

Historic Significance

  • 2013 – Silver Springs attraction is merged with Silver River State Park to become Silver Springs State Park.
  • 1971- Designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1971
  • 1949-Paradise Park was established, creating a segregated park and swimming area for black residents and visitors. The park was closed in 1969 after integration occurred.
  • 1834 – Chief Osceola refused to abide by the Treaty of Payne’s Landing. The treaty that led to the 2nd Seminole War. There is a statue of Osceola within the main attraction.
  • Early 1700s – The Timucuan people had been decimated by disease and warfare. Creek people moving into North Florida from Georgia and Alabama merged with the remaining Timucuans and escaped African slaves to create what is now known as the Seminole Tribe.
  • 1609-1656 – Three Spanish missions were later established at prominent Timucuan Indian villages along the Ocklawaha River.
  • 1539 – The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through what is now Marion County west of the Ocklawaha River.
  • 1513 – The Timucuan people lived in the area at the time of European contact.
  • The earliest evidence of Native Americans (referred to as Paleo Indians by archaeologists) living near the Ocklawaha River date back at least 14,000 years ago.

Other Nearby Sites

  • Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway Trailheads
  • Marshall Swamp Trailhead
  • Baseline Trailhead
  • Fort King National Historic Landmark
  • Sharpe’s Ferry Bridge (off Sharpe’s Ferry Road)
  • Marshall Plantation Marker
  • Silver Springs Forest
  • Florida Trail