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Silver Springs Florida

Silver Springs Florida
Silver Springs Florida -- The World's Largest Limestone Artesian Spring


Silver Springs Florida is perhaps Florida's most famous spring, gushing out 550 million gallons of pure, fresh, crystal-clear water daily from Florida's massive underground aquifer. And that's just the main spring. The entire collection of springs along the spring run emits around 850 million gallons per day.

What you see in the photo above is the headwaters of the Silver River, Florida's top spring run.

Water clarity is superb. The spring pool itself is around 400 feet across and 40 feet deep, with top-to-bottom visibility. To me, it seems a shame no provisions are made for SCUBA divers, freedivers, and snorkelers here. I mean, Silver Springs Florida would be the primo spring dive. Could you imagine a night dive in this place? How awesome would that be?

An above water shot showing the extreme visibility in Silver Springs Florida
An above-water view of Silver Springs

It was a sunny but cool February day when I decided to come to Silver Springs. This was by no means my first trip.

That took place when I was a kid in the mid-1960s and came here to snorkel in the spring water at the swimming beach and see the Ross Allen's Reptile Institute, a famous old Florida establishment which now exists mostly in the minds of those of us for whom Ross Allen was our childhood hero.

Since that first trip, I've been back a few times, and I've seen lots of changes take place here over the years, not all of them--in my opinion--for the better.

At least the main attractions--the springs and the spring run--are as beautiful as ever. Gone, however, is the swimming beach, but the glassbottom boats still glide over the springs' crystal clear waters.

Glass Bottom Boats

Speaking of glass bottom boats, these vessels are now and have for a long time been the main attraction here at Silver Springs Florida. As early as 1878 one Hullam Jones fashioned a glass bottom in a dugout canoe, and opened up the underwater world to eager viewers.

A Glass Bottom Boat Glides Over the Crystal Clear Waters of Silver Springs Florida
A Glass Bottom Boat on the Magnificent Silver River

That glass bottom boats would be a big hit at Silver Springs Florida is not surprising considering the breathtaking natural beauty lying along and beneath those crystal waters. I've seen that beauty many times before, but I never tire of looking at it, in the same way that I could never tire of looking at, say, the Grand Canyon. Nature's beauty just doesn't wear out.

Below is a short video with underwater views from a glass bottom boat. Although the video gives you an idea of what is to be seen, no video--at least no video that I know how to make--can do justice to the underwater scenery.

I've left in the original sound track to give you an idea of what the trip is like. Besides the background voices of passengers, you'll hear the distinctive voice of the pilot and narrator, a man who's done this job--quite admirably, I might add--for 53 years.

Ready to go? Lets hop on the boat...


Lost River Voyage

Besides the glass bottom boat tour, another don't-miss tour is the "Lost River Voyage." These boats also have glass bottoms for viewing the waters below, but are open on all sides to provide good vistas of the Silver River's banks.

A Silver Springs Florida Boat Used on the Lost River Voyage
A Silver Springs Florida Boat Used on the Lost River Voyage

One thing you'll probably see are lots of turtles. I photo'd these guys sunning on a log. Sort of reminds me of the reptilian version of Daytona's collegiate spring break.

A Line of Turtles Sun Themselves on a Log in the Silver River.
A Line of Turtles Enjoying an Afternoon of Sun on the Silver River

Alligators, like turtles, being the cold-blooded reptiles they are, have to "thermo-regulate," meaning they have to warm up and cool off every now and then to keep their body temperature at workable levels. Here's a relaxed, thermo-regulating gator now, catching some rays on the banks of the Silver River.

An Alligator Sunning Itself on the Banks of the Silver River
A Florida Alligator Suns Itself on the Banks of the Silver River

Okay. Time for another of my famous, not-yet-won-an-Academy-award videos (I'm watching you, Spielberg) to give you a quick look at the the "Lost River Voyage." As with the glass bottom boat tours, I've left the original sound track in place to preserve the idea of the cruise.

Concerts

Silver Springs holds one or two concerts per month featuring different styles of music. Their current calendar includes performances by:

  • Crystal Gale --- Mel Tillis --- Roy Clark --- Grand Funk Railroad
    --- The Guess Who --- Jake Owen --- Clint Black --- Charlie Daniels --- Tanya Tucker --- and Three Dog Night .
A Crowd Gathers at Silver Springs for a Concert
A Silver Springs Florida Concert Crowd Gathers

The Hollywood Connection

That Silver Springs is an outstanding location didn't escape the attention of Hollywood TV and film types.

Six Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller were filmed here. The vines that Tarzan swung on were actually ropes affixed to the trees here at Silver Springs. If he had swung on Florida's natural vines, he'd no doubt have ended up in bad shape after a long fall to the forest floor. I'm hearing his distinctive yell as I write this now.

Oh, and that favorite old 1950s SciFi flick The Creature from the Black Lagoon was also shot here at Silver Springs Florida. "They don't make them like they used to." On that, I think everyone--young and, well, not-as-young--can agree.

And then there was one my all-time favorites...Sea Hunt, starring Lloyd Bridges--you know, Jeff and Beau's Dad. Between 1958 and 1961, more than 100 episodes of the popular TV show were filmed here. Seeing Mike Nelson--the character played by Bridges--with that aqua-lung strapped to his back, a double-hose regulator hanging from his mouth, and sporting a SCUBA mask that looked like a ship's port hole while gliding through clear spring water, clumps of eel grass waving below, was more than I could bear. A few years thereafter, as soon as I was old enough to drive myself to the West Palm Beach YMCA, I got my 16-year-old self certified in SCUBA diving. Thank you Lloyd Bridges. Those were the wild and woolly days of SCUBA, and Mike Nelson was every SCUBA diver's underwater hero.

One remaining artifact of those days is a small cabin near the Lost River Voyage that once served as Lloyd Bridges' dressing room when he filmed Sea Hunt.

The Silver Springs Cabin That Once Served as Lloyd Bridges Dressing Room While Filming Sea Hunt
Lloyd Bridges' "Sea Hunt" Dressing Room


According to information from Silver Springs Park, other films filmed here include:

  • The Yearling --- Gregory Peck and Jane Wyman
  • Distant Drums --- Gary Cooper
  • Underwater --- Jane Russel and Richard Egan
  • Blindfold --- Rock Hudson and Claudia Cardinale
  • Legend --- Tom Cruise
  • Never Say Never Again --- Sean Connery
  • Smokey and the Bandit 3 --- Jackie Gleason

Several statues visible near the main spring were placed there in the 1960s while filming the TV series I Spy, starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.

Other shows filmed here include the late Steve Irwin's Crocodile Hunter, not to mention various other 1950s TV episodes.

Other Attractions

Other attractions include exotic animals brought in, I suppose, as crowd pleasers. As someone who loves and appreciates Florida's native beauty, this part makes no sense to me.

Besides, it seems downright cruel to keep animals designed to run in Africa's savannahs, roam Alaska's tundra, walk the hillsides, or prowl river banks in enclosures that appear uncomfortably small. Since these animals are already in captivity, I'd vote for much, much larger enclosures-- enclosures so large they probably don't know they're enclosed. To me, that's the way a zoo should be.

Florida's Treasure

Silver Springs is one of Florida's top treasures. In 1993, Silver Springs was purchased by the state, and since that time has been leased to a number of management companies.






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