The Silver River
The Silver River is a 5.5-mile spring-fed river located about 6 miles East of Ocala in Marion County, Fl. Silver Springs, a state park, is the main 1st magnitude spring and source of flow to the Silver River, discharging over 500 million gallons of water a day! The main spring is roughly 130 feet across and about 35′ deep at the entrance. In addition to the main spring there are several other springs in this basin, located along the river, that all add to the flow. The water is clear for a good portion of the river and numerous fish and turtles can be seen while paddling. The springs receive groundwater from a spring shed of roughly 1,360 square miles. Over the years the flow rate has been decreasing and the spring is now considered one of the most endangered large springs in Florida. Land on both sides of the river is managed by Silver Springs State Park. The park consists of over 5000 acres. The Silver River is designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway
The Silver River is rich with wildlife, including numerous varieties of Turtles, Ospreys, Anhingas, Cormorants, Manatees, and Alligators among others. The Rhesus monkeys are predominant along the banks.
Silver River Notes
I have paddled on the Silver River many times over the years and have never been disappointed. It is one of my favorite rivers to boat on and enjoy the diversity of Flora & Fauna. The clear water and being able to see what is going on below make this a very interesting trip.
Taking a pontoon boat is a whole new experience! No-Wake the entire trip, which is not a problem at all. It offers plenty of opportunities to observe so much above and below the surface. Like many other spring-fed rivers in Florida, the Silver River is a popular destination and can get quite populated with canoes, kayaks, and motoring boats. Be prepared to share this wonderful river with others, and perhaps avoid the weekends…you will not be disappointed!…James
The launch for the Silver River is located at Ray’s Wayside Park, 9564 NE 28th Lane, Silver Springs, FL 34488. eastern Marion County off Hwy 40. Also known as the Ocala Boat Basin.
There are two large concrete ramps that look rough but do the job. There was no problem launching or retrieving the pontoon.
There is a $5.oo user fee. There is parking for roughly 35 large trailers and 25 small trailers and this is a popular launch site for paddlers as well, so these spaces fill rather quickly on weekends. Restrooms are available as are picnic tables. From the launch basin, there is a canal, just under a 1/4 mile long that leads to the river.
Distance: From the launch at Ray Wayside Park to the head spring it is 5.3 miles one-way. Also, this is a no-wake boat trip, so be prepared to run around 1500 RPMs ( BB18DLX ) 3.5 mph+/-. With this speed, expect to be on the water for at least 3 hours+
Width and Depth: The river is anywhere from 6′ – 30′ deep with deeper pools where springs vent into the river. The river has a varied width from 50′ at the start and widening out to 200′ near the head spring.
Flora & Fauna
Above the surface, the Silver River offers a variety of plants and wildlife. Cormorants and Anhingas are constant boating companions, flying over the surface or diving deep below. Along the shoreline, there are numerous Egrets, Herons, Ibis and Wood Ducks to be observed. Turtles and alligators are in no short supply on the Silver River and during the cooler weather Manatees are seen enjoying the 72° water.
Trees along the river create a jungle-like atmosphere – Bald Cypress – Taxodium distichum, Cabbage Palm – Sabal Palmetto, Swamp Bay – Persea palustris, Loblolly Bay – Gordonia lasianthus, Dahoon Holly – Ilex cassine, American Sweetgum – Liquidambar styraciflua, Red Maple – Acer rubrum, Carolina Ash – Fraxinus caroliniana.
Shrubs, Grasses, Aquatic and Flowering Plants:
The undergrowth was rich with Sawgrass – Cladium jamaicense, Needlerush – Juncus roemarianus, Lizard’s Tail – Saururus cernuus, False Indigo Bush – Amorpha fruticosa, Broadleaf Arrowroot – Sagittaria latifolia, Bartram’s Airplant – Tillandsia bartramii , Pickerelweed – Pontedaria cordata , Spotted Water Hemlock – Cicuta maculata, Elderberry – Sambucus canadensis, Wild taro – Colocasia esculenta, Elliott’s Aster – Symphyotrichum elliottii, Blue Flag Iris– Iris viginica, Cardinal Flower – Lobelia cardinalis , Swamp Rose – Rosa Palustris, Duckweed – Lemna valdiviana, American Eelgrass – Vallisneria americana, Hydrilla – Hydrilla verticillata, Maiden Cane – Panicum hemitomon, Spadderdock – Nuphar advena, Water Hyacinth – Eichhornia crassipes, Marsh Pennywort – Hydrocotyle umbellata and Water Lettuce – Pistia stratiotes.
Of course, what’s a trip on the Silver River without seeing the Rhesus monkeys (aka macaque )! Playing in trees and roaming the shoreline, the monkeys can show up just about anywhere along the river. They are quite curious as am I and I make sure to stay just out of reach but within good photography range.
Below the Surface...
Below the surface, the eelgrass waves with the current as we cruise over patches of vegetation and open sandy areas with lime rock. From our above vantage point, we see the ever-changing river bed through the clear water of the river. Depending on the depth and the local of one of the numerous springs, the water can appear bright blue and bright green…simply beautiful.
Another treat that lies below the surface is the several artifacts that can be seen with a keen eye and of course knowing where they are…
The Greek Statues:
Often when launching inside Silver Springs State Park, many paddlers take a scenic tour on Fort King Waterway, a waterway that runs parallel to the Silver River, entering the river 3/4 mile downstream. 500′ north from the launch, on RR, is the entrance to Fort King Waterway. When paddlers take this scenic route, once part of the Jungle Cruise attraction at Silver Springs, they continue on downriver. The majority of the springs, ‘shipwrecks, and ‘artifacts’ are in the section of the Silver River that the Fort King Highway bypasses.
Instead of entering the Fort King Waterway, paddle straight, under the bridge, toward the head spring and it is here where the Greek Statues are located. The statues are actually props from the old TV series ‘I Spy‘ starring Robert Culp and Bill Cosby. The props were left and over the years were covered with algae, until a newly formed dive team, hired to clean the bottom of the glass-bottomed boats, also cleaned the statues, now visible. The statues are just West of the main head spring, below a ledge in the limerock. I saw these for the very first time after years of paddling the Silver River.
There are 6 ‘shipwrecks’ along the Silver River, though the term shipwreck is used loosely here. One, an old Indian dugout canoe, a couple of burned steamboats, an early glass-bottomed rowboat and a movie prop from the film Don’t Give up the Ship, starring Jerry Lewis. Most lie in the first mile of the river, while what is known as Shipwreck #1, an old steamboat, is near the 4.5 mile marker further down river. This post covers the first five in order from the head spring…
#1 – Steamboat or Glass Bottom Boat Ruins
The first of the several ‘wrecks’ along the Silver River is visible in the shallow water 0.12 miles from the head spring. In a cove, on river right, where several springs are located, this wreckage can be seen between the Spring of the Stars and Devil’s Kitchen B at the approximate coordinates of 29.21502°, -82.05167°
#2 – The Dugout Canoe
Just short of 1/4 mile down from the head spring, also in a cove on river right is an old dugout canoe. This canoe is near Silver Spring #3 – Geyser Spring located at coordinates 29.21541°, -82.05014°
This dugout can be seen very clearly on the white sandy bottom.
#3 – Steamboat Ruins
At mile 0.28, there is a cove on river left and the location of Silver Spring #4 also known as Cypress Spring/Christmas Tree Spring. Here is the location of two wrecks…one, an old 1890’s Paddlewheel Steamboat. This vessel caught fire while docked at the head spring and was guided away where it burned and settled in this cove. What is visible is the near side of it’s hull, located at coordinates 29°12’58.59″N, 82° 2’57.42″W.
This one is tricky to see and to know what you are looking at. The tour guide on my first trip provided helpful information for my paddle to it.
#4 – Glass bottomed Rowboat
Also at mile 0.28, in the same cove as the steamboat ruins, is the ruins of an old glass bottom rowboat. Previously this was thought to be a 1700’s Spanish rowboat but speaking to park officials they now know this is one of the original glass bottom rowboats introduced in 1877 by Hullam Jones and Phillip Morrell. The row boat was fitted with a glass box to allow clear viewing of the springs and fish along the Silver River.
The rowboat is easily found as it lies below a large cypress tree below the surface. The cove is shady and it helps to have a sunny day for best viewing. 29.21622°, -82.04927°
#5 – Metal Hull Movie Prop
The last of the ‘wrecks’ covered here is found at mile 0.62, coordinates 29.21542°, -82.04393°
This is a metal-hulled movie prop used in the filming of Don’t Give up the Ship, starring Jerry Lewis.. The lighting needs to be good to see this, but it is on the sandy bottom and should be easy to spot if looking. The ship rests between Rocky Vent Spring and Silver Spring 11-Catfish Convention Hall.
Map of the Springs, ‘Shipwrecks’ & Artifacts on the Silver River
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