Silver River and Springs, Florida (1999)

On a hot summer day, 3 friends and I do 5-hour kayak paddle on the Silver River. The river is fed by the enormous, first-magnitude Silver Springs. The springs produces 550 million gallons of 99.8 percent pure, crystal clear artesian spring water each day.

Because of the substantial flow of water from the spring, it is a strenuous upstream paddle against a strong current. While the trip is on the weekend and therefore somewhat marred by the large number of motorboats on the river, I am surprised by the gorgeous beauty of the river. The river water features deeply colored shades of bright blue waters —especially striking in white sandy bottom areas and lit up by sunlight. (In fact, the water is strikingly blue when the water gets deep, as it does, for example, at the main spring boil.) The photo at right illustrates the bright blue waters in winter.

We see an impressive array of wildlife. The river is full of bass, sunfish, and enormous, 3-5-foot long alligator gar (sometimes schools of them, and easily the biggest fish I have ever seen in fresh water). Waterfowl include several large blue herons, ibises, cormorants, and kingfish. We see a number of alligator—one of which is a 10-footer lying in the water amongst some eel grass at the surface. We also enjoy seeing 24 rhesus monkeys along the banks—one of which is a mother with her baby. They are about 2-3 feet tall and very cute. The photo below shows us greeting one of the little guys in a tree along the shore.

The main boil where the river starts is a famous tourist attraction near Ocala that features museums, a "water park," naturalists doing presentations, glass-bottom boat cruises, and "jungle cruises" featuring African animals such as giraffe and monkey. Filmed here was "Creature from the Black Lagoon" and several "Tarzan" movies. The springs also include regular shows by "mermaids." After reaching the boil, we enjoy a much-less-strenuous downstream paddle going with the current. I am astonished to notice the very clear and abrupt visual break where Silver River joins the Oklawaha River at the end of our trip. The Oklawaha is a blackwater river, and the crystal clear Silver River junction point is very, very obvious, as if there were an invisible wall separating the two rivers.

Because of the heat and our paddle work out, we leap into the cool spring water 3 times that day to cool off and enjoy the water.

Overall, during the paddle I am continually astounded by how beautiful the Silver River and surrounding forest are, and intend to return during a weekday to enjoy it without the motorboat traffic.



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