One of the most beautiful places to visit during the summer is Silver Springs State Park, home of the iconic first-magnitude spring and the “World Famous Glass Bottom Boats.”
Silver Springs, a group of at least 30 spring vents, forms the headwaters of the Silver River that flows for over five miles before reaching the confluence with the Ocklawaha River, the largest tributary of the St. Johns River. The Silver River remarkably provides over 60% of the flow of the Ocklawaha!
A great way to explore the springs and river is by kayak or stand-up paddle board (SUP). The water is crystal clear and you will likely encounter a diversity of wildlife, from schools of fish, wading birds, otters, manatees, alligators, and even monkeys! The springs and the entire route of the river are also within the confines of Silver Springs State Park, so you will not see any homes or development along the way.
There are a few launch sites and options to enjoy these magical waterways.
The Fort King Paddling Trail (1-2 hours)
Enjoy this 1.1 mile round-trip paddle around Ross Allen Island. After launching at the main entrance of the park, follow the signage to the Fort King waterway. Once it connects with the Silver River, turn left and head upstream. You will paddle over dozens of spring vents. You can also just paddle straight to the spring head.
Silver River to Ray Wayside County Park (2.5 – 3.5 hours)
Launch at Silver River State Park and paddle 5 miles to the confluence with the Ocklawaha at Ray Wayside County Park. You can then pay for an outfitter to provide shuttle service back to the park (for your rental or your own boat) or you can paddle back. If you decide to paddle back to Silver Springs State Park, just remember that you will be going against the flow so that can be quite strenuous.
Kayaks, SUPs, and canoes are available for rental at Silver Springs State Park.
Park Concessionaire – https://silversprings.com/paddling/
Kayaking Silver Springs – https://kayakingsilversprings.com/
Discovery Kayak & SUP – https://www.silverriverkayakrentals.com/kayak-rentals
You can also bring your own boat and launch from the park for a small fee.
Book a Tour
Enjoy a guided tour with an experienced outfitter.
Adventure Outpost – https://adventureoutpost.net/silver-river/
Silver River Lore & Wildlife Tour: June 21, 2022 – This Tour covers the entire 5 miles of the Silver River.
Silver River Naturalist Edition: August 9, 2022 – “Naturalist’s Edition” tours are slow-poking explorations of the upper two miles of Silver River. This trip will be geared toward inquisitive paddlers who are more interested in learning wild lore than covering distance.
Discovery Kayak & SUP – check their calendar for upcoming ½ day guided tours.
Silver Springs Kayaking – https://silverspringskayaking.com/guided-tours
Get Up and Go Kayaking – clear kayak tours https://getupandgokayaking.com/locations/silver-springs/
Glass Bottom Boat Tours
If paddling isn’t your thing, you can still get out on the water to view the springs and water by hopping on board a glass bottom boat. https://silversprings.com/glass-bottom-boats/ They offer 30-minute tours every 30-45 minutes, 365 days a year, and extended 90-minute tours are available on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays at 11 am, 1 pm, and 3 pm. See the website for prices.
If your trip is on the weekend, head over to the Silver River Museum and Environmental Center (access via the camping entrance) after a morning of paddling. This fantastic facility is open on Saturday and Sunday from 10 am – 4 pm (https://silverrivermuseum.com/) with exhibits featuring prehistoric artifacts, dugout canoes, historical displays, and a pioneer “cracker” village. Admission is only $2 per person and free for children under 6.