Central Florida locals will tell you about the many times they've visited Silver Springs. It touts itself as nature's theme park, and for good reason! The beautiful clear waters of the Silver River, the important Native American history, the Rhesus monkeys living in the wild, cinematic history, and the world-famous glass bottom boats have been drawing people to Silver Springs for many, many, maaaaannnnnnyyyy years.
Sure, I've been to Silver Springs several times. It's a fun place to hang out, enjoy the scenery, and take in a concert during the summer. One recent Sunday, however, we went to a place many people cruise right past on their way to the theme park...Silver River State Park. It's situated a little further down the river from Silver Springs, and the entrance is on the highway behind it. Behind it...and worlds apart.
Our original plan was to visit the park via kayak. We were going to launch from Ray Wayside Park on Highway 40 and paddle upstream to get to the park. If you remember waaaaaayy back to Campayakarama a couple of years ago, that was our original plan then, too. But then I freaked out, of course, and we aborted the upstream portion of our journey. I've come a long way since then! Then again, the best laid plans of kayaks and monkeys often go astray when the lure of sleeping in is too great.
So, we ended up having a lazy morning, rolled out of bed, and made it to Silver River State Park in the early afternoon. The kayaks remained dry in the garage as we set out exploring.
After a brief stop to do the 'Robby' pose, we made our way into the museum. This place is so cool, and for good reason! During the week it is used as an education center for local elementary school kids, complete with classrooms. We walked into the museum and the docent handed Olivia a paper with scavenger hunt items for her to find. This list, wow! It was very long and detailed. We looked for things like mastodon skulls, a wooden turtle, an alligator tooth, etc. It was fun for Olivia and for us as well! Here are some photos from inside the museum:
(I love this picture!)
(I have *no* idea what they were doing, but I love the looks on their faces!)
After our very cool trip through the museum, we went outside to the Cracker homestead in the park. Cracker culture and heritage are so important in Florida history, and I loved seeing how a family would have lived in that era.
Okay, remember our original plans to arrive at the park via kayak? We'd heard from Chris that there was quite a distance between the boat launch and the rest of the park. We wanted to see for ourselves in case we actually did make the journey upriver one day, and also if we ever camped at the park and needed to port our boats then. So we hit the trail to the river...
And we walked...
(Yes, I know we weren't dressed for the occasion)
We walked some more...
(Can you imagine hauling kayaks?...)
Stopped for a befitting 'Tarzan' break (it was filmed at Silver Springs)...
And eventually, saw signs of water nearby.
Finally. The river!
It took us a good 15 minutes to hike down to the river. I'm not sure how excited I would be to camp at the park and take my kayak for some paddling time!
We eventually made it back to the car, but we took a detour before heading home. Silver River not only offers tent camping, but they have cabins as well. We drove through the cabin sites and honestly, they looked pretty amazing! I can imagine hanging out there for a relaxing getaway. Maybe in the fall. As it was, we enjoyed a pretty relaxing day ourselves.