The Silver River – Springs, Shipwrecks & Artifacts:
The Silver River is famous for many things, among which are the numerous springs that feed the river, the abundant wildlife, diverse flora, artifacts, and shipwrecks. Unless you have had the opportunity to enjoy a tour on one of the several glass bottom tour boats, these underwater sights often go unnoticed and unseen as we paddle the surface of this beautiful, scenic river.
Florida Paddle Notes made several trips on the Silver River in late April and early May, for the purpose of discovering what lies below the surface. One of those trips was a tour on a glass-bottomed boat in order to visually see where these underwater artifacts actually were. The other two trips were kayak paddles to visit these locations and photograph them. So many times over the years I have paddled the Silver River and paddled completely over these locations never knowing what was below the surface.
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 down river. 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.
As long as I am discussing items below the surface, I will add that there are a few more items of non-interest but never the less are on the bottom. I did not locate the 55 gallon drum, but I did locate the fencing and pipe at coordinates 29.21601°, -82.04591°.
Map of the Springs, ‘Shipwrecks’ & Artifacts on the Silver River
The Silver River is fed by springs from 6 Tributary Spring Basins. The main head spring is a 1st Magnitude Spring discharging over 500 million gallons of water a day! Over 30 springs are located in these 6 basins just in the first mile from the head spring. Exact locations and information for each individual spring can be found on the above map and link to the interactive map. Other springs locator maps can be found at Florida Spring Life, Florida Springs, and Florida Springs Map.
River Details ~ Flora ~ Fauna
Location: 6 miles East of Ocala, Fl…see map below.
Launch points: There is a launch inside the state park with a park entrance fee as well as a launch fee totaling $6.00. There is also a launch near the end of the river at Ray’s Wayside Park with a $5.00 entrance fee, though you do have to paddle upstream to reach the main spring source.
Paddle Distance: The river is 5.5 miles from the main spring to Rays Wayside Park and about 6 miles to continue further to the Ocklawaha River.
Difficulty: Easy to moderate. The river is open with a nice flow. I say moderate only if you are paddling upstream against the current.
Average Paddle Time: On this particular trip we paddled from the head spring to Ray’s Wayside Park and it took us about 2.5 hours, which included a stop for a snack and break in between.
Width and Depth: Once past the main Spring the river has a varied width from 75′ to 200′ with little overhead canopy the first mile except along the shorelines. As the river continues and becomes less wide the canopy is more prevalent. The river is anywhere from 6′ – 30′ deep with deeper pools where springs vent into the river.
Current – Tidal: The flow is approximately 3.5 mph going downstream. Not tidal.
Side Paddles: There are no side paddles along the river unless you decide to continue on into the Ocklawaha River.
Rest Areas: There is a main rest area with bathrooms located approximately 2.3 miles downstream in the bend of the river and very visible. If you miss this it is still possible to get on shore in several other locations in an emergency however landing in the park is prohibited outside of the above mentioned rest area.
Trees: Trees along the river create a jungle-like atmoshphere – 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 under growth 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.
Trees, Shrubs, Grasses, Aquatic and Flowering Plants – Gallery:
The Silver River is abundant with wildlife. On a good day you’ll get to see an assortment of river birds, plenty of turtles and alligators, manatees, wild hogs, a wide assortment of fish as well as the Rhesus monkeys…
Silver River Wildlife Gallery:
Of course what’s a paddle on the Silver River without seeing the Rhesus monkeys! There have only been a few paddles where the monkeys were not viewed, however on this trip they were numerous. 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.
Please see previous posts on the Silver River for further information about this Scenic Florida Waterway!
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