Sunday, October 28, 2007 I kayaked the Silver River, known for monkeys and glass bottom boats. The Silver is on the west edge of the Ocala National Forest. The launch is a Marion County Park, Rays Wayside. A $3.00 fee, two ramps for powerboats and a seperate "Hand Launch" area for padddle craft. I launched at 9:40 am into a short canal that leads to the Silver River. A left turn takes the paddler downstream a short distance to the Oklawaha River, right, upstream to Silver Springs. I turned right. The Silver is formed by 530 million gallons of water gushing from several springs. The main Spring, is by some measures. the largest in Florida. The outflow creates a broad and deep river. Also very clear. Out of the canal, the waters are part of Silver River State Park. Wakes and fishing are prohinited. That leaves plenty of fish for ducks and cormorants
It took me two hours to reach the Silver Springs attraction area. I saw two other boats. One kayaker, who probably had launched well before me and turned around. Rays is the only practical place to launch a boat. There is a landing half way, but it is a long way from the a parking lot in the State Park. The other boat was a pontoon, one I've seen before- a guy giving a tour to two customers. Once I arrived at the attraction area, the glass bottom tour boats plied the water.
There are at least 9 Springs near the source of the Silver River. Unfortunately, they cannot be snorkeled, scubaed, or swum. For some reason the State has allowed a private concession to lease the waterway near the head springs. Probably tradition has a bit to do with it. Glass bottom boats have been around for 130 years. The clear water and jungle like foliage have made Silver Springs a movie and TV set dating to Johnny Weismuller playing Tarzan. The monkeys are not descendants of Cheetah. They are rhesus monkeys not chimpanzees. The monkeys are the descendants of a a few placed on an island in the river by a tour boat operator in the 1930's as a tourist attraction. It seems he did not realize they could swim. They have multiplied and are found all along the Silver River. From time to time, reports of monkeys come from other parts of the state. I saw one near Blue Spring this summer.
The sun, which did not make an appearance Saturday on Alexander Creek, came out under partly cloudy skies. Turtles took advantage, as in this high rise unit. Birds also, cormorant sunning and an ibis probing the water. Turtles sunning and wading birds feeding means alligators will soon appear.
They did. But, I did not come to the Silver River for alligators, or birds, or turtles, or gators and turtles, but monkeys. I have made several trips to the Silver River, and other than than my first time, have always seen monkeys. Looking back on that trip, what I thought was an otter, probably was a monkey. On another occasion, I saw none on the Silver, but I continued to the Oklawaha and saw a large troop there. Thus, this trip I told myself if I saw monkeys before Rays, I'd end my trip, if not,I'd continue to the Oklawaha. I passed the halfway point, where I stopped for lunch. River traffic increased, more kayaks than powerboats, but never a crowd. On the left bank, a tree limb crashed into the water. Not just the small branch, but the squirrel that was on it. First time I've seen a squirrel swim as it scurried to shore. A few minutes later, again on my left, and ahead, something crashed into the water. A clumsy cormorant diving, I thought. Then I saw it get out of the water, and climb the tree. I came closer and thought, cormorants can't climb straight up. That's a monkey. It had misjudged its leap from high branches, and fell in. I came upon a large troop. Three big ones in a tree on the right bank. The elders, watching the kids and grandkids frolicking on te other side. After my paddle, I drove 22 miles to snorkel Salt Springs. Two people were in the water. They left, and I had the amazing Springs to myself. Several shafts emit a powerful flow, making it hard to reach bottom. Getting to the surface is easy, the outpouring of water shoots you up. Pictured are a few of the critters in the Srings and nearby water. No blue crabs, somethingI have seen here by the dozens before. When I got out, three otters got in. They found dinner, and took it to their den to eat.
I ended the day with a hike on the Yearling Trail. The place to see the elusive Florida scru jay/ They are common here. I got a few pictures, but i was dark, so I'll wait until I get some better onesto post these bright blue birds. I also saw a deer during my 2.5 mile hike.
The Ocala National Forest and Silver Springs is a special place.