Silver Spring State Park Florida is located just outside of Ocala in North Central Florida, about an hour and a half north of Orlando.
The park is 4,00 acres which encompasses the springs, 5-mile Silver River and surrounding sandhill forest.
There are 30 springs in the Silver Springs group, Mammoth Spring being the largest. It is located at the headwaters of the Silver River close to where the glass bottom boats are loaded and supplies 50% of the entire flow of Silver River.
Silver Springs State Park is not only an epic place to paddle but is famous for its glass-bottom boat tours. The glass bottom boat was invented here in the late 1870s.
Silver Springs area has been a natural landmark destination since the 1870s and has been the set for TV shows and movies like I Spy, Tarzan, Creatures of the Black Lagoon and James Bond.
The park also has a museum, lots of paths and hiking trails as well as camping.
1. Silver Spring State Park Main Entrance & Boat Rentals
- Primary paddle launch.
- Located to the right of the main state park entrance parking lot. Which is a separate entrance off the parking lot from the main state entrance, where the popular glass bottom boat tours are conducted.
- Kayak, canoe and paddle board rentals are available as well as guided tours. $30-90
- You can also launch your own vessel for $4 plus a $2 park admission fee.
Silver Springs State Park Paddling & Boat Rental Entrance
Silver Springs State Park Main Launch & Boat Rental
2. Ray Wayside Park
- Located at the end of the Silver River just before it meets Ocklawaha River, 5.3 miles downstream from the primary paddle launch.
- Operated by Marion County
- $7 per vehicle or $2 walk-in
3. River Trail via Silver Spring State Park Camp Ground
- Located 2 miles down the Silver River from the first and main launch.
- Accessed via the State Park Campground.
- The launch is a 1/2 mile walk on the River Trail to the water.
There is a slight current from the main spring near the primary launch that flows towards Ray Wayside Park and the Ocklawaha River. It is possible to paddle upstream but for obvious reasons is slightly more difficult.
1. Silver Springs State Park Main Launch & Rentals
- 5.3 miles one way downstream to Ray Wayside Park
- State park shuttle reservations are required for a return ride: $15 or is included in your rental if you choose this route when booking. Or plan to park two cars, one at Ray Wayside Park and one at the State Park.
- Approx 3-5 hours paddle.
- 2-mile Fort King Paddling Trail loop around Ross Allen Island.
- Half of this loop is more secluded as motorboats are not allowed.
- No shuttle service is required.
- Approx 2 hours paddle.
- 2-mile paddle down Silver River to the State Park Campground launch
- No shuttle service.
- 1/2-mile paddle out and back to Mammoth Spring
- Silver River’s biggest spring
- Less than an hour paddle
2. Ray Wayside Park
- Paddle as far up the Silver River as you’d like.
- 5.3-mile paddle upstream to the main Silver Springs State Park launch and Mammoth Spring.
- 3 miles upstream to Silver Springs State Park Campground launch.
- Paddle out towards the Ocklawaha River.
3. Campground Launch
- 3.3-mile paddle to Ray Wayside Park.
- 2-mile paddle upstream to the main launch and Mammoth Spring.
Rules of the River:
- No alcohol
- No swimming or fishing
- Do not feed or harass the wildlife
- Do not litter
- Yield to Glassbottom Boats
- PFDs must be worn or within reach
- Bring sunscreen and other forms of sun protection.
- Stay hydrated and bring plenty of water.
- The three launch locations are the only places you are able to get in and out of the river.
- Try and find the three statues 30 feet underwater close to glass bottom boat docks left behind from the 1960’s show I Spy.
- Remember there is a slight current coming from the top of Silver River where the glassbottom boats load.
- Plan and book your trip and/or rentals in advance.
- Bring a waterproof camera. The scenery is lush and beautiful and the water is crystal clear! Plus there are lots of wildlife viewing opportunities: tons of birds, manatees (higher chance of seeing them in the winter months), alligators, wild monkeys (not native to Florida).
- Give the wildlife lots of space and remember you’re visiting them in their home.
- Take time to visit Silver Springs State Park and other attractions like the museum, go for a hike or take a ride on the famous glass bottom boats.
- I highly recommend Silver Springs State Park. The clarity of the water and the wildlife is pretty spectacular! Try to visit earlier in the day on a weekday to avoid crowds and plan ahead especially if you need to rent or book the shuttle.
Other Resources & Florida Paddle Locations:
- Silver Springs History
- Tourism Segregation Silver Springs & Paradise Park
- Weeki Wachee Springs
- Weedon Island Preserve St. Petersburg
- Hillsborough River State Park
- Southwest Florida Paddling: Stump Pass Beach State Park, Boca Grande, Don Pedro Island State Park