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Silver Springs State Park in Florida (the Setting for "Tarzan")

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Beautiful Silver Springs in Florida

Beautiful Silver Springs in Florida

Silver Springs, Florida

The north-central part of Florida is home to a must-see attraction—the lush and tropical Silver Springs. The grounds include the filming location of many of the original Tarzan movies and more.

You are cordially invited to join us during the day we spent at this lovely Florida tourist attraction.

The year was 1990, and my mother, niece, and I had just spent five fun-filled summer days at Walt Disney World. What an experience!

We were now to visit a wonderful lady who resided in Crystal River, Florida. We became her house guests for a three-day visit. Part of what our hostess had planned during our stay was a visit to Silver Springs. We became forever grateful to her for introducing us to that most splendid of Florida tourist attractions.

George DeBenedicty with leading Sire Leroidesanimaux at Stonewall Farm in Ocala, FL.

George DeBenedicty with leading Sire Leroidesanimaux at Stonewall Farm in Ocala, FL.

Horse Farms

Driving from Crystal River and approaching Ocala on our way to Silver Springs, we passed numerous horse farms. Silver Springs is actually a part of the Ocala metropolitan area.

The beautifully painted white fences with thoroughbred horses grazing and frolicking on the verdant pastures is a resplendent sight. Horse farming is a major industry in that part of Florida with approximately 1,200 horse farms in existence. Ocala is listed as the "horse capital of the world."

Much more was to capture our attention on that fine June day and all of it had to do with Silver Springs.

The location of Silver Springs in the north-central part of Florida

The location of Silver Springs in the north-central part of Florida

Silver Springs

About five miles east of the City of Ocala lies the tropical splendor of Silver Springs. It consists of a 350 acre theme park which for the most part showcases one of Florida's oldest and stunning natural attractions. Nature created these crystal clear waters and this is one of the world's largest artisan spring formations.

  • There are seven major springs at the headwaters of the Silver River which pump out 73,500,000 cubic feet of fresh water (2,080,000 cubic meters) on a daily basis. To put it in perspective this amount of water would be enough to supply a large city like New York for all of its daily water consumption uses.
  • This spring water is filtered through native limestone and is 99.8% pure - all 550 million gallons of it.
  • A constant temperature of 74 degrees Fahrenheit (or 23 degrees Celsius) adds to the tropical nature and enjoyment of this special place for people and animals alike.

It is no wonder that this has been the chosen location for so many filmmakers as well as television producers over the years. Over 200 movies and television shows have been produced here, putting this setting to good use. Some of the movies filmed here include the following:

  • Tarzan
  • Creature from the Black Lagoon
  • Thunderball
  • Moonraker plus others.
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A lush natural water environment with tall cypress trees and other luxuriant foliage help create a jungle-like setting. There are also beautifully landscaped grounds with cultivated botanical gardens on site which some people choose to utilize for wedding photos and similar purposes.

Movie Legends—Johnny Weismuller as Tarzan

Glass-Bottomed Boats

The glass-bottomed boats began operating here in Silver Springs back in the late 1870s. Innovative entrepreneurs realized that this crystal clear water provided a chance for them to introduce the sights beneath the water's surface to individuals who might never have been inclined to don a scuba suit and see similar things for themselves via that method of exploration.

Boats were constructed with clear glass bottoms. People are seated around the exterior sides of the boat looking in towards the center. This arrangement enables tourists to be able to look straight down the center of the boat to the bottom of the river and view the aquatic plants, fish, turtles and everything else that exists in the water moving beneath them.

The tops of the boats protect people from inclement weather while also providing shade.

An amazing sight awaits those who are able to peer through those translucent waters and visualize the openings in the river floor where the spring water emanates from deep within the earth bubbling to the surface. The depth of the river bottom varies but the water remains sparkling clear no matter how deep is the riverbed beneath one.

Our hostess and the three of us enjoyed this glass bottomed boat ride and everything that we were able to view while on the watercraft.

The captains of each vessel are all Coast Guard certified and offer a running commentary on statistics of what we are getting to view. Also pointed out are impromptu sightings of birds, alligators in the wild or animals seen on the shore as the boats move through their paces.

Never before have we gotten to see such shimmering colors of fish or the effects of glancing rays of sunlight slicing through the crystalline waters with such great effect.

At times we saw clusters of an aquatic plant called water lettuce. Yellow hued in color it drifts and floats freely through the water deriving sustenance via a four to six foot root system.

Petting Zoo

Silver Springs also sports a large petting zoo which keeps children and adults equally entertained. Stacks of rye crisp crackers can be purchased at dispensers positioned in this part of the Silver Springs park and it is allowed to hand feed the animals.

Some of the animals one will encounter include the following:

  • Goats
  • Turkeys
  • Sheep
  • Rabbits
  • Donkeys
  • Giraffes and other animals as well.

We all took turns feeding the animals. An insistent goat kept bleating and begging my mother for special attention. Naturally, he got the majority of her crackers. It is fun watching the interaction of children and adults with the animals in this part of the park.

Sea Hunt episodes shot here in Silver Springs, Florida

Sea Hunt episodes shot here in Silver Springs, Florida

Sea Hunt

Do you remember the television series Sea Hunt starring Lloyd Bridges? We were surprised to learn that it was shot on location in Silver Springs.

Not all of the films shot at Silver Springs were for entertainment. Many scientific films have been produced, and training films for the army, navy, and marine corps were made at Silver Springs to prepare young men to survive in jungle warfare during World War II.

In more recent years television production crews have been beating a path to Silver Springs. Producer Ivan Tors and his company have made many trips to the Springs to film the popular television series, "Sea Hunt", starring Lloyd Bridges. The underwater portions of more than 200 episodes of "Sea Hunt" were filmed right here at Silver Springs. The area in which you are standing now was used as Lloyd Bridges headquarters while filming here.

Even though most of the episodes dealt with the sea, many of the underwater portions were shot right here in the main spring and in the river without interfering with our Glass Bottom Boats passing overhead.

This series ran for many years here in the United States and is still running in many other countries throughout the world."

Part of a Sea Hunt Episode

Wildlife

One can enjoy seeing other wildlife at Silver Springs in addition to the tamed varieties seen in the petting zoo.

  • At the Big Gator Lagoon in the middle of a one acre cypress swamp are dozens of wild alligators. Fortunately for the viewing public elevated boardwalks with railings have been built where one can look down and see these formidable looking creatures in a natural habitat.

Feedings of the alligators take place daily at 2:30 PM and if one wishes to see a frenzy of swishing tails and hungry creatures devouring their food set your watches to be there at the appointed time.

  • Endangered Florida panthers can also be found on site at Silver Springs. One was even being walked on a leash the day we were there.
  • According to the literature there is a two acre site where one can view black and Kodiak bears in a natural setting. Either this is a new feature or we missed seeing it the day we were there.
  • The animals that we most enjoyed seeing were those on our Jungle Cruise. This cruise takes one past islands where there are free roaming monkeys, giraffes, zebras, llamas and wild birds of all descriptions. Also seen on the banks of rivers or on logs or even swimming in the translucent waters are turtles.

Adorned with Spanish moss the trees blend in with the other lush vegetation forming a rich tropical atmosphere of sights and sounds. One can almost imagine Tarzan swinging through these trees!

Looking at the pictures taken that day and displayed in this post hopefully readers will understand why this portion of the park as seen from aboard ship on the Jungle Cruise was this author's favorite part of Silver Springs park. The scenery is simply spectacular!

Additional Information

  • A Jeep Safari Jungle Safari drive is also available where one can view animals living and roaming in natural-looking habitats created at Silver Springs.
  • Special concerts and special events are held at Silver Springs throughout the year.
  • The park is open daily from February 7 to August 17 from 10 AM to 5 PM. From August 22 to December 11, the park is only open on Friday–Sunday. From December 12 to December 28, it is once again open daily except for closed Christmas Day.
  • One ticket admission price admits one to all the attractions within the park. Practically everything is operated on a 30-minute schedule so it is possible to take in most of the sights in one day.
  • Food can be purchased on-site as well as souvenirs.
  • There is now a ride that takes one high up overhead so as to be able to view the entire Silver Springs park from above.

If you wish to see the attractions which drew the creators of Tarzan and other movie and television makers to this lush Silver Springs area you now know some of the reasons why they were attracted.

Jungle Cruise in Glass Bottomed Boat Ride at Silver Springs, Florida

Jungle Cruise in Glass Bottomed Boat Ride at Silver Springs, Florida

Some of the wildlife and scenery viewed at Silver Springs

Update

A Florida resident sent me an email advising me about changes since the time of my visit. Here is some paraphrased information about what the amenities in the area are like today.

"I just read your story on Silver Springs. What you describe is very different from what Silver Springs is now since the state purchased and took control. The only thing left is the Glass Bottom Boats.

The state has made efforts to return the park to its natural state, trying to eliminate pollution. The state has combined Silver Springs and Silver River State Park, where there are camping, cabins, and a museum. This combined area is now called Silver Springs State Park. This park covers over 4000 acres, and the state owns all the land along the Silver River, which is about 5 miles long. The state still advertises the movies and television shows filmed there."

Be sure and click on the links at the bottom of this page for updated information.

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is the lodge at Silver Springs State Park in Florida still in use?

Answer: We were just visiting for the day so had no need for lodging. I looked it up for you. At Silver Springs State Park they offer a 59-site full facility campground plus have 10 modern cabins which can be rented. There is no mention of a lodge.

Question: What is the cost of staying in cabins in Silver Springs State Park?

Answer: Here is a link that will keep you up to date with experiences and amenities as well as pricing for the cabins and more at Silver Springs State Park: https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails...

Question: How much does it cost for the boat ride in Silver Springs park?

Answer: As of today, the 30 to 45-minute glass-bottomed boat rides cost $11 for adults, $10 for seniors (55+) and children (6 to 12), and free for children 5 or younger.

There is a more extended 90-minute tour every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. That tour which sells out quickly costs $25 for adults, $20 for seniors and children (same ages as above), and children 5 and under, free.

© 2009 Peggy Woods

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