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Silver River ...

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Silver River - Florida

American Alligator
American Alligator, Silver River

Juvenile Rhesus Monkey

Juvenile Rhesus Monkey, Silver River
- Joe Kegley

Joe Kegley | E-Mail | Updated 05-15-07


The Silver River is a beautiful 5.5 mile long artesian spring-fed river located east of Ocala, Florida. The river discharges into the Oklawaha River, which eventually feeds into the St. Johns River.

Land on both sides of the river is managed by the Silver River State Park. The park consists of over 5000 acres.

The Silver River can be accessed by motorboats, canoes, and kayaks from Ray Wayside Park or the Oklawaha River. Canoes and kayaks can also access the river via the Silver River State Park, though you will have to portage your canoe or kayak approximately .6 miles to the launch site. Canoeing and kayaking the river is very popular. Expect to see kayaking tours.

At the headwaters is the Silver Springs tourist attraction complete with a zoo, glass bottom boat rides, and a jungle jeep tour. Don't let the fact that a tourist attraction awaits you at the spring head detour you. There are plenty of wild scenic areas up the first 4.5 miles before reaching the attraction.


Limpkin, Silver River
- Joe Kegley

Note the whole river is public, you are allowed to kayak right up to the spring head and float among the glass bottom boats. Just don't get hit. Landing is not allowed on land leased by the attraction. There are signs informing you of this when you get close to the attraction.

Nature Perspective

Anhinga, Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, Great Egrets, and Ibis are almost guaranteed to be observed and can be found anywhere on the river. Little Blue Herons, Wood Ducks, Common Moorhens, and American Coots are commonly encountered upstream closer to the springhead. Yellow-crowned Night Herons and Limpkins are also frequently sighted on the upper half of the river. Reddish Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks are less frequently seen, as are Wild Turkeys and Barred Owls.

One is guaranteed to see alligators and Florida cooters if touring the river on a sunny day. Otters and white-tailed deer are only occasionally observed.

A variety of fish can be seen when paddling over sandy areas, especially as one approaches the springhead and the water gets clearer.

Rhesus Monkey

Rhesus Monkey, Silver River
- Joe Kegley

Yes, the Silver River does have wild Rhesus monkeys. I've seen them about 70% of the times I've paddled the Silver River. There is no best spot for observing them. I've seen them a few hundred yards from the Ray Wayside boat launch to all the way upstream near the springhead. While they are an exotic species, Rhesus monkeys are fairly common on the Silver River.

The story of their origin supposedly goes something like this ... In 1936, the owner of the Jungle Cruise at Silver Springs, Colonel Tooey, came up with the idea of creating a monkey island on the Silver River to entice more tourists to the area.

Not thinking the monkeys would swim away, he placed them on the island. The monkeys did indeed swim off the island and propagated. The monkeys can now be found up and down the Silver and Oklawaha river corridors.

A bit of a controversy surrounds the monkeys. Biologists would like to rid the area of the wild monkeys, they are an exotic species and potentially cause damage to the environment and the native species. Town's folk enjoy and lobby to keep the monkeys. Currently the wild Rhesus monkeys are managed and from what I understand the population has been culled before.

Juvenile Rhesus Monkey

Juvenile Rhesus Monkey, Silver River
- Joe Kegley

Wilderness Experience Perspective

There is no wilderness experience to speak of when you are kayaking the Silver River. Traffic from State Road 40 is frequently heard on sections close to the highway. The river is very popular with boaters (motorboats and self propelled), so there will be little solitude. For motorcraft it is idle speed only, no wake allowed. A noisy tourist attraction featuring glass bottom boat tours operates at the springhead. Kayaking tours are offered in the area.

Camping is not allowed on the river's edge but designated campsites are available at the Silver River State Park. These campsites are not near the river but the river is within walking distance.

Fishing is not allowed on the full length of the river.

The best chance for a quieter experience is to put-in at dawn. Launching from Ray Wayside park, I can sometimes make it to the springhead and start back before encountering motorboats. As usual, weekdays are less busy than weekends and holidays.

Photography Perspective


Otters, Silver River
- Joe Kegley

Regardless of the low rating from a wilderness experience perspective, the river is beautiful. The crystal clear water is alluring and sometimes hypnotizing. When paddling over sandy areas it can appear as though you are floating on air.

Much of the wildlife is acclimated to boats cruising up and down the river. Birds can frequently be approached for a closer photograph, though not always. I would not get too close to the monkeys, they may join you in your boat. From what I understand, they can and do bite.

Most of the time one will be shooting from a boat. Lenses with image stabilization are a good idea. While kayaking, I keep my camera with attached lens in a collapsible cooler with the lid down. I place the cooler between my legs or in the tank well behind the seat.

Gear/equipment Suggestions

  • Canoe/kayak/motor boat - Boating is the only way you can experience the river. Land access is very limited. Canoeing and kayaking is best done in the early morning hours before the motor boaters get in the water.

  • Insect Repellent - Usually only necessary at the boat launch, if at all.

Location and Points of Interest

Silver River Map (Google interactive map)

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hover over markers to see descriptions

Additional Information

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