MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Silver Springs State Park, an agritourist attraction out of Marion County, is hosting its mainstay feature glass-bottom boat tours yet again this summer.
According to the park’s website, Silver Springs has a storied history, dating all the way back to Florida’s annexation in the 1820s.
The springs have historically been a site for adventurers, distribution centers and even a number of Hollywood films, though it’s best known for its signature glass-bottom boats, which allow park visitors to see the underwater life swimming just below them.
“They started out in the 1880s. Somebody got the bright idea to put a little panel of glass at the bottom of that little rowboat and the idea went from there,” park ranger Andy Kilmer said.
According to Kilmer, the boats were equipped with gas engines during the 1950s and 60s, though those were eventually replaced with electric engines for a “much more serene experience.”
Kilmer said that turnout to the park this year has been phenomenal, with people coming out to not only take advantage of the boat tours but to enjoy other attractions at the park, including paddle boards, kayaks, canoes and hiking trails.
He added that visitors to the park can expect to see a sizable variety of wildlife, such as black bears, gopher tortoises, alligators, river otters — and even some sea cows.
“There are manatees even now in the summer. There’s a few that hang out here all summer long, a few mothers with calves,” he said. “So if you want to check out wildlife... it’s probably best to come here early in the morning and in the late evening when it’s not so hot.”
For those interested in riding the glass-bottom boat tours, the park has implemented a new system where riders are assigned a time, so long lines are now a thing of the past.
Kilmer said the tours run approximately 30 minutes long and include information on the history of the park, films that were shot there and the ecology of the springs.
The park will also be hosting an American Freedom Festival to celebrate the Fourth of July, running from July 2 - 4. Festivities will include live music, food vendors, free parking, $2 park admission and a “Kids Zone” for children.
For information on the tours and other attractions offered at the park, visit the Silver Springs website here.