This weekend we paddled a section of the beautiful Silver River located just East of Ocala, Florida. The Silver River is fed by Silver Springs one of Florida’s largest first magnitude springs. Approximately 550 million gallons of crystal-clear fresh water pours from Silver Springs daily and the resultant spring run is one of the most beautiful in the state. The clear water showcases the white sandy bottom, flowing green eel grass and one can see fish and turtles swimming under your boat.
One of our primary reasons for visiting the Silver River was to catch sight of the infamous Silver River macaques. In the mid twentieth century, 4 rhesus macaques (commonly known as rhesus monkeys) were released on one of the islands in the Silver River in an effort to enhance the popular tourist attraction at Silver Springs. It was believed at the time that the monkeys would be contained on the island, however, those responsible had not done their research as rhesus macaques are known to be excellent swimmers.
The monkeys escaped the island, and despite not being native to the area, not only survived, but thrived. There are an estimated 160 rhesus macaques living along the Silver River and its tributaries today.
Silver Springs has a long history as a popular tourist attraction dating back to the Civil War. Many of the early black and white Tarzan films were filmed along the Silver River and Ester Williams swam in Silver Springs for an early Hollywood film. A steamboat sunk in the 1800’s can still be seen along the river near Ocklawaha.