Location: Silver Springs State Park, Ocala, Fl
Date: 10/12 – 10/14/2013
Well, after a five month break because of the hot and humid Florida summers, we finally had nice enough weather to get out and do some camping. With Monday being a holiday for some (Columbus Day) Julie and I decided to take a long weekend camping trip to Silver Springs State Park in Ocala. This is an easy hour drive from our home and we were able to get there, checked in and set up before it got dark on Friday.
This is a Florida State Park that we didn’t know existed until recently. We’ve lived in Gainesville for 30+ years, but had never heard of this park, which is too bad since it is a very nice campground and park. The sites are all very large, level and for the most part well spaced out. Although we don’t have a large RV, this campground is definitely big rig friendly with most of the sites being pull through.
Just in the past few week, Silver Springs State Park joined with the old and now closed Silver Springs Theme Park. So, with your entry fee you can get into both parks. Even though these two parks are adjacent to each other, there is currently no way to get from one park to the other (well unless you canoe or kayak). So, you have to exit one park and drive the few miles to the entrance to the other. The ranger we spoke with said there are plans to link the two parks with a trail or road sometime in the future.
One of the main draws for this park in the Silver River which is a clear spring fed river whose head spring is at the Silver Springs Theme park. The concessioner, who used to rent kayaks and canoes from the campground location has now moved to the theme park location. From here you can also pay $4 per canoe/kayak and launch you own boat. We wish we had brought our kayaks this time, but will definitely camp here again and make sure we bring them.
You can also launch your canoe or kayaks from the Silver River Campground. But be prepared to carry your boat a long way from the parking lot to the river as it is a .6 mile hike between the two.
A nice trip, if you have two vehicles, is to put in at the head spring or at the campground and float down to the Ray Wayside Park (SR 40 E of Silver Springs). This is an easy float down a very nice and scenic river. Julie and I did this trip a few years ago, putting in at the Way Side park, paddling upstream to the head spring and the floating back. The current is not too bad and paddling upstream is definitely doable.
Our camper at site #43 which was a large pull through site. Getting set up Friday evening was almost too easy with no backing into the site and no leveling required.
Silver Springs State Park has a lot of defined hiking trails that wind around this large area of land. Most of these trails a very nice and most do allow biking as well as hiking. We did some off road biking and enjoyed it, that is until we got to some sandy areas that were difficult to peddle through. There were also some areas (very few) that were torn up by wild hogs. It’s amazing how much destruction these animals can do to an area.
All of the trails a well marked and easy to follow. We find this is not always the case in some parks we visit.
This is the canoe launch on the Silver River. It’s a beautiful launch area, but it is long haul with your gear from the parking lot.
The campground also has a natural history museum (we didn’t check it out) as wells as an old Florida Cracker Village that you can walk around. During the weekends they have volunteers, dressed I period clothes, giving talks about the life in old Florida.
Here’s a short video of the campground and Silver River