We spent the final day of our short winter trip hiking the two trails at Silver Glen Springs.
Silver Glen Springs is another of Florida’s first magnitude springs pumping on average 65 millions gallons of water from two main caverns that lie below the surface of a 200 x 175′ wide crystal blue spring pool. The outflowing water forms a 3/4 mile long by 200′ wide spring run before dumping into nearby Lake George making it attractive to both snorkelers and boaters.
Although designated as a critical habitat area for manatees by the USDA the manatee activity in this area is suppressed due to the impact that the high volume of recreational users have on the vegetation that manatees feed on.
Swimming, snorkeling, and canoeing are popular activities at the spring. Scuba diving and motorized boating are prohibited in the spring pool swimming area.
Once a village site, Silver Glen Springs is an important archeological site as well as a popular recreation area in the Big Scrub of the Ocala National Forest.
As with many springs in this area investigation of the site has produced archeological evidence that it has been inhabited for at least 10,000 years. The upland terrance area surrounding the spring is where arrowheads, spears, and other tools have been discovered. These tools date back to the Paleoindian (Lithic) period when humans first appeared in the archeological records in North America.
The large shell midden adjacent to the spring forms an amphitheater. These shell deposits began during the archaic period of cultural development and date to approximately 6000 years ago. Unfortunatly a good portion of the shell deposit was destroyed as it was excavated to build and resurface roads during the previous century.
In 1990 the US forest service acquired the area and began to refurbish the land and protect what remained of this important archeological site. Today a careful balance of environmental/cultural preservation and recreational enjoyment is struck by careful management of the area.
Spring Boils Trail (.2 miles to the trail end and overlook)
The first of the two trails we struck out on was the shorter Spring Boils Trail. We strolled beneath oaks and palms along a gently sloping sandy trail before reaching the boardwalk. At the end of the boardwalk is an overlook where we viewed several small springs bubbling up through the sand. If you’ve read The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings you are familiar with Jody’s Spring.
The nearby Long homestead and shooting location from the movie adaptation of the book are now part of the Ocala National Forest. Across from the Silver Glen Recreation Area you can hike the Yearling Trail passing where the homes were once located and see the Long Family Cemetery. Although posted as having increased bear activity we attempted to hike this trail earlier in the day. About 300 yards down the trail we spotted two fresh sets of tracks – Mamma and cub – heading straight up the narrow path. Not wanting to disturb (or threaten) this duo we ended up here at Silver Glen.
Lake George Trail (1.2 miles to the trail end and bluff)
The second hike we took was the longer Lake George Trail. This trail meanders along the spring run beneath hurricane twisted and moss covered oaks through a Riverine swamp. The trail was thick with mosquitoes and muddy in places, but well worth the trip.
We discovered a new species of plant we had never seen tangled among the base of these saw palmettos leading us to wonder how many native ancestors died in their quest to discover which berries were poisonous and which were not.
Along the trail were a few overlooks were we paused to take in views of the expansive Lake George before ending our walk out at a low bluff area equipped with benches were we stopped to rest and enjoy the view before retracing our steps back to the parking area.
Lake George is the largest lake of the chain of lakes along the Saint Johns River. It is also the second largest lake in Florida. From this view we looked out across three miles of water before our gaze arrived at the distant shore.
We spotted alligators and water moccasins sunbathing as well as river cooters and softshelled turtles hanging out on the fallen trees and branches that rose from the water near the shore. There were wild hog tracks and broken turtle eggs along the trail. A curious racoon watched us from a distance.
Both trails were beautiful and the spring was most inviting. Next time we’ll have to pack our swimsuits.
Next week we begin the tale of our second grand adventure when we hit the road again. This time we take a different kind of journey from the first as we explore the history and stops along the Natchez Trace Parkway.
Ocala National Forest Silver Glen Springs 5271 FL 19 Salt Springs, Florida. Latitude : 29.24454153 Longitude : -81.6475696 Click here for Information and Directions
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