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Tips for Visiting Silver Glen Springs With Kids

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Tucked away in Marion county is one of Florida’s purest springs, Silver Glen Springs. The water bubbles up from the earth in 200 acres of lush beauty and feeds into Lake George, which lies in a picturesque natural area of the state. You just have to see it to believe it! So pack your bags and head to Silver Glen Springs to witness the splendor, forget about all your worries and beat the heat as a family.

Where is Silver Glen Springs?

Silver Glen Springs is located about 1.5 hours from Orlando in northwest Florida, inside the Ocala National Forest area in Marion county. To get there, you’ll need to ride 6 miles north on SR 40 to join SR 19 near Lake George. Keep an eye out for signs that lead you to the Ocala National Forest area, and ride far east of the forest area. You will find the entrance to the beautiful Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area on your right.

If you would rather unwind than be stuck behind the wheel, take the Silver Meteor or Silver Star train service that runs twice daily from Orlando. It’s an hours ride to get to DeLand, from where you can take a taxi on demand to Silver Glen Springs. 

Another option is to catch a bus from Orlando to Ocala. There are a number of private bus agencies that are available from morning through evening, but Redcoach and Greyhound are by far the best. An hour long bus ride will drop you off at Ocala, from where you can make your way to Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area via taxi in under 50 minutes.  

Silver-Glen-Springs
Silver Glen Springs

What is Silver Glen Springs?

Springs are nature’s treasured freshwater storehouses that form when groundwater seeps to the surface through cracks in the earth. Silver Glen Springs at Ocala is a first magnitude spring that leaks 65 million gallons of water per day and joins Lake George in a gentle run. The 22 acres of spring water flows from two deep vents, and is said to be the purest fresh water on earth nearer to its source. However, the water does get muddier farther away from the vents, closer to the lake. 

This outstanding Florida spring has a 5000 year old history that consists of it being an excavation grounds, where stone age pottery and other relics from the shell mounds (or middens) located along the spring were unearthed. What was once a home to ancient native americans passed into private hands before later being taken over by the USDA Forest Service Administration and the Lake George Ranger District. The Silver Glen springs soon became a popular family destination, and the years since have seen more and more crowds eager to enjoy the Florida summer experience! It’s just one of the many things to do for kids in the Orlando area.

What Are The Opening Times For Silver Glen Springs?

The Silver Glen Recreational Area is open from 8 to 8 all throughout the year, subject to only a few seasonal variations. It has parking facilities inside the recreation area, but operates on a first-come-first-served basis and is closed when it reaches capacity. If you plan to visit during the summer weekends, make sure to arrive early to avoid the crowds. You can reserve parking by calling the spring in advance, but this facility may change without any notice. Make sure to check the website before you begin your trip.

How Busy Is Silver Glen Springs?

Silver Glen Springs is one of Florida’s best kept little secrets. This is mainly because of the spring’s location being little bit off the beaten path in the county, without the easiest access from Orlando’s other major attractions. This results in springs like Blue Springs and Rock Springs pulling in most of the tourist crowds, and the beautiful Silver Glen Springs being left to the locals to enjoy! This is of ocurse great for travelers in the know who are keen on finding quieter spots in the state to unwind with the family. 

Despite this, the summer months between April and August do see the swimhole filling up with locals and some outsiders. Boats and kayaks are a sure sight on the lake run during the weekends during this busy time of the year. Between November and March, barring a few Manatees that come to lounge in the warm spring water, visitors can pretty much expect to have the recreational area all to themselves. 

How Much Does It Cost To Visit Silver Glen Springs?

Silver Glen Springs Springs isn’t a State Park, so you should expect the costs to be slightly higher than normal. The spring’s recreational area admits visitors during the day at the rate of $7 per head on weekdays and $10 per head on weekends, excluding taxes. If you plan on visiting the springs frequently, consider purchasing the $70 plus tax annual day use pass that is available on-site for purchase. 

When it comes to having a fun time, nothing beats canoeing and kayaking with the family! A few canoes and kayaks are available for rent at the concessionaire on a first-come-first-serve basis. Canoe rentals are capped at $16 for 2 hours, $24 for 4 hours and $38 for all-day, besides a $20 deposit. Kayaks can be rented at $35 for day use. You can also decide to bring your own equipment along and launch your kayak, canoe or paddle board for free.

Pontoon and houseboat rentals can definitely hike up expenses, with costs that exceed $200, excluding tax and fuel. Reservations are available online. On average, however, a family of four can expect to have an amazing time at the Silver Glen Springs for as little as $60, as long as the plan is to keep it simple!

What is the water temperature at Silver Glen Springs? 

Silver Glen Springs is home to some of the clearest spring waters in Florida, and that’s comparing with the other 600 springs in the state! This spring maintains a constant temperature  of 72°F all year round, affording its human visitors a magical dip during the summers, and the manatees a sauna during the winters. People who have been to the Silver Glen Springs are truly amazed by the high-definition clear spring waters and the mesmerizing limestone spring bed that brims with life!

Apart from the water quality itself, the Silver Glen Spring is also considered by many to have the best swimming hole in all of Florida. 200 m wide and neatly cordoned off from floaters and boaters, it is completely safe to swim in for kids of all ages.

Can You Tube At Silver Glen Springs?

If you don’t like swimming, then tubing is something that you’ll probably enjoy. Floating along a natural waterway in a tube of inflatable rubber or plastic needs barely any skill or effort, making it great for families with kids of all ages. And while the family-fun activity is not as popular as swimming, kayaking or boating here, you are still welcome to bring your own pool noodles and tubes and enjoy the calm waters! 

The spring run is very short, lasting less than a mile but is very gentle and not too deep in the swimming area. Just kick back and take in the lush subtropical green that surrounds the spring run as you float the lazy waters. Tubing here is generally safe for kids, but toddlers should be accompanied and kept a close eye on.

Are There Alligators At Silver Glen Springs?

When traveling to a new destination, it is important to respect the local wildlife for the sake of the ecosystem and your own safety. Although alligators do not enter the swimming area, which is well closed off, it is possible that you might spot them in the lake run that joins the St John’s River. Make sure to steer clear of isolated areas and keep an extra close eye on toddlers and young children. 

Things To Do At Silver Glen Springs With Kids

Swimming

The mirror-like spring water is a wonder to behold and works like magic for cooling yourself off in the Florida summer heat. The kids are sure to love the wide walk-in swimhole that feels like a beach.

The spring bubbles out from two cavern openings in the rock bed, one on the south west and the other on the east. The south west vent is called the ‘Natural Well’, 40m deep and about 15m wide, while the eastern vent is a conical depression about 18m deep. Although scuba diving is not allowed at Silver Glen, the older kids and the adventure savvy can have some extra fun swimming in and around these vents. 

Apart from these two vents, most of the semicircular swimming area in the spring is shallow and is clearly roped off to stop boats and floats from entering. Silver Glen swimhole is perhaps the best in all of Florida for giving your kids their first swimming lesson owing to the low traffic and shallow waters.

Snorkeling

Put on your snorkels and say hello to the fishes! The crystal clear turquoise spring water allows swimmers to experience aquatic life up close like never before. You will also get to peer into the “silver” in the spring; the white sand and the shimmery shells that sleep on the spring bed.

Picnicking

Silver Glen Springs offer some excellent picnic spots for families to unwind together. You will find around 58 picnic tables and 30 pedestal grills and bear-proof garbage cans strewn along the swimhole, spring-run, the Natural Well and the Spring Boil Trail. Apart from these, there are also some calm and shady spots located close to the entrance where you can set down your picnic baskets and enjoy some semi-private family time.

Kayaking

Silver Glen Spring kayaking is one of the most sought-after types of fun here. A ramp presents itself right next to the spring boil as you walk the hill from the parking lot from where you can launch your kayaks and start paddling the springs. 

Kayak around the spring boil for a while, and with some luck you will be able to spot some birds settled in the trees, away from the heat. Paddle to the left of the roped off swim area to float the quarter-mile spring run where turtles, wild hogs, striped and mullet bass are a sure sight. In winters, you may be able to spot some manatees that take refuge in the warm springs. Remember to be gentle with your paddles and avoid disturbing these gentle water cows.

Paddling does get a little tougher once the spring joins Lake George, but it sure is a fun ride to try and tackle, especially when with older kids and teens! And while on the subject, if your kids are teenage and over, consider choosing the single sit-in kayaks to get the best kayaking experience.

Hiking

Silver Glen Springs feature two nature trails in and around the spring area. The first one, the Spring Boil Trail, is a short and easy half mile round trip trail that begins from the spring head and leads to a board walk fenced by a thick forest. Watch your kid’s excitement as they see the sandy spring water bubbling like soap from above the boardwalk! 

The second Lake George Trail is a much longer 2.3 round trip nature walk that trails away from the Spring Boil trail and towards the shore basin of Lake George. This trail is sure to delight nature lovers as it has numerous overlooks, a thick understory and hooded forests with glimpses of the lakefront in between. It is filled with picture perfect spots, and many visitors stop along the trail to snap photos of nature at its best!

Ancient Middens

Silver Glen Springs is truly Florida’s bounty. It shelters a primitive archeological site that contains some of the artifacts left behind by the native Americans. Fenced archeological dug-outs called middens or “ancient trash” that consist of various Stone age artifacts and freshwater snail shells are located around the swimhole and the spring run. Set aside some time to allow your kids to read the sign boards that will teach them about the sacred land’s original owners from 5000 years ago

The Yearling Barge

The movie “Yearling” was adapted from the Pulitzer Prize winning novel of the same name written by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. The book’s opening chapter as well as the rest of the story’s setting was inspired by the pristine beauty of the springs, so it only made sense to film the movie in the actual location as well! While filming a scene where the character Jody sits on a barge and gets hypnotized by the flutter mill, the barge sank in the spring. This is still visible to curious visitors today, and is definitely worth stopping by with the kids!

Boating

Silver Glen Springs is very popular among local boaters, with the spring run and river run being packed with boats especially during summers. When you visit during the warmer months you will see several boats anchored and partying on various spots along the spring.

If you’re interested in bringing your own boat, there are multiple boat ramps just off Silver Glen that you can use to launch your boat. Just a short boat ride from these ramps takes you into the spring run where all the action is. A marina just down the road from Silver Glen and the Shell Harbor Park & Boat Launch are two great places to launch your boat. Another good option is Astor Boat Ramp. It has a huge parking lot and allows you to launch your boat into Lake George and St Johns River. 

Fishing

Despite the area having huge ecological and heritage value, Silver Glen Springs still allows fishing downstream from the swimhole. Just ensure you own and have a valid FWC license on you. Largemouth bass, Striped bass and Bluegill are some of the species you may hope to catch here.

Family Tips For Silver Glen Springs

Arrive early on weekdays to skip the crowds and the long wait outside the entry gate. Note that bicycles and pets are not allowed in. 

Carry plenty of water with you as swimming and recreation in the spring during the summer months is sure to drain you and the kids. While the store does carry bottled water, it tends be sold at a high premium.

Carry napkins, diapers, hand towels and enough extras to see through emergencies. A good broad spectrum sunscreen, as well as hats and umbrellas to protect yourself and the kids from the Florida sun are all essentials. You will find portable toilets, bathrooms and changing rooms accessible near the swimming area. 

If you plan to bring your own kayaks and float you’ll save a lot of money, but it will require more time and effort to get there and back because of the location of the parking lot. So, be prepared to walk!

Be sure not to leave the kids unattended with the food as racoons, crows and sometimes even bears are known to sneak into the picnic areas looking for the food. 

Remember to pack foldable chairs and tables when you visit during summer weekends, as it might be a little harder to get a good spot by the spring for families.

A good bug spray, anti allergens and an antiseptic is a must if you plan to take a nature walk. 

Don’t forget swimming gear, snorkeling kits and goggles if you wish to spend most of your time in the water. Pack a good waterproof mobile or camera carry case – thank me later for the unreal photos you will capture at the springs without martyring your phone!

Check out these great hole-in-the-wall joints; Black Water Inn, Sparky’s Palace and Rose garden Family Restaurant, all located just about 15 minutes south of the Springs, in the small town of Astor. Papa Joe’s, Silver Spring’s Pizza and Odd Todd’s, just 10 minutes north of Silver Glen, are other the local favorites! Just make sure you head out only after you completely finish exploring the springs because once the park reaches capacity, re-entry is impossible. 

Visiting Springs Near Orlando With Kids

Planning on visiting one or several of the beautiful natural Springs Florida has to offer? Many of the spectacular state parks have fun activities for all the family to enjoy. From watersports; kayaking, canoeing, tubing, snorkelling; to geocaching, pancake making and camping on site. Our guides below detail what is on offer for kids of all ages at the springs closest to Orlando.

 

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