Silver Springs is a U.S. Unincorporated community and the site of aquatic springs in Marion County, Florida. The springs are one of the largest artesian spring formations in the world, producing nearly 550 million gallons of crystal-clear water daily. Silver Springs forms the headwaters of the Silver River, the largest tributary on the Ocklawaha River, a part of the St. Johns River system. The springs were designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.
One of Florida's first tourist attractions, the springs drew visitors even before the U.S. Civil War. Glass bottom boats have been a popular way to see the 242 acre complex. A small amusement park with various animals, a concert stage,carousel and exhibits also developed. As the land around the springs developed, fertilizer and septic tank runoff carrying nitrate pollution has caused brown algae to cloud the springs, reducing visibility and fish populations. Declining attendance and profits have led the operators to drop their lease and end the amusements at the park. Plans for the Adena Springs Ranch nearby and its water pumping proposals are also a concern.
Silver Springs Park
Location of Silver Springs, Florida
Since at least the mid 19th century, the natural beauty of Silver Springs has attracted visitors from around the country. Glass bottom boat tours of the springs began in the late 1870s. In the 1920s, W. Carl Ray and W.M. "Shorty" Davidson (Ray and Davidson leased the land from Mr. Ed Carmichael. Upon whose death the Springs were left to the University of Florida) made the land around the headwaters of the Spring into something resembling the attraction that is there today, now known as the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. The attraction features native animal exhibits and glass bottom boat tours of the springs. Downstream from the attraction is the Silver River State Park.
Also located in Silver Springs is a water park, Wild Waters (opened in 1978). The T. W. Randall House, on the National Register of Historic Places, is located to the northeast. Several defunct tourist attractions were once located in Silver Springs, including the Western-themed Six Gun Territory with its own 3 ft (914 mm) narrow gauge railroad named "Southern Railway & Six Gun" (closed 1984), Carriage Cavalcade, Early American Museum, Paradise Park, and the Prince of Peace Memorial (closed in the mid-1970s).
Fishing is not allowed on the Silver River