Glass Bottom Boat, Silver Springs, Florida

So last week I promised you a magical mystery tour of the Silver River in Silver Springs State Park here in Florida. In the park you can take a trip on a glass bottom boat and view the fresh springs pouring forth sweet, cool water from the Florida aquifer. If you need more information about all this, check out my post from last time.

Because of Springsfest at the park and the tourists it had drawn in before us, we had to wait around a couple of hours to board the boats. I was so excited – you could see the people embarking and disembarking right there before your eyes, but I couldn’t get on the boat til after 3pm.

That was good for you because I got the other shots in last week’s post in the meantime. But my primary reason for being there that day was the glass bottom boat tour. We dutifully stood in line just before 3pm; it was one of those zig-zaggy snake queues with four lines next to each other. It was hot. There were thousands of children. There were only four glass bottom boats in operation. We were tantalizingly close to the water but so far away timewise! I had to do some serious meditation to let go of the frustration:

However, just as we reached the halfway point of the line, a park staffer who was overseeing the boarding process yelled out, “I have space for only two more. Do I have two?” I hesitated only a moment, thinking someone ahead of us surely was a party of two. But no! WE were the only party of two in the line! I love kids!

The crowd magically parted and we walked straight to a boat, hours (ok, a fraction of an hour probably) before we expected! Score!

The boats are long with benches on each side so every passenger gets a look at the glass bottom in the middle:
You can see Captain Mike in the bow on the far end of the boat in the above picture. He was a chatty fellow with informative quips along the way. He pointed out wildlife above and below water as we tooled down the river:

Of course, I didn’t care about what was going on above the water line; I can see that all day long. What held my attention was the clear glass bottom of the boat! Despite my fears (and others who expressed the same thing to me), the glass was actually plexiglass but was NOT scratched or cloudy at all. Another score!

The dollars lying on the glass were, I think, tip reminders. They also gave my photographs some perspective. Thank you, Photoshop, for being so good at eliminating reflections!

The grass on the bottom is eel grass and is edible! There were lots of fish among the grasses, but they were hard to get photos of because they moved so quickly.
Captain Mike steered us over several spring vents during the tour, which lasted about 30 minutes. Each spring had a name and he told us how much fresh water poured out of it hourly. Here are two shots of a spring vent:


Here’s another vent, and you can see small limestone particles that look suspended in the water. These are chips off the aquifer rock and are constantly blown upward by the spring current. Captain Mike called it a Florida snow globe.
This shot captures a Native American dugout canoe over 400 years old lying on the bottom of the river. Apparently they’ve had it tested:
Captain Mike saved the largest spring, and the one closest to the dock, for last. It’s called Mammoth Spring. That day, because of Springsfest, divers were re-enacting shooting movie scenes down there. Mostly it looked to me like they were waving at us:

In this shot you can see three divers and three statues situated on the bottom – it was about 80 feet down from the surface, but it looked much closer.  The statues are props from the TV show I Spy shot here in the 1960s.

I read that the river was overgrown with algae in recent years due to pollution from fertilizer runoff. There is a program in place now that is cleaning up the water, so we were able to see much more than you could just a short while ago. There is still more algae than in the 60s, but the river is expected to return to its former state in a few years. Nice to hear good news!

On the way back to the dock, I got artsy with the bubbles passing under the boat as we sped up:


As we cruised up to the dock for disembarking, I was so very satisfied with the experience! It was a lifelong dream fulfilled – and I highly recommend a trip to this park. It’s a wonderful place with friendly people. Plus, the water is constantly cool year-round, so it’s a nice area to get some relief from the Florida heat.

Photo for No Apparent Reason: