Western Gateway | Silver Springs & Ocala
The Gateway cites of Silver Springs and Ocala have long been a part of Florida’s tourist areas. Even before the famous glass-bottom boats were invented, steamboats brought tourists such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Ulysses S. Grant, Thomas A. Edison and Mary Todd Lincoln from Palatka to Silver Springs in the 1870s.
- The Silver River
- Silver Springs Nature Park
- Wild Waters Waterpark
- Silver River State Park and Museum
- Ocklawaha River
- Ocklawaha Visitor Center
- Appleton Museum
After Hullam Jones put a Glass Bottom on his canoe, Phillip Morell, commercialized the idea and built a glass-bottomed rowboat to sell rides above the crystal clear springs before the turn of the 20th Century.
The springs at Silver Springs became the real attraction here. Silver Springs is one of the world’s largest first magnitude springs, gushing more than 550 million gallons of water a day to form the Silver River. In 1972 Silver Springs was designated a National Landmark.
The clear waters and tropical river banks became a favorite place for Hollywood filmmakers since 1916. Six of the early Tarzan films, starring Johnny Weissmuller, were filmed here, along with the popular TV series “Sea Hunt” starring Lloyd Bridges. Over a 100 movies have been filmed here, including “The Yearling” with Gregory Peck and the classic horror film “Creature from The Black Lagoon.”
Silver Springs Nature Theme Park, one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions, still attracts visitors today with its signature glass-bottom boats showcasing the many spring vents along the bottom of the river. Wild Waters is a great place to take the kids for a day of water slides, rides, sprinklers and pools.
The towns of Silver Springs and Ocala lie at the western end of the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway where charming retro motels, several campgrounds, restaurants and shopping provide a base for exploration of the corridor.
History here dates back to ancient native American tribes. In 1539, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto passed through the Timucuan village of Ocala (“Ocale”), during his trek through the southeastern United States. Ocali, a Timucuan chief during the 1500’s, is thought to be the person from who the name Ocala was derived.
Along Sharpes Ferry Road, a scenic loop at this end of the byway, you’ll find a trailhead for the Cross Florida Greenway, leading you along the Florida Trail through the lush palm hammock of Marshall Swamp. Kayakers and canoeists can launch at Silver River State Park and the Ray Wayside Park to ply waters lined with virtual jungles of vegetation.
Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce
110 E. Silver Springs Blvd.
Ocala, FL 34470-6613