Since the beginning of the 19th century, Silver Springs has been one of Florida’s most treasured natural features. With a first magnitude rating and discharging over 550 million gallons of crystal clear spring water daily, Silver Springs is one of the largest artesian springs that has ever been discovered. There are over thirty total springs in the Silver Springs group, with the largest, named Mammoth Spring at over five feet high and 135 feet wide, supplying approximately 45% of the 550 million gallon flow.
Silver Springs forms the headwaters of Silver River, a 4.5 mile river that flows east from the springs and into the Ocklawaha River, as part of the St. Johns River system.
Silver Springs was one of the first tourist attractions in the state, at one point drawing over one million visitors a year, and became renowned for its glass bottom boat tours. The boat tours showcase the crystal clear spring water and the underwater life that inhabits the waters.
In addition to the glass bottom boat tours, visitors are welcome to canoe or kayak, or simply walk around the headspring on any of the boardwalks. Camping at the state park is also permitted.
Background on Springs
Springs form when groundwater from the aquifer from the aquifer is forced up and onto the surface through openings in the ground. As rainwater falls, it percolates underground which exerts pressure on the water that is already in the aquifer, thus forcing some water to the surface through natural openings, or springs. The highest concentration of springs in Florida occurs in the north-central part of the state, where the Floridan aquifer is closest to the surface.
More springs are found in Florida than anywhere else because of the state’s geology, weather, and ground water flow. The bedrock of Florida is composed of limestone, which is where the Floridan Aquifer is found. This limestone is a very porous rock, which allows water to flow through easily. Additionally, because of the high amount of rainfall that Florida receives annually, the slightly acidic rainwater slowly dissolves away at the porous limestone, creating joints and fractures in the limestone and eventually resulting in the creation of water filled caves and tunnels. Springs then occur when the pressure in the aquifer forces water up through opening to the surface.