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A common greeting among yakers on my Silver River trip was, “Have you seen any monkeys?”  Everyone seemed to be looking for the elusive rhesus monkeys.  I heard stories of large groups (bands? herds?) of these monkeys jumping from tree to tree or lining the river, staring (daring?) at the paddlers.  However, I saw nary a one.

Silver River

There have been several explanations for the existence of the rhesus monkeys in this area.  Boning writes that the population of these monkeys may date back to the 1930s when the operators of a sightseeing boat released several monkeys.   Huff repeats three monkey theories: one, that they began as escapees from a medical research lab; two, that they were purposely populated for the tourists; and three, that they were part of the old Tarzan movies filmed on the river in the mid 1900s.  Ohr writes that there is an unconfirmed report of escapees from the Ross Allen attraction that may have added to this monkey business.

(Originally posted July 2010)

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Orh lists the Silver River as one of the top five “must paddle” rivers in Florida.  I put in at the Wilderness Campgrounds on Highway 40 and paddled a short distance on the Ocklawaha River until it met the Silver River.  (The Silver River pours into the Ocklawaha River here.  It was easy to distinguish the Ocklawaha River and the Silver River by the color of the water.)  From this point, the 4.5 miles to Silver Springs was against the current—a laborious paddle to the Springs but a breeze of a return trip. 

The Scenic Silver River

The entire 10-mile trip took me seven hours to paddle!  Of course, I stopped on a couple river banks to wade in the clear spring water and cool off, and I slowed down to take a picture or two and to watch the wildlife.  It was a lovely day; I wanted to stay forever.  What a beautiful river!

The Silver River is wider than the Wekiva, but not by much.  It doesn’t have the overgrowth of lilies as the Wekiva does, so there is plenty of room for small boats, canoes, and kayaks to share the river.  If you look at it on the map, you see how it continuously turns.  What you don’t see is that around every turn is a beautiful picture.  That added to the time it took me to reach the Springs.  I often kayaked with my feet in the water to keep cool, but I was not tempted to jump in. The fast moving water and the deep holes with long eel grass did not tempt me.

The first glass-bottomed boat appeared on the Silver River in the late 1800s, and for those of you who don’t know or remember, the old black and white Tarzan movies were filmed there.  Seriously, I’m not sure it has changed much; at times, I could squint and picture Tarzan swinging from the trees; I felt that back to nature.  And who needs glass-bottomed boats? I could see the bottom through the crystal clear water.  Petrified, fallen trees like relics from sunken ships decorated the bottom of the river.  The eel grass and other water grasses clung, moving with the water and giving it an eerie appearance.

My paddle was quiet.  A few small motor boats passed me during the day, and only a few other kayakers and canoers appeared.  For awhile, I paddled with two women from Gainesville.  A common greeting among kayakers seemed to be, “Good morning.  Have you seen any monkeys?”  Everyone seemed to be looking for the rhesus monkeys that inhabit the area.  (I never did see one.)

The scenic trip included plentiful bird wildlife: ibis, cormorants, anhingas, egrets, and herons.  Turtles sunned on the logs, and cow lilies and water hemlock outlined the river along with cypress and cabbage palms.  Occasionally, a large fish jumped.  I saw only one small alligator on my way back.  I had to spin around to get a picture of him.  He was sunning on a log and wasn’t moving for anyone.

I agree with Ohr.  Silver River is, without a doubt, a “must paddle” river!

(Outfitter: Colby Woods at Wilderness RV Resort, 10313 East Highway 40, Silver Springs, FL. (352) 625-1122)

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