Sunday, April 13, 2014

Photo-of-the-Week #154 - Silver Glen Springs, Ocala National Forest, Florida, February 2014

My recent trek to Florida provided opportunities for me to visit familiar place I've been to one or more times during my lifetime and to find and explore new places and sites I'd never experienced before. This photo of Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest in north central Florida is actually a crossover. I had been to Ocala National Forest 49 years ago and visited two of the four major fresh water springs, but I had not been to Silver Glen Springs at that time. So, while retracing some of my past experiences, I was able to add a new experience to the list.

As I said, there are four major springs with recreational facilities located in Ocala National Forest. They are Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs, Salt Springs and Silver Glen Springs. During my college days, I met a gal who was a native of Daytona Beach and she became my "Beach Babe" for three summers I went to Florida. The second summer, 49 years ago, I took a couple buddies and she rounded up a couple of her girl friends and we enjoyed two weeks of fun in the sun on the shores of Daytona Beach. She also took us to Alexander Springs and Juniper Springs. I have fond memories from that time and even some photographs stored away in my personal "time capsule." In those earlier days the springs were all still pretty natural and free and open to the public. Since that time, perhaps, fortunately, or maybe not, the springs have been taken over by concessionaires who have, to a fair degree, commercialized them.

My visits to Alexander Springs and Juniper Springs, the sites of my youthful romp, were, while still quite beautiful, disappointing. They didn't seem to resemble what my 49-year-old memories recalled. My first time visit to Salt Springs was also disappointing and it was probably the most commercialized. Please don't get me wrong. All three of these sites were quite beautiful and I highly recommend everyone to visit them if you're in that area. But, the natural, untouched beauty I recall had been changed. Okay, I know! Everything changes constantly. I'm sure there are even parts of the Grand Canyon that are different today than they were to someone who had visited them 50 years ago.

However, my visit to Silver Glen Springs was refreshing. Of the four springs, Silver Glen was in the most natural state. It brought back the familiar memories I had from my early visits to Alexander and Juniper. I spoke with a member of the concession staff about why Silver Glen hadn't been "improved" and he told me that the concessionaire had started to improve the site for recreational use, but early into the planned changes human remains were discovered on the grounds. This immediately put a stop, apparently permanently, to further improvements. It appears that the Silver Glen area is part of a sacred burial ground for an American Indian tribe. So, thankfully, our government has enough respect for those people who inhabited this country before the Europeans arrived to leave sites like this undisturbed.

You can see from the photo that the water is crystal clear, the bottom is white sand and the temperature of the water is a constant 72 degrees. Even though Ocala National Forest is in the northern section of Florida, it is still quite tropical as far as the foliage. Bears, boars, foxes, alligators, deer, a wide variety of birds, snakes and lizards are among the indigenous species of wild life that populate this area. And, of course, they are protected. While I didn't cross paths with any alligators, snakes, bears or boars, all of which can be dangerous to humans, I did see a number of lizards and many species of birds. You can see by the sign that scuba diving is prohibited, however, snorkeling is not. The actual springs where the water reaches the surface from the underwater aquifers are usually quite large and can easily be seen, although none in this photo.

I was here in February and there were very few people at any of the springs in the winter. They are quite popular in the summer, however, and you'd have to contend with a lot of people. I did see people swimming in the springs and the water temperature didn't feel much different than the air temperature. But, during the summer when the temperature might be 95 degrees, diving into that 72-degree water is like jumping into a tub of ice water. I tell you that from personal experience. If you're in Florida and in the area of Ocala National Forest, I highly recommend setting some time aside to enjoy these natural wonders, especially Silver Glen Springs. 

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