by SHANNON BLANKINSHIP
Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper
Newcomers might not notice it, but Silver Springs has lost much of its luster and is not quite as beautiful as it once was. However, this iconic, Floridian natural landmark is still a magical place worth visiting. Cool, clear water bubbles up from the aquifer below flowing from spring vents into the Silver River, which leads to the Ocklawaha River and eventually to the St. Johns. Unfortunately, each part of this aquatic journey has been altered and continues to get worse. If you remember it as a child, then take your kids to see it now, and if you have yet to visit, go soon. The prognosis is bleak.
Silver Springs was Florida’s first major attraction, bringing in visitors from all over the world to its magical waters. Its popularity flourished after the glass bottom boat was invented there in 1878. By installing a glass viewing-box on the flat bottom of a dugout canoe, a window was created to an underwater world teeming with fish, turtles, crustaceans and fossils more than 10,000 years old. Rhesus monkeys can still be seen on the banks of the springs and river, brought to the area in the 1930s to entertain the Jungle Cruise passengers. Silver Springs was also the backdrop of six classic Tarzan films, Creature from the Black Lagoon, a James Bond film, and the television series, Sea Hunt. Many of these derelict sets remain visible from the river.
The years have certainly taken their toll on Silver Springs, but the movies and tourists aren’t to blame. The glass bottom boats still provide a breathtaking view, but nearly 92% of the fish biomass has disappeared. The flow from the springs has dramatically decreased, algae covers a significant portion of the spring floor, and the water now flashes a hint of green instead of silver. This is due to the impact of encroaching development, overpumping of groundwater, runoff of fertilizer from farms and lawns, and unprecedented growth of the areas that recharge our aquifer.
Florida’s springs face a critical moment: either we continue with business as usual and allow destructive developments like the Adena Springs Cattle Ranch, or we get serious about what we need to do to begin protecting what is left of our springs and “Old Florida” right now.
Learn more about what you can do to Save Silver at www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org.
Save Silver Forum
June 17th, 6-8pm @ Wyndham Downtown Jacksonville Riverwalk
This 2nd annual forum will give updates by a panel of experts on the current conditions of Silver Springs, the Adena Spring Ranch permit, and the science behind the springs crisis. www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/events/silver-springs-and-floridas-imperiled-waters-forum/
July 6th, 10-9pm @ Riverside Arts Market
Join St. Johns Riverkeeper at the Riverside Arts Market for a day featuring SweetWater Brewing Co., live music from Canary in a Coalmine, River Necks, and Grandpa’s Cough Medicine, kids’ crafts, and the arrival of a flotilla including the Expedition Florida 500 gang.