Silver Springs State Park - Janet Bellacera




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Open 7 days a week, including holidays

8:00 am - Sundown

$2.00 per person

*** Disclaimer ***

     I don't normally do this, but I have to give you a major disclaimer for this blog.  Silver Springs State Park  is the one, and only Florida State Park that you can see monkeys in the wild, loose, no cages, no bars, no barriers.  In order to enjoy nature and have the opportunity to see them, you must know a few things before you head out on your adventure.  Everyone is to hike at their own risk and understand that these monkeys can be unpredictable as are all wild animals.  Here are tips from the park to stay safe and enjoy your hike.

-  Do Not feed them

-  Do Not approach them

-  Do Not touch them

-  Do Not point at them

-  Do Not smile at them with your teeth

-  Do Not allow them to surround you

-  Do Not come off of the marked trails

-  Do Not enter the tree line

-  Do Not allow children and pets to run free

     All pictures taken during this trip were taken using a zoom lens, on the trail.  I did not follow them or harass them, I just stood quietly and watched as they interacted with each other.  They are very curious and they will come pretty close to you.  There were many babies in this family and several large males.  Once the males made there way down the trees and began to walk towards me, I decided it was time to go.               

     So now that we got that out of the way...let me start by saying this is one cool State Park.  The entire purpose of making the 2 hour drive from Orlando was to see the monkeys.  The day we decided to go it was pretty cold out, I wasn't sure if we would see them or not.  I had heard recently that many people were out kayaking and saw them very easily but kayaking was out of the question because of how cold it was.  So we decided to just take our chances and hike the park.  Keep in mind that Silver Springs State Park is divided into 2 separate areas, the main entrance and the camping section.  We decided to check out the main entrance first.  When we pulled up you definatley get the sense that this use to a one of Florida first tourist attractions.  Silver Springs has been a natural landmark since the 1870's and still attracts visitors each year.  Here is where you will find the glass bottom boats offering tours throughout the day.                     

     After you are done with your glass bottom boat ride it's time to set out on foot to explore the rest of the park.  Silver Springs offers kayak, canoe and paddle boat rentals, or you can bring your own.  If getting out on foot is more your style then go ahead and take in one of the many trails and hikes offered at the park ranging in 1/2 mile to over 3 miles long.  We decided to try hikes at both the main entrance the the camping entrance.  Both hikes offered the opportunity to get out and get one with nature.  We saw several hawks, wading birds, swamps, birds, turtles and monkeys while on our hike.  The diverse ecosystem that surround the park is incredibly interesting, at one point you are hiking through the woods and in the blind of an eye you are river side.    

     The number one thing that drives visitors to this park are the monkeys that roam free.  We did ask Rangers at the park where we could see them, and often times we got very vague answers and were told that we most likely would not see any because of the cold temps.  You definitely got the sense that they do not want this advertised or encouraged.  I do recall that recently several parts of the trails had been closed due to the monkey's aggressive behavior towards visitors.  Right now the park has about 200 or more Rhesus monkeys living in and around the Silver Springs State Park.  Warning signs are posted through out the park but I am sure that the aggressive behavior is due to visitors not heeding the warning and not using common sense.  It's a shame, because the monkeys did not ask to be here, they were brought here in 1930's by someone who owned a river cruise and thought it was a good idea to bring monkeys native to Central and East Asia to live in Central Florida, pretty soon the monkeys got loose and ended up in Silver Springs.  I think that people still believe these wild animals are an attraction and since they are small and terribly cute they think they can treat them like pets.     

     We set out on our hike and about a mile into the hike I heard branches snapping in the distance, and sure enough right from the woods a small female monkey emerged.  She was super calm and curious, she came right from the tree line and sat on a tree stump.  As I became super nervous about capturing the perfect image, several others began to emerge.  My husband, daughter and I stood close together and just watched.  Pretty soon, an entire family of monkeys were playing in the trees, babies were hanging high up in the canopy, and several monkeys were walking on the trail about 100 feet from us.  We were the only ones on the trail at the time.  We spent about 30-40 minutes just watching.  We decided that it was time to hike back once we saw several large male monkeys come from the trees and just sit and watch us.  Aside from the obvious male parts, the adult males have red faces.  They were definatly more agitated and dominant than the females.  While the females just foraged and sat, the males body language was completely different...they paced, they watched, they ran from the tree line towards the path and just stood there.  That was our sign to leave...

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