Day-tripping to St. Johns River/ Silver Glen State Park
Our Central Florida Boating Destinations article mentions a number of popular day cruise spots, one of them is the St. Johns River. This 311 mile river is just a short 20 mile trailer trip to the east of Mount Dora. While just being on the river makes for a great day, we picked Silver Glen State Park as our destination for a little swimming and snorkeling. No better place to spend a hot Florida afternoon than a cool 1st magnitude spring.
You can watch the video of our day trip to St Johns River HERE!
Since we wanted to enjoy some time on the river sightseeing we decided to launch at Ed Stone Park just a few miles east of Deland on State Highway #44. It’s a short 30 minute drive from the marina. While the boat ramps are steep, they’re in pretty good condition on a quiet cove just off the river so there’s no current to deal with. Parking can be an issue so getting an early start is recommended.
Heading north the slow speed zone ends just around the first bend, about 700 yards or so. One big reason we enjoy using this ramp is the boat ride is absent any slow speed zones till you hit Astor. It’s roughly 20 miles or so of undeveloped, untouched Florida. The only signs of civilization are the occasional channel marker. No houses, towers or power lines. Keep a sharp eye on the shoreline and chances are you’ll see deer, turkeys and even some wild hogs.
Approaching Astor we hit the first of three slow speed zones on the way to Silver Glen. They’re all short, the longest is about ten minutes under the Hwy #40 bridge. If you’re looking for a shorter boat ride to the springs there’s a ramp in Astor just south on the bridge on the west side of the river. Even with the slow speed zones the spring run is only about a 45 minute boat ride from Astor.
Clearing the “Cow Pen”, a break water structure, we’ve entered Lake George. It was named for England’s King George after Florida was purchased from Spain. As with most Florida lakes and rivers, Lake George has a number of very specific ‘personal’ traits and characteristics. It’s the second largest lake in Florida measuring 14 miles long and about 6 miles wide encompassing 46,000 acres. It’s relatively shallow, averaging 6’ to 10’ in the open water, 2’ to 3’ extending several hundred yards from the shoreline. Lastly it has a significant salt content. In fact, the saline level is high enough that numerous salt-water fish like mullet, rays and blue crab thrive in its water
A heading of 320 degrees out of the “Cow Pen” put us right in the Silver Glen Spring Run. Once we enter the run it’s idle speed the entire 3,300 feet to the spring boil. There is a well marked channel forming a circular path in and out. Follow the green and red buoys on your port side to enter. We picked a weekday for our trip so finding a place to anchor in the middle of the run was no problem. Weekends can be a different story. If possible we recommend visiting during the week and avoiding weekends and holidays.
Once anchored the emerald and turquoise waters of the springs are stunning and at a constant 72 degrees quite refreshing on a 93 degree Florida afternoon. The Glen has the cleanest water of all the springs in Northwest Florida. You can actually see rainbows shine across the bottom when the sun hits the clear water just right. The spring’s two vents produce an average 65 million gallons of water daily. Swimming, snorkeling, canoeing are all permitted and there are even a few hiking trails to enjoy.
It’s estimated Silver Glen Springs has been a popular swimming hole for the past 10,000 years or so. Archeologists have found artifacts dating back to pre-Columbian Native American habitation. This was evidenced by several large shell mounds on land around the spring run. These mounds are believed to have been built or accumulated by Native Americans that once lived here. One early account described two mounds, one measured some 900 feet long, 600 feet wide and 25’ tall where the spring run enters Lake George. The other, a “U” shaped mound surrounding the spring boil, is referred to as the “Amphitheater”. Sadly most of the mound was mined away in the 1930’s and 40’s for road building material. From the few mound sites not removed much has been learned about the Timucua Indians and their predecessors.
Just something to think about as you’re relaxing in the cool clean waters of Silver Glen State Park.