Tourists have been traveling to Silver Springs to see the crystal clear water since the early 1800’s. One of Florida’s first tourist attractions, the first glass bottom boat tours began in the late 1870’s. During the 1900’s the attraction grew to include a jungle cruise and animal exhibits.
Silver Springs was a popular filming location for Hollywood during the 1900’s. Some of the films shot there include several Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller, the 1954 version of Creature from the Black Lagoon, and Moonraker (a James Bond movie). It was also a location for the TV series Sea Hunt. Some of the sets still exist around the property.
In 1971, Silver Springs was named a National Natural Landmark. Today, Silver Springs State Park is owned and operated by the state of Florida. The state operates the famous glass bottom boats now but there are no more jungle cruises. Visitors can walk beside the springs or sit in one of the rocking chairs to enjoy the view. There are boardwalks and trails as well as a boat launch area with canoe and kayak rentals.
This is one of our favorite Florida state parks and we wanted to spend a few days there to unwind after the excitement of the Daytona 500. We were able to reserve our favorite campsite and I was glad to see it hadn’t change much. There was gopher tortoise hole right next to the campsite just like I remembered and the resident tortoise paid us a visit our first night.
One day we drove over to the main entrance of the park for a ride on one of the famous glass bottom boats. Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s and had lots of interesting stories about the park.
A look through the glass bottom boat
These statues were featured in a tv show and a movie
After the boat tour we wandered around the path next to the springs before taking a walk on the boardwalk trail.
Boardwalk trail at Silver Spriings
The trunk of this palm tree looks like a corkscrew
An unusual looking palm tree in the Silver River
Another day we rented a kayak for a beautiful paddle on the Silver River.
I felt like I was in one of the old Tarzan movies as I walked along the river trail near the campground.
Back in the 1930s during the day of the Jungle Cruise boat ride, the operator of the ride brought in a group of wild rhesus monkeys to use as part of the attraction. Not knowing they could swim, he left them on one of the islands beside the Silver River. When he later returned to the island he was surprised to see they were gone. The monkeys are still living in the area and are often seen by visitors.
Although we didn’t see any of the monkeys on this visit, we saw many of them when we kayaked down the Silver River in 2009.
The monkeys can be very aggressive at times. All around the park are signs warning about the danger of feeding the monkeys. Now where else in the United States would you see a sign like this?
What better way to begin our winter southern adventure than a stop in one of our favorite state parks, Stephen C. Foster State Park in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Much of the swamp is covered with thick peat deposits. The early Native Americans named the area Okefenokee which means “land of trembling earth” because they felt the movement of the peat beneath their feet as they walked.
There were deer in the campground every day. One day we took a walk on the boardwalk nature trail near the marina and watched an egret searching for food.
We always enjoy going out in a boat to explore the swamp. On our last visit we enjoyed our ranger guided boat tour so much we decided to go on another tour. While waiting for the tour to begin we wandered around the boat ramp and discovered Mama gator Sophie lounging by the ramp with some of her babies hanging out nearby.
Mama Sophie by the boat ramp with her babies nearby
As we rode through the man made canal into the swamp we spied more young gators on the bank enjoying the warm day.
A large gator checked us out as we exited the canal into the swamp.
After a few days of cloudy skies and chilly days the sun was starting to warm things up. The warmer weather brought out plenty of wildlife.
Cormorant in the Okefenokee
Alligator in the Okefenokee
Alligators enjoying some warm weather
Turtle in the swamp
Hanging out in the Okefenokee
The water winds through ancient cypress trees and water lilies.
Snow and ice storms are rare in coastal Georgia. The last time we had snow that stuck was a few days before Christmas in 1989.
The freezing rain and snow that came through on January 3, 2018 caused road and bridge closures. Schools were out and government offices were closed. Coastal Georgia was transformed into a winter wonderland.
Welcome to the next post in my series highlighting states we have visited throughout the years. I hope you will enjoy coming along for the ride!
I will be featuring the states alphabetically. The next state in my series is
Washington became the 42nd state on November 11, 1889. The Capital is Olympia.
Our first journey through the state of Washington began when we crossed the state line from Idaho heading west. After a quick night in Spokane we drove across the plains of south east and central Washington. On both sides of the highway were fields of sweet corn, alfalfa, potatoes and spearmint. Later in the day the flat land changed to rolling hills. We stopped at the Columbia River Gorge for a look before crossing the river.
After another quick stay at a campground outside of Seattle, we drove through Olympia and began our journey on Hwy 101 to the Olympic Peninsula. For many miles we traveled along the Hood Canal before arriving in Port Angeles to explore Olympic National Park.
A drive to the top of Hurricane Ridge was the first thing on our agenda. It was sunny when we started the ascent up the winding road but it wasn’t long before the snow started coming down. When we arrived at the top the snow was deep and there were snow boarders and cross country skiiers enjoying the snow. The view of the mountains was spectacular.
Another day we drove by Crescent Lake on the way to the Hoh Rain Forest. When we arrived at the National Park entrance we were disappointed to find it closed. After making a few purchases at a small store a few miles from the entrance we found out there was a trail head just outside the park so off we went to explore the trail. There had been a big storm the previous year and there were many trees down.
After our hike, we passed by a field with Roosevelt Elk on the drive back to the campground.
Dungeness Harbor was nearby so one night we went for dinner at the Three Crabs (the restaurant is now closed). There was a great view of the New Dungeness Lighthouse and were able to watch the sun go down.
Leaving Port Angeles in our rear view mirror we continued our journey through Washington on Hwy 101. As we drove south along the coast we caught our first glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. Hoping to find a parking space big enough for our truck and fifth wheel, we turned off the highway into a parking area at Ruby Beach in Olympic National Park. Success! It was a little tight but there was space to park and turn around to get back to the highway. After going down a short path to the beach we enjoyed our first walk beside the Pacific Ocean.
We continued down the coast to our next stop, Cape Disappointment Sate Park on the Long Beach Peninsula. It quickly became one of our all time favorite state park campgrounds. Our site was spacious with with a path behind the site. Inside the state park there were trails to explore, beautiful beaches, two lighthouses, magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean from high atop cliffs, and a Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. The first order of business to walk down the path and we were thrilled to step out onto a beautiful beach with a view of the North Head Lighthouse.
Lewis and Clark first spotted the Pacific Ocean while is the area and there is evidence of the their presence in and out of the state park. We learned a lot about their journey at the excellent Interpretive Center in the state park.
Lewis and Clark monument on the McKenzie Trail
Lewis and Clark first sighted the Pacific Ocean near here and camped in the area
We explored some of the nearby towns and beaches on the Long Beach Peninsula. We ate our fill of local seafood at some of the restaurants in the area. Blondie loved running on the dog friendly beaches.
We loved the two lighthouses at Cape Disappointment State Park.
Our first Washington adventure ended when we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. Several years later we returned to Washington on our return trip from Alaska. After a couple of nights in Orroville just south of the border from British Columbia our route took us past more beautiful scenery and the Grand Coulee Dam.
Claytor Lake State Park has been a frequent camping destination since we have been RV’ing and is one of our favorite state parks with a beautiful lake, trails, and wildlife.
Seeing the Natural Bridge requires either a walk down many steps to a paved path or taking a shuttle drive down the hill to the beginning of the path. Either way it is worth it to see this amazing natural formation.