Historic Silver Springs

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.

Gopher Tortoise by our campsite at Silver Springs State Park

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.

Entering Florida’s Silver Springs park
Glass bottom boat at Silver Springs
Captain Oscar has been working at Silver Springs since the early 1960’s

After the boat tour we wandered around the path next to the springs before taking a walk on the boardwalk trail.

Another day we rented a kayak for a beautiful paddle on the Silver River.

Kayaking the Silver River at Silver Springs
Although there are no more jungle cruises, this fort built for the attraction is still standing
Quiet and peaceful along 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.

Wild Rhesus Monkey along the Silver River in 2009
We spotted this baby Rhesus Monkey beside the river in 2009. He must be all grown up now.

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?

Monkeys in Florida?


The Land of Trembling Earth

Okefenokee – “the Land of Trembling Earth”

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.

The Okefenokee Swamp is one of North America’s most unspoiled natural wilderness areas. According to the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge web page, “the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge has 353,981 acres of National Wilderness Area within the refuge boundaries.

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.

As we rode through the man made canal into the swamp we spied more young gators on the bank enjoying the warm day.

Young alligators on the bank

A large gator checked us out as we exited the canal into the swamp.

Alligator in the Okefenokee

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.

The water winds through ancient cypress trees and water lilies.

Beautiful day in the Okefenokee
Cypress Trees in the Okefenokee



Going Down into Tallulah Gorge

We were warned!

We were warned!

We went anyway.

Going down was the easy part

But only as far as the suspension bridge 80 feet above Hurricane Falls.

Suspension Bridge over Tallulah Gorge Hurricane Falls
Henry crossed to the other side of the gorge

With my fear of heights I could only go a few feet on the bridge. I did manage to see the top of Hurricane Falls.

View of Tallulah Gorge from the suspension bridge
Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge

I handed Henry the camera for some better pictures.

Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge
Looking down on Hurricane Falls from the suspension bridge

I took a picture of the falls from the stairs.

A view of the top of Hurricane Falls from the stairs

And one of Henry looking down from the bridge.

Henry on the suspension bridge above Hurricane Falls

We posed for a selfie before starting back up to the top.

We were smiling before we started back up the stairs to the top
It’s time to go back up the 310 stairs

We made it back to the top after stopping at a few landings and resting on every bench.

I was finally able to capture some fall colors on top of the trail

Younger, braver, and more fit people can cross the bridge to the other side and go down 221 more stairs for a view of Hurricane Falls from the bottom. There is also access to the south rim trail on the other side of the bridge. For us, we are glad we made down and back all in one piece!

Hiking and Waterfalls at Tallulah Gorge

The almost 1,000 foot deep Tallulah Gorge is a spectacular place in the Georgia mountains for hiking and seeing waterfalls.  The hiking trails range from easily accessible rim trails with overlooks of the gorge to a strenuous hike to the gorge floor requiring a permit. After entering the state park we went straight to the Visitor’s Center for a trail map before beginning our trek on the North Rim trail. We stopped at two overlooks with views of the gorge.

Looking down at the suspension bridge above Hurricane Falls
An overlook on the south rim trail on the other side of Tallulah Gorge

On July 18, 1970, tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked across the gorge from this overlook on the north rim to the south rim.

Tightrope walker Karl Wallenda walked a tightrope across the gorge
Wallenda Tower used by Karl Wallenda in his tightrope walk across the gorge in 1970
The Tallulah river at the bottom of Tallulah Gorge
View from one of the North Rim overlooks at Tallulah Gorge State Park

Inspiration Point is the highest point in the park and the trail to get there was was a quarter mile uphill hike. When we got to the top we were happy we decided to do the trail.

On the trail to Inspiration Point
One of the waterfalls as seen from Inspiration Point
View from Inspiration Point
View from Inspiration Point

The good news was it was downhill to return to the North Rim Trail from Inspiration Point. With more waterfalls to see we continued along the north rim to two more overlooks.

20171018Tallulah-Gorge-(61)-L'Eay d'Or Falls
L’Eau d’Or Falls in Tallulah Gorge
L’Eau d’Or Falls in Tallulah Gorge

It was way past lunchtime by then so our last adventure at Tallulah Gorge would have to wait until the next morning. It was time to head back to Dillard for some delicious southern cooking at the Dillard House.

After our late lunch we were done for the day.  Stay tuned for our final adventure at Tallulah Gorge.

Wandering Around America One State at a Time – West Virginia

State 43:

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

West Virginia

West Virginia became the 35th state on June 20, 1863. The Capital is Charleston.

Almost heaven, West Virginia,
Blue ridge mountain, Shenandoah river,
Life is old there, older than the trees,
Younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

– from “Country Roads, Take Me Home” by John Denver

West Virginia is in my blood. My father grew up in a farm house high up in the southern part of the West Virginia Appalachian Mountains during the depression. Way back in the 1700’s my ancestors settled in the part of Virginia that later became West Virginia. Every year of my childhood my brothers and I climbed in the back seat of our family station wagon to travel up the narrow, winding roads up the mountain to spend a week at my grandparent’s house where my father grew up.

I’ve only traveled to West Virginia a few times in my adult life. Over 20 years ago Henry and I traveled to Pence Springs to attend a family reunion. The beautiful old Pence Springs Grand Hotel was our home for the reunion. Through the years the building has been a girl’s school, a resort, and a women’s prison. Since our stay there it has reverted back to a girl’s school.

Pence Springs Grand Hotel
Pence Springs Grand Hotel

The campground at Pipestem Resort State Park was our home for several days of exploring southern West Virginia. Located on the east rim of the Bluestone River Gorge, this scenic park was perfectly located for day trips all around the area.

An aerial tramway takes visitors to the bottom of the 1,200 foot Bluestone Gorge in Pipestem State Park
It’s a long way down to the Bluestone River

One of my ancestors,  Col. James Graham built this home in 1772. One of the oldest and most historic homes in West Virginia, The Graham House Preservation Society maintains the house and tours are available.

Graham House, Summers County
Graham House, Summers County

The New River is one of the oldest rivers on the continent and is one of the few that flows north. Biking trails, hiking trails, and white water rafting are popular activities in The New River Gorge National River. The New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world. We stopped at a few of the overlooks in the park for spectacular views of the river.

The New River flows north
Bridges over the New River
Sandstone Falls on the New River
New River Gorge Bridge is the longest single-span steel arch bridge in the world

We enjoyed walking around historic Hinton and took a drive to the Bluestone Dam.

Bluestone Dam
Bluestone Dam
Hinton, WV Courthouse
John Henry Statue, Talcott, West Virginia

After leaving Pipestem State Park our travels took us through Charleston where we passed by the state capitol on the way through the city.

State capital in Charleston, West Virginia

In another part of West Virginia we toured parts of Harpers Ferry National Historic Park. We were camped at the Harpers Ferry / Civil War Battlefields KOA and took a ranger guided tour of the battlefield at Murphy Farm where Confederate Soldiers captured over 12,000 Union soldiers in September, 1862.

Confederate soldiers climbed up this bank with cannons of the Shenandoah River at the Murphy Farm

Next we strolled around the historic buildings in the town of Harpers Ferry. John Brown’s raid took place here in 1859 and the town changed hands about 8 times during the Civil War. The town is located at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers.  These days it is a popular place for tubing, kayaking and fishing.

Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, West Virginia
John Brown’s Fort at Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, West Virginia
Harpers Ferry
The Shenandoah River at Harpers Ferry is a popular place for tubing an kayaking
Harpers Ferry

To read previous posts about the states featured in this series just click on the state name: Alabama      Alaska      Arizona      Arkansas      California      Colorado     Florida      Georgia      Hawaii        Idaho  Illinois      Indiana      Iowa     Kansas     Kentucky     Louisiana     Maine     Maryland     Massachusetts     Michigan     Minnesota    Mississippi     Missouri     Montana     Nebraska     Nevada      New Hampshire     New Mexico      New York     North Carolina    North Dakota      Ohio     Oklahoma     Oregon     Pennsylvania    South Carolina     South Dakota     Tennessee     Texas     Utah     Virginia   Washington