Silver Springs Nature Theme Park is an amusement park located in Silver Springs, Florida which is a little east of Ocala which is home to its ‘sister’ amusement park, Wild Waters.
The land and surrounding area upon which the amusement park is based, formerly the home of the Timucuan and Seminole Indians, has a history of providing entertainment that goes back to the 1870s, just after the American Civil War, when a glass bottom boat in the form of a dugout canoe with glass fixed to the bottom was introduced to enable visitors to gain a spectacular view of the springs. This attracted several U.S. presidents including Ulysses S. Grant and Calvin Coolidge as well as bringing other visitors to the area.
Colonel Tooey, who was a concessionaire responsible for operating the Jungle Boat Ride at the amusement park back in the 1920s, had an idea for attracting more visitors to the ride and to achieve this, he introduced a group of wild rhesus monkeys to an island in the Silver River in the 1930s. This did indeed bring in extra visitors to the amusement park but what he failed to realise was that these monkeys were excellent swimmers and ended up escaping and forming separate colonies along the river.
The land on which the amusement park is now based has been consistently used as a location for film and TV shows over the years. Tarzan was filmed here in the 1930s and, because of the clarity of the water at the amusement park, several underwater scenes in some of the James Bond movies have also been shot at the amusement park as well as episodes of the famous TV series ‘Six Million Dollar Man’.
In the 1980s, the amusement park’s remote location from the main interstate highways was in danger of putting it at risk from housing developers until the state of Florida stepped in and decided to turn it into a state park. They then leased the land back to a private management company, currently Palace Entertainment, which have since been acquired by Parques Reunidos who run the amusement park.
Glass Bottom Boats have remained popular at the amusement park ever since the first one was introduced around 140 years ago. They take visitors on a tour of the Silver River to look at the wildlife and river springs. The Fort King River Cruise pays tribute to the amusement park’s rich history. Whilst cruising along the Fort King Waterway, this attraction re-enacts many historical scenes from Silver Springs’ past. You can also go on a Jeep ride at the amusement park called the Wilderness Trail Ride which takes you on a tour of the forest where you can observe a vast range of animal species before visiting the World of Bears at the amusement park which houses one of the world’s largest collections of bears.
There are other great animal attractions at the amusement park including the Big Gator Lagoon, Ross Allen Island, where you can observe otters, turtles, native snakes and other animals and Panther Prowl which gives you a rare opportunity to photograph a Western Cougar which is related to the endangered Florida panther which is the USA’s largest cat. For lovers of natural beauty and wildlife, this amusement park is a ‘must see’.
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