June 2017 – We spent two nights in a wonderful cabin at Silver Springs State Park. The cabins are secluded, shaded, and private. They are really large inside, with two huge bedrooms, a large bathroom, a living area, and a kitchen. They each have a wrap around, screened-in porch to enjoy the outdoors without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. The cabins are incredibly clean, and the rangers at the park are very helpful and friendly.
While staying at the cabin, admission to the other side of the park is free. The boardwalk has been finished since our last visit to the park, and it was a very nice, two mile walk twisting over and along the river.
Our last day in the area, intentionally a Monday to avoid some of the boat traffic, was hit and miss weather-wise. Most of the day was overcast, but we decided to go with it and parked at Ray Wayside Park, 5 miles downstream from the headspring. The park costs $5 to park but has bathrooms, two boat launches, and a hand launch. Since the park was nearly empty when we arrived, we utilized the boat launch to drop our kayak into the water. We paddled down the channel and then headed upstream. The current seemed more mild compared to our experiences the year prior. We had no trouble at all paddling against it and made really good time.
We stopped at the ramp two miles from the headspring to use the port-a-potty and stretch our legs. Just after this stop, the sun came out for a couple of hours and the wildlife picked up. We saw tons of birds and turtles. We also came across quite a few alligators, mostly adolescents. We only saw one other group of kayakers during our time on the river.
We paddled around the gorgeous, deep blue water of the headspring for awhile. Then we took the Fort King paddling trail past the abandoned props from the park’s past. We let time get away from us a bit on this leg of our trip, and it was after five when we checked our watches. We still had the five mile trip back to the car, and a storm was moving in fast. We set off at a good speed, pausing for a few moments at the two mile bathroom break.
Around the three mile mark, thunder and lightning began, followed shortly by the start of heavy rainfall. We picked up the pace but then saw an otter swimming in front of us. We paused a couple of minutes to watch as the otter darted off to the bank to enjoy a snack. The storm continued our whole way back down the river. The pace at which we were paddling plus going with the current made the miles back fly by. The rain continued to fall as we loaded up the car and strapped the kayak in place. We were grateful for the bathrooms to towel off and change in since we had a nearly two hour drive home.