Monkey Business on Silver River

    My husband Paul and I paddled our canoe – its multiple leaks patched with generous amounts of duct-tape-- into Silver River State Park, located east of Ocala.

    It proved to be an incredible journey.

    We launched from the Ray Wayside Boat Basin at the western foot of the Ocklawaha Bridge on State Highway 40. We could have launched from the end of the River Trail, but we would have needed to carry the canoe over half a mile to the river, which didn’t sound like our cup of fun. (Also, launching from the Ray Basin, we paddled upstream first, which seemed prudent.)

    The river is incredibly clear and deep in most spots, and it feels as if you are in the middle of a Tarzan movie. Cyprus trees with their knees folding up in huge tangles line the shores, and birds of all kinds call to each other and glide past in the air and on the water and even under the water. The diver types, anhingas, dry their wings by holding them stretched out from their sides as they perch on stumps or trees.

    We saw the biggest gator we’ve even seen in the wild – we’re guessing 13 feet – and enormous fish, plus tons of turtles. And then we spotted the monkeys! They jumped from tree to tree and played; one ran out on a log we pulled up to.

    The monkeys aren’t native, and apparently were placed on an island in the river during the 1930s by a concessionaire who operated the Jungle Cruise boat ride. The monkeys promptly escaped, because they can swim really well. Now they live in the neighboring forest.

    If you want to explore Silver River, too, but you can’t fit your paddles and boat in your suitcase, no worries.  Canoe rentals are available from the park.

    Other park activities include hiking or biking the nature trails and watching the birds and wildlife.

    The picnic area features pavilions with grills and a playground for the youngsters. You can even camp there; the park features a full facility campground and 10 luxury cabins.

    Check out the monkeys!