The Ocala National Forest and paddling with monkeys


The Ocala National Forest, located north of Orlando, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi and the second largest national forest in Florida with 672 square miles.  Salt Springs campground, with full hookups, has been our home for the past 7 days. 

The forest has 4 major springs: Salt Springs-named for it’s composition of magnesium, potassium and sodium, Alexander Springs, Juniper Springs with a daily flow rate of 13 million gallons and Silver Glen Springs, flow rate of 65 million gallons. The first three springs have campgrounds and Silver Glen has picnic and swimming area.

Paddling our kayaks has been top priority.  A recent trip took us outside of the forest to the Silver River which flows out of Silver Springs.  This paddle has been on my bucket list for years as I wanted to see the Rhesus monkeys that were, reportedly, often spotted  on the river.  The monkeys are descendants from those turned loose during the 30’s.  It seems that local promoters thought they would make the river trip a more tropical adventure!

Five miles paddling upstream against a 2 to 3 mile per hour current seemed a bit too strenuous for our abilities, so I was hoping we could fight the current for two hours and then float back.  And we did! 


Think blue skies, smooth water,  palm trees and banks full of water lilies with an occasional alligator lying half hidden in the foliage.



IMG_1079         IMG_1080

Almost every log was full of turtles.



Lots of birds!  Ibis, cormorants, egrets, great and little blue herons and moorhens.  I missed seeing the river otter that came up alongside of hubby’s boat.  And the monkeys were spotted!  A large family, 9 or 10, were in the top of a tree hanging over the river.  I steered to the opposite side having been warned of the possibility of one landing in the boat with us!


Little Blue Heron




IMG_1113      Egret


Water HyacinthsIMG_1081

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I always hesitate to id unfamiliar plants but I believe that the water lily or hyacinth is an invasive plant from South America…..and saw that Florida spends 15 million a year trying to control it.  The other flower maybe pickerel weed.

We stopped at the two hour mark, got out our lunch and ate while drifting back down the river.


Two tired senior paddlers went to bed very early that night!


  1. Love your pictures and the entertainment you provided with them. So much to see that a lot of us don't see. Great post.

  2. Thanks, Emily. Hearing your kind words makes dealing with the ornery internet worth while! Hope you are staying healthy!

  3. Sorry, Cozy Girl, I hit something wrong and deleted your comment!

    We are enjoying ourselves......almost feel guilty!

  4. Wow! That's Florida from a perspective I've never seen before!

  5. Glad that I could share it with you.
    Do hope that the rain stops and some beautiful sunny weather comes your way.

  6. Looking good. When we visited Silver Springs and their glass bottomed boats many years ago, they told us the monkeys were leftovers from the Tarzan movies that were filmed at the springs during the 30's. I remember the tour boat operator feeding them as we cruised down the river from the springs. Sure would be exciting to have one jump down on your kayak.:-)

    1. I read that! And then read the other story...I like the Tarzan story best.

      There were warnings that the monkeys bite and they also may shower you with their urine...so took no chances.

      I have a vague memory of my grandparents taking me for a ride in the glass bottomed boat...too many years ago....

  7. GREAT post about the area and terrific photo's...makes me want to hitch up right now and leave...but as I said...you Guys just outlined my "Fall" trip...heha!! Horst

  8. Not sure what the temps or bugs would be like here in the fall....we have always been here in February...before this year.

    It is a definite "must see".