March 27, 2019
Not long after we arrived in Florida, Mel had read on his Florida Kayaker Forum that people were kayaking down the Silver River and taking pictures of wild monkeys! Wild monkeys?? I didn’t even know there were wild monkeys in Florida—but I wanted to go see for myself. So yesterday was the day we finally decided to make the long two and a half hour drive to Silver Springs State Park and rent a tandem kayak. Mel would paddle in the back and I would take pictures in the front!
Prior to 2013, when the state of Florida bought out the Silver Springs ‘amusement’ Park and merged it with the adjacent state park, canoes and kayaks weren’t allowed along the Silver River. Only the special glass bottom boat ‘jungle cruises’ had access.
The glass bottom boats have been in operation in the park since 1878, and continue today with charming replicas of those vintage tour boats. The monkeys, on the other hand, didn’t become a part of the history of Silver Springs until 1930 when ‘Colonel’ Toohey, who operated a “jungle” tour, placed six rhesus macaques monkeys, indigenous to Central and East Asia, on an island in the river. He didn’t know that these monkeys were good swimmers and they easily escaped the island to flee into the nearby woods where they thrived and multiplied!
The monkeys are a great tourist attraction, but are also a continuing problem. They aren’t as afraid of humans as other animals, and can be quite aggressive. Not surprisingly, a big part of the problem are the tourists– who sometimes feed them. And, as happens with other wild animals (like the alligators here), people are then seen as a source of food. The park has had to close on a few occasions in the recent past due to ‘monkey attacks’. In addition to the physical harm these monkeys can cause, it is believed that about 30 percent of the monkeys carry herpes B, a rare and highly virulent virus that can be deadly to humans.
In spite of all the problems these monkeys present, I sure enjoyed seeing them and taking pictures!
Before doing my research on the history of Silver Springs, there was a lot I didn’t know. The following paragraph contains some of the most interesting things I didn’t know. Some of the shows mentioned here were part of my growing up years, but I had no idea they were all filmed in Silver Springs, Florida!!
In the 1930s, six of the original Tarzan movies, starring Johnny Weissmuller, were filmed on location at Silver Springs. In the late 50s and 60s, the clear water made this the perfect location to film more than a 100 episodes of “Sea Hunt,” starring Lloyd Bridges. “Creature from the Black Lagoon” was filmed here; so were scenes from movies ranging from “Rebel Without a Cause” to James Bond’s “Thunderball.”
Despite the long drive and all the traffic delays around Tampa, it was the best day ever!