Fort King Waterway is a little side trail on the way to Silver Springs. In 2013, Silver River State Park and Silver Springs Nature Theme Park combined to become Silver Springs State Park. This merger opened the Fort King Waterway to paddling for the first time since the late 1800s.
The waterway was formerly the setting of a jungle cruise for the theme park, and you will see some remnants of attractions along the way.
Silver Springs was the site of old Hollywood productions such as the 1930s and ’40s “Tarzan” movies with Johnny Weissmuller, and “Creature from the Black Lagoon” from 1954.
We continued to kayak along the Silver Springs River. It is such an amazing place. We saw manatees, gators, turtles, birds, ducks, and even monkeys. The clear waters let you see the bottom of the river in most places. As you paddle, you can see turtles and fish swim by. It's a magical experience.
In the 1930’s, the manager of a glass bottom boat operation reportedly released six rhesus macaques on an island in the Silver River to attract tourists to his boat tours. The released monkeys swam to the surrounding forests and increased their numbers rapidly. As the popularity of these monkeys grew among tourists, the owner of Silver Springs Park released an additional six monkeys around 1948 on the north shore of the river in another attempt to boost revenue. Since then, the population of rhesus macaques in the Silver Springs area and lands adjoining the Ocklawaha River has grown to upwards of 400 individuals at times. Some private trapping and removal efforts have helped keep the population from drastically increasing over the years. As of 2015, the population inside Silver Springs State Park was estimated at 190 macaques, with the population along the Ocklawaha River at an unknown size.
We were SO lucky to have seen the monkey's while there. On our first day, we watched several monkey's around mile marker 3.2. We watched one money climb a tree and jump to another tree on the other side of the river and run down and off into the distance. It was an amazing site to see. One money was scratching his back up against a tree. They are very good at blending in with the trees and hard to see if they are not moving.
On day 2 of kayaking we made it to the inlet for the boat launch. We thought we weren't going to see monkeys that say. We had maybe a football field till we got to the launch, it was our last chance. I look to the right and I see a monkey standing on a little hill at the bottom of the trees. I was so excited.
He climbed up the tree and then another one appeared and climbed the tree. They sat there for awhile taking in the people kayaking by. One monkey kept playing with himself. LOL We sat there and watched them for a little while. I could watch them all day long.
Then one monkey climbed to the top of the tree and out to the branches over the river. It was to far to jump to the trees on the other side like the monkey the day before. We thought he would just look and realize he couldn't make it and go back. Then we heard a SPLASH!! He had jumped from the tree into the river and then swam to the shore, climbed up a tree and walked off. It was so crazy to see. I couldn't believe he did that. Next thing we know, monkey 2 climbed up the tree. We thought, no way he was going to try it after the other monkey didn't make the jump to the other side. Yup, you guessed it. He too, took a giant leap into the river. He swam to the shore and climbed up a bunch of branches hanging from the trees. He followed his friend into the distance.
I couldn't believe what we just witnessed. How could we be so lucky. It was such a rush of adrenaline to see. God's creatures are amazing. What a wonderful way to end our time in FL. I didn't want to leave, I could float the river every day.