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Make a Splash in Ocala/Marion County’s Freshwater Springs

Even with the chill of autumn in the air, Ocala/Marion County’s freshwater springs remain at a constant 72 degrees, the perfect temperature for a picturesque tour downriver or an encounter with the area’s underwater wildlife. Explore miles of scenic waterways by canoe, kayak or boat and discover even more adventures to be had beyond what’s on-land.

Salt Springs Recreation Area, located in the Ocala National Forest, is a popular recreation site among visitors. Snorkel the invigorating spring for close encounters with fish and other aquatic creatures inhabiting the area. In cool weather, you may even luck out and see a manatee or two as they move toward the warmer waters of the spring from larger, colder bodies of water. The four-mile long Salt Springs Run flows toward Lake George from the headwaters at Salt Springs so be sure to paddle the run in your canoe or kayak. Salt Springs Recreation Area includes everything from primitive camping to hookups for RVs, restrooms and picnicking areas and hiking trails including the 1.5 mile Bear Swamp Trail, an easy hike through pinelands and riverine swamp within the spring basin.

One of the oldest and most popular springs in the Ocala National Forest is Juniper Springs Recreation and Campground. While there, you’ll undoubtedly want to take an invigorating dip in the tree-lined, turquoise waters of the swimming area as you enjoy the sights and sounds of nature. If you plan on spending the night, you can set up camp at one of 78 campsites and round out your adventure with a hike through nature trails and a visit to the historic mill house museum. You definitely won’t want to miss the opportunity to canoe or kayak down the seven mile long Juniper Springs Run, ranked as one of the best runs in the nation.

Silver Springs has been a treasured Florida landmark since the late 1800s. Located in Ocala, Silver Springs is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Ocala National Forrest.” It’s famous glass-bottom boats still run today, showing off the abundant aquatic life that flourishes in this first magnitude artesian spring. Though swimming isn’t allowed in the springs, you can explore them by kayak and canoe, giving you an up-close and personal view of the marine life. Keep your eyes open for some native, exotic Florida wildlife while you’re at Silver Springs—you’ll see plenty of fish and may see some turtles, alligators and other native wildlife, as well as monkeys! Rhesus monkeys have lived around the springs since the 1930s, when the original Tarzan movies were filmed.

Rainbow Springs is a crystal clear, first magnitude freshwater spring, producing half a million gallons of water ever day. Located in Dunnellon, Rainbow Springs is the fourth largest spring in Florida. Swimming, snorkeling or paddling these unbelievably clear waters is a pleasure and the abundance of wildlife makes for outstanding hiking and birding. In fact, the park is a part of the Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and reports that woodpeckers, owls, hawks, heron and other wading birds are some of the birds commonly seen on the trail. Take advantage of one of the 60 fully equipped campsites in the newly renovated campground located about a mile and a half downstream.

To develop personalized travel itinerary, including visits to these Central Florida landmarks, book accommodations and learn more about the destination, visit