When we purchased our kayaks Kyle (the seller) mentioned that they had used them to kayak where wild monkeys lived alongside the river.
Wild monkeys? In Florida? Sounds like a daydream - but I’m a believer!
The place where the monkeys live is interesting in and of itself.
Home of the Glass Bottomed Boats
Silver Springs, Florida proclaims itself the “first tourist attraction in Florida” and the birthplace of the glass-bottomed boat in 1870. Signs around the park talk of an “age of attractions” that all ended once the mouse with the big ears came to the state.
The crystal-clear spring water here not only was the attraction for the boats, it was also the location for several movie shoots including Tarzan, Creature from the Black Lagoon, and several Sea Hunt episodes.
The popular (and more fun) story about the Monkeys is that they were brought in for the Tarzan shoot and escaped.
The more realistic explanation is that they were going to be an attraction for the amusement park but were more mobile and adaptable than expected so didn’t stay put where they were placed initially.
Private Park Turned State Park
The park was, up until last year (2013), both a state park with campground and trails and a private amusement park with the boats, rides, waterslides, and historic exhibits.
Last year the private park vendor bought its way out of the contract amidst slipping profits and the State of Florida took full management of the former amusement grounds.
This move opened up more of the water for kayaking and you can paddle past the now-abandoned amusement park buildings including a Seminole village, a “Cracker” village and an army fort.
We paddled twice - the first time the boy and I went out and while we enjoyed the clear water, the fish, the turtles and the amusement park scenes we didn’t see any monkeys. Asking around we were told they often were seen further down the river.
The second time around it was MsBoyink and I out and being as that a rain front was coming in the wind had picked up quite considerably. This kept us out of the main channel and from going further down where the monkeys were spotted earlier that day (according to the rangers we spoke with on the river). We still enjoyed the trip seeing many turtles and fish.
On the way back to the launch we took a quick side channel that Harrison and I had skipped. MsBoyink spotted a 3.5’ Long Nose Gar which was pretty cool (the only one we saw) but then rounding a corner I started hearing lots of noise in the trees.
I spotted one monkey..then another..then another couple more. We just floated and watched them…and then turned around for another couple of floats past while I took pictures with my iPhone.
Get the Kids
Being close to the launch we paddled back and I ran up to get the kids. They took off in the kayak and also found the monkeys - already in a different place than where MsBoyink and I saw them.
Talking to the rental canoe guys the monkeys are never that close to the launch, or to the construction/demolition that was going on. We got lucky!
Swim With Manatees
During this stay we also did another swim with the manatees at Crystal River (I scored a Groupon deal).
Being so much later in the season there weren’t many to see, but we did have a pair of dolphins come right past our boat feeding. We’ve really scored with wildlife encounters while in Florida - manatees, dolphins, monkeys, sea turtles, wild birds, and the fish we saw while snorkeling in Key Largo.
It’s been a good visit, and we’re stretching it out while we wait for the northern temps to come up and also while we evaluate options for our summer.