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Silver Springs Nature Park Florida
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© Christine Till
Silver Springs near Ocala in central Florida is the largest and one of the most well known of Florida's first magnitude springs. Main Spring, Blue Grotto, and The Abyss are collectively known as The Silver Springs Group and form the headwater of the Silver River. Below the head spring area, numerous smaller springs add additional discharge within the first half-mile of the Silver River. This scenic river is the single largest tributary of the Ocklawaha River.
Due to its naturally crystal-clear water, healthy submerged aquatic vegetation, abundant fish and other wildlife, and its famous glass bottom boats Silver Springs has become an internationally known attraction. Steamboats in 1860 brought the first tourists to Silver Springs, Glass-bottom boat tours started in 1878 and the attraction remained popular for decades. In addition, the spring's crystalline water has provided the perfect underwater backdrop for many Hollywood films and television programs including six Tarzan films, Seahunt, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, The Discovery Channel and many others.
Meanwhile studies have found that 90 percent fewer fish are swimming in the spring compared to the 1950s. And the spring's flow has dropped from 790 cubic feet per second (or about 510 million gallons per day) before 2000 to 535 cubic feet in the past decade.
The loss of flow has brought a lot of recent attention to Silver Springs' plight, especially after an 80-year-old Austria-born billionaire named Frank Stronach proposed pumping 25 million gallons of water a day from the aquifer for a 25,000-acre cattle ranch with its own slaughterhouse. Stronach has recently reduced his request to 5.3 million gallons. The state of Florida has yet to decide on whether to approve his permit.
May 3rd, 2013
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