February 21, 2018—“Memories, like the corners of my mind, misty water-colored memories, of the way we were…”
The lyrics of Barbra Streisand’s song rang clear as Jim and I paid admission to Silver Springs State Park and boarded a glass-bottom boat. Jim said he had been there when he was a small boy. Likewise, I remember when I was here: It was the same vacation when we we went to see the mermaids frolic in the clear waters at Weeki Wachee Springs.
|Pan fish seen through the glass-bottomed boat.|
Both Silver Springs and Weeki Wachee were private entertainment centers back then. The company that owned Silver Springs offered it at a bargain to the State of Florida in 1993. The state also turned Weeki Wachee into a state park in 2008.
It must have been in 1950 or 1951 when my parents loaded up the car with me, my older sister Judy, and my younger brother John. I remember that Johnny was probably a toddler, so I had to have been no older than 5 or 6. We drove all the way down to Miami Beach, where we played in the ocean, and along the way down (or back home), we stopped in these tourist areas.
Silver Springs actually has a number of different springs that spew water from the aquifer to form the river. The waters are crystal clear and, according to the guide, about 98% pure. The tour allows guests to see the springs (yes, you can actually see the springs gushing water from the aquifer into the river), as well as the various fresh-water fishes, such as blue gill, bass, and fresh-water mullet.
When I took the glass-bottomed boat ride 65 years ago, the boats seemed magical. The center of the boat had a clear glass plate; you could see down into the depths of the waters, watching fish go by, and if you were lucky, some manatees. To a child, this was pretty exciting, almost as good as being able to dive right into the water itself and swim with the fish. We also oohed and aahed over alligators, as well as turtles and assorted “foreign” birds (foreign because they did not live in the northern climates of the Midwest). Now, of course, alligators, turtles, cranes and cormorants are commonplace to me, as a long-time transplant to Florida. They remain, however, fascinating to watch.
The boats are the same as they were years ago. But the spring beds are not. Because of fertilizer runoff, the white sandy floors of the springs are dying with algae. The turtles and alligators come out of the water with their shells covered in algae. As they dry off, the algae does too, and it washes away when they dive back into the cool waters.
The springs are also endangered today because the aquifers are threatened by possible fracking as well as from being sucked dry by the continually growing Florida population.
I’m glad we took the glass-bottomed boat tour. It is not the same as it was so long ago, but then nothing is. The magic is gone, but going to Silver Springs brought back memories, and that counts for a lot.
Until next time,
Your Reluctant RoVer,