Silver Springs State Park (River Side)
Bushnell, FL – Events of Monday, February 3, 2013
From the Spring Side of Silver Springs State Park, we hopped in the car and drove a little over a mile south on State Route 35 to the River Side entrance. The $8 entrance fee we paid at the Spring Side was also good at River Side.
River Side has picnic areas, numerous hiking trails, a museum, a cracker village and a campground. We drove through the campground, and it’s pretty nice. Sites are spacious with palmettos and underbrush between them for privacy. There are about 60 sites with water and electric hookups. Most of the sites only have 30-amp electric, but there are a handfull with 50 amps. There were lots of empty sites.
Unfortunately, the museum and cracker village are only open to the public on weekends. They are operated by the Marion County School District in cooperation with the state park, and they are used for school groups during the week. There were two school buses in the parking lot when we were there.
Since the museum and village were closed, we decided to take one of the hiking trails. There are a couple of trails that end up at the Silver River, a trail called Swamp Trail, another called Sinkhole Trail plus a couple of other trails. We opted to do part of Sinkhole Trail.
The trails are fairly well marked, but we were apparently doing Sinkhole Trail loop backwards because all the trail markers were facing the opposite way. We picked up the trail at the main parking lot near the cracker village, and we could see some of the buildings in the village as we passed by.
Cracker is a term that was applied to English and American settlers in Florida in the 1700s. There is debate as to where the term “cracker” came from; but in Elizabethan England, “crack” (or Gaelic craic) was a term that referred to superfluous or entertaining conversation. This is where we get the saying “to crack a joke.” Early settlers in Florida raised cattle and were known as cracker cowmen. Therefore, the name “cracker” could also refer to the cracking of their whips as they rounded up their herds. Although cracker can have negative connotations in some circles, the term is still proudly used today by native Floridians to indicate their family has resided in Florida for many generations.
The sandy trail passed through pine and palmetto woods. Fortunately, the school groups were busy in the museum and at the cracker village, so the trail was nice and quiet with only bird sounds and the crunching of sand and pine needles underfoot.