In the 1820s, the springs became a tourist attraction for adventurous visitors who poled their way along the narrow stream through overhanging cypress and Spanish moss. With the invention of the paddlewheel, Silver River and Springs became a distribution center for Central Florida. Plantations growing vegetables, tobacco and oranges sprang up along the banks as nearby Ocala grew. In the late 1870s, Phillip Morrell fixed a piece of glass in the bottom of a rowboat and a new enterprise began. Silver River's glass-bottom boat tours have been world famous for more than over 100 years.
This early view of the Silver River shows what has attracted people to the area for thousands of years: abundant water, wildlife and beautiful scenery.
The Silver River Museum and Environmental Center and Silver Springs State Park both opened to the public in 1987. For several years, however, the Silver River Museum and Education Center was the only developed area at the park. The continued relationship with the park and the Marion County School Board has given many local school children the opportunity to participate in environmental education programs at the Center.
The Cracker Village at the Silver River Museum and Education Center consists of a reconstructed Cracker house and several other structures representing the life of early pioneers in Central Florida.
The entrance station, completed in 2000, was one of the first park buildings constructed at Silver Springs. Since that time, a campground, cabins, picnic area with playground and a canoe and kayak launch have been added, providing additional recreational opportunities for park visitors.