Wheelchair Accessible Boat Joins Fleet at Silver Springs

Maiden Voyage of Chief Potackee

The first wheelchair-accessible glass bottom boat has joined the fleet at Silver Springs State Park.

On Aug. 26, 2021, Florida State Parks joined with the Florida State Parks Foundation and other partners to dedicate the vessel, Chief Potackee-Betty Mae Tiger Jumper.

Glass bottom boats have wowed visitors at Silver Springs since the 1870s. In the past, the boats have not accommodated visitors who use a wheelchair.

Now, a wheelchair-accessible boat is available to allow all visitors to experience breathtaking views of the underwater life, ancient Native American and Spanish artifacts, and underwater props from when the park was used for Hollywood productions.

In keeping with tradition, the 37-foot vessel is named Chief Potackee-Betty Mae Tiger Jumper. All the glass bottom boats at the park are named after Seminole tribal chiefs. In this case, the vessel is named after the only female chief of the tribe.

About the Vessel

The Florida State Parks Foundation commissioned Lay, Pitman & Associates Naval Architects to design the boat, which includes a flat deck and ample aisles providing easy and convenient access for wheelchairs. The vessel is also equipped with an induction-loop system that assists passengers using hearing aids in listening to the captain's narration. 

In addition to the foundation, a consortium of public and private partners helped fund the vessel, including the Fish & Wildlife Foundation of Florida, the Felburn Foundation, the Delores Barr Weaver Legacy Fund, the Florida Park Service, Friends of Silver Springs State Park and Cape Leisure. 

This article was published in the Real Florida ℠ Connection, the Florida State Parks e-newsletter. Sign up to get updates and stories from your state parks the first week of every month.