Wild Waters – At Silver Springs State Park – Ocala, FL

***Please note, we had special permission from the State of Florida to shoot at Wild Waters. This location is private state property and is actively patrolled.***  

 

 

The humidity felt thick–like slogging through a hot fog—as I walked alongside other tourists, under the “Florida’s Silver Springs” sign for the first time in 30 years. I was six the last time I visited the famed artesian springs, and quite frankly not much has changed since then. But then again that’s part of the appeal of visiting one of Florida’s oldest tourist attractions. People have been visiting the springs in Ocala, Florida since before the Civil War.

My reason for traveling here and enduring North Florida’s oppressive land-locked heat and humidity wasn’t purely for nostalgia’s sake though; I had my sights set on photographing Wild Waters, a recently closed and abandoned water park on the grounds of the now state-owned property.

 

Walter Arnold at Silver Springs 1987-2017

Getting legal access to photograph abandoned and off-limits places can be a challenge. Throw in the fact that the State of Florida now owns Silver Springs park, and getting permission becomes even more difficult. Several days prior, I had met with one of the head park rangers about photographing the old Wild Waters portion of Silver Springs. After a bit of explaining why I wanted in and assuring them that it was NOT my intent to paint a negative or bleak picture of Silver Springs, I got the OK. I also got a stack of paperwork to sign, forms, releases, and requests for copies of my business’s insurance liability policy. We set a date for the shoot and arranged to pay for an off-duty ranger to accompany us into the water park (a condition that was non-negotiable due to the State’s liability concerns). But to tell the story of Wild Waters, I needed to tell the story of Silver Springs as a whole.

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

Historic souvenir-photo from Silver Springs

 

That brings us back to me standing in line at the ticket booth, sweat drenched with all my camera gear on my back, buying tickets for myself and my best friend Casey to photograph the NON-abandoned Silver Springs State Park. Like mom always said; “You have to eat your vegetables before you can have your dessert.”

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

Silver Springs was founded in 1852 and its stunningly beautiful natural environment enticed visitors from all over the country. Over the years, numerous attractions, exhibits, rides, and family activities have come and gone, but the mainstay has been the world-famous glass bottom boats. The glass bottom boat tours allow visitors a unique way to experience the springs, and view all manner of wildlife, both on and in the springs. The boat tours began running in the 1870s, and still run today. Some of the current glass bottom boat captains have been guiding tourists across the crystal-clear waters for over 30 years.

 

Historic brochures from Silver Springs

 

The springs are some of Florida’s largest, and are home to myriad creatures including alligators, great blue herons, egrets, turtles, and even monkeys! Rhesus monkeys were introduced on a small island in the park in the 1930s to enhance the “Jungle Cruise” boat ride.  However, their excellent swimming ability was not taken into account, and they quickly escaped their confines, forming feral troops and establishing their population along the river banks. The monkeys can still be seen there today (though we did not catch any glimpses of them while we were there).

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

Silver Springs has also been the site of many Hollywood films, including Tarzan, The Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the TV Series Sea Hunt. Scenes from Legend and James Bond were also filmed on site.

 

Historic Posters from Movies Filmed at Silver Springs

 

In 1971 Silver Springs was declared a National Natural Landmark. But it wasn’t until 1993, when some of the first scientific studies were performed, that a concerted effort to preserve and maintain the natural habitat were implemented. Even so, Silver Springs has faced serious difficulties in the past, with increased pollution and nearby modern development harming the river habitat, decreasing the fish population, and dramatically decreasing the waterflow from the aquifer as the demand from surrounding populations has increased. As of recent though, these problems have been subsiding. In 2013 the location became known as Silver Springs State Park when the State of Florida took over operations.

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

This brings us full circle, and once again finds Casey and me, in the thick of Florida’s heat and humidity, waiting on a park ranger to meet us and unlock a gate that will lead us into the now abandoned Wild Waters water park. About 100 yards from the entrance to Silver Springs State Park, the once popular summertime attraction now sits overgrown and neglected, just the way I like it!

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters was built in 1978, and it was one of the very first water parks in the south.  Wild Waters helped boost the popularity of Ocala’s Silver Springs during a time when Orlando’s Disney was quickly becoming the state’s main tourist attraction.

 

Wild Waters was a one-stop-shop for family fun in the summer. With a wave pool, water slides a-plenty, wading pool for the kiddies, the “Cool Kid Zone” for grade schoolers, and concession stands keeping the fries and burgers coming all day long. Sprinkled throughout the park were plenty of trees for shade, picnic areas, snack bars, a sand volleyball court, and the obligatory gift shop.

 

Wild Waters Map

 

Once the park ranger arrived, we entered the grounds and took in our surroundings, our feet crunching on a carpet of dried leaves. It had only been a few years since the park closed, but in Florida nature doesn’t waste time taking over an untended property. We entered the central part of the park and took in the 360-degree view of the water slides, the wave pool, and boarded up concession buildings.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

I set up a couple cameras to take time lapses, then grabbed my Nikon D800 and got to work.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

We broke for lunch at a nearby Sonny’s BBQ, pulled several ticks off of ourselves and got right back to the park. I spent most of my time shooting still photography, but I did dedicate some time to do some video work as well. Even though video is not what I am known for, I still enjoy making short vignettes of some of the places I shoot. Nothing extravagant, but enough for you to get the feel of a location in video form. You can check out my YouTube channel and the videos I create HERE.

Since most of the elevated structures had not been maintained in several years, we were under very strict orders (and supervision) not to ascend any elevated places or climb up on any of the rides/wooden platforms. I was disappointed that the restriction was enforced (I added the State to my business liability insurance after all!) but I understood the State’s concerns.  Luckily, the ranger that was with us was very cool and understanding, and there was one structure that was made up of a cement foundation that she allowed us to climb up to the top—The Hurricane. This was a large figure eight double flume that riders would have used tubes to go down. The ride whipped you around curves before taking you into a long dark tunnel, and then flinging you out into a splash pool at the bottom.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Historic Photo of the Hurricane Slide

 

 (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

In the center of the park were a series of three converging water slides, known as the Silver River Rides. This unfortunately was one of the large wooden structures that we were prohibited from climbing up, but I was able to get a great shot of the three slides entering the splash pool at the bottom. This scene shows the essence of the park, with the large trees and Spanish moss hanging down. Truly a beautiful place to spend a hot summer afternoon.

 

The abandoned Wild Waters water park at Silver Springs State Park, in Ocala, FL (Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Historic Photo of Silver River Rides

 

Alligator Ambush was a newer ride built in 2008, and consisted of a long enclosed drop into a circular “toilet bowl” structure that would spin you around and spill you out the bottom.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

There was a surprise waiting inside the bowl–a giant (fake) alligator that spit water at you as you spun circles around it. When we heard about this feature from the ranger we HAD to get a closer look inside the bowl. Since the restrictions were that we were not allowed to climb up any of the rides, I had to wait until the ranger was on a very short bathroom break, and scrambled up the lower slide into the bowl to snag some quick handheld shots of the gator! If you are from the State of Florida and are reading this; my apologies for the very mild act of disobedience! It simply could not be avoided in this case 😉

 

The abandoned Wild Waters water park at Silver Springs State Park, in Ocala, FL (Walter Arnold Photography)

 

The Silver Bullet Flumes were on the far edge of the park and were the only speed flumes at the location. The flumes had two dips on their way down and were not simply a straight drop. The discarded pool noodles laying around added some nice splashes of color to the scene.

 

The abandoned Wild Waters water park at Silver Springs State Park, in Ocala, FL (Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Historic Photo of Silver Bullet Rides

 

The centerpiece of Wild Waters was the 450,000-gallon wave pool. The pool would alternate between calm splashes of tiny waves and up to four-foot-tall waves. Lounge chairs would have once surrounded the pool, a few cracked and broken ones still littered the outskirts.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

 

Historic Photo of Wave Pool

 

After nearly eight hours of exploring and photographing we decided to call it a day, and wrap up the shoot.

 

Wild Waters closed permanently in 2016. The State cited many financial reasons for it’s closure, but the main reason was that they wanted to bring a more natural aspect to the park as a whole, putting less of the focus on man-made attractions, and more attention on the natural beauty within the park. This closure has caused many locals to voice their dissent, as Wild Waters was a mainstay for both the community and tourists for decades.  However, with Wild Waters under the control of the state’s Department of Environmental protection, there is a conflict of interest because the objectives and mission of the Department is at odds with the operation of a water park.

 

It’s difficult to let go of a place that holds so many childhood memories. Generations of families have visited Wild Waters over the decades, and it’s very emotional to see a cherished summer getaway closed down and eventually taken away. Hopefully seeing some of these images will bring back memories for those that once frequented the long running Wild Waters. Please feel free to share your memories and experiences in the comments section below!

 

To view or purchase any of the images taken at this location, please CLICK HERE to visit my website.

 

Wild Waters - Abandoned Water Park - Ocala, FL (©Walter Arnold Photography 2018)

57 Comments

  1. Paula

    Wild Waters was such awesome place. I have the best memories of taking my kids there.

  2. Christy Byers

    I wish that someone, somewhere would buy Wild Waters and either tear it down and build another water park or try to restore the old one. I have a lot of good memories when we used to go there. I’m sure a lot of other people have wonderful memories too. I work at Silver Springs now, and it makes me sad when I have to drive by the forgotten park. We get asked questions from tourists about WildWaters, like “Why doesn’t the state fix it”? Truth be told it will cost a lot of money to rebuild wild waters back to its glory. But yet it will cost a lot of money to tear it down too. The state just doesn’t have it.. That’s why a third party needs to step in, and create a place for our community of Ocala to have somewhere to go, especially on hot muggy days like we have in Florida. Please get the word out.

  3. Shon

    These pictures brought tears to my eyes. As a native of Ocala Wild Waters was a place of joy for myself and my family. In the late 80’s I got my foot in the door as a grounds keeper for a month (the waiting list to be a lifeguard was forever long) and then finally I was able to move in to the coveted lifeguard position. I remember getting to the grounds at 8 AM for our morning meeting and then heading to my designated station to set up for the day. Some of us would strap on gas blowers and clear the debris off the paths to the flumes. I would rotate from station to station making sure each slide rider would wait their turn and then finally I would say ‘Go’ in which the flume rider would gleefully propel themselves into the the cold raging water gushing onto the slide. My favorite position was getting to one of the lifeguard chairs positioned above the wave pool like a kings throne overlooking his people. I would twirl my whistle constantly around my fingers while slowly watching for an innocent swimmer that might need my help. Then, the prerecorded message would blare across the sound system ‘OK Wild Waters swimmers, grab your rafts and enjoy the Wild Waters waves!’ After hours were the best because management would allow the lifeguards to run amuck throughout the park testing the limits of Bunyan’s Bend and catching as much air as we could racing down the Silver Bullet (only a select few could skim across the catch pool at the bottom!). There was an air of excitement around the park at all times and to be part of such a fantastic era fills me with content and joy. Thank you for sharing these photographs even though the desolate abandoned look makes me sad it gave me a reminiscent pride of being part of something that was very special. Maybe the state will will find the funds to rejuvenate Wild Waters so that one day my children and future generations can experience the fun and excitement I had during the parks hay day.

  4. Brittany Glauner

    Thank you for posting this! I lived in Ocala from early 1999 to oct 2008 and I miss it every day! My heart was breaking when I saw the then and now pics. My family went all the time! My dad was a lifeguard and then my big brother became one, so we always had someone on the inside to get good deals lol. I wish they didn’t shut it down. WildWaters May be man made but that doesn’t make it less important to the park. It’s funny cause my family would go to Sliver Springs and then when we were getting really hot we would go to WildWaters to cool off. BRING BACK WILDWATERS!!!!!!!!!!

  5. Rob Warren

    Thank you for sharing this trip down memory lane. I had heard Wild Waters closed, but never pictured it to be so run down already. I remember several trips there as a kid. It was a fun place and an inexpensive waterpark to share with the family.

  6. Chad Kurthy

    Thanks for this. I’m a somewhat recent Ocala transplant, moved here in 2008, and actually only went to the water park once. The one and only time was shortly before it closed when they were doing an Adult Night theme. It was fun having adult beverages and riding the slide with no kids around. It was a good time and it’s a shame they closed it down. I know a lot of my friends who grew up here in Ocala were pretty sad as they frequented it throughout their childhood. One of the few things Ocala had going for it, they took away. 🙁

  7. Beverly Jones

    Thank you for taking us on a wonderful trip down memory lane. We’ve lived 30 minutes south of Silver Springs/Wild Waters for many years. I ‘ve been visiting Silver Springs since I was a young child (I’m 71 now). We started taking our 3 sons to Wild Waters in the seventies, after it opened. And we took our grandchildren there often. So many years of great memories!!! We, along with many others, were heart broken when it closed. I enjoyed reading comments of others, as different ones recalled different memories, such as the concerts at WW, and the Ross Allen Reptile institute, and other animals at SS. It’s so sad to see so much of this awesome local history gone. Thanks again for your article and pictures.

  8. Robin Babcock

    Thank you so very much for posting this. I grew up in Daytona Beach Florida, and went to Silver Springs three times a year from 1982 to 1986 with my mother. I enjoyed the glass bottom boat at Silver Springs and want to take my children over there to experience them as soon as possible

    However, my fondest memories with my mother, my father was deceased, was being silver springs and writing the hurricane four times in a row because we got there early enough to avoid long lines

    My heart breaks to see it closed. I was looking forward to taking my children or Sunday. Oh well!

    Thanks again for posting this and bringing back some GREAT childhood memories!

    God luck in your photography career! You have a wonderful eye and talent! 😊😊😊😊

  9. Mary

    First of all, Silver Springs is still a beautiful place to go. You can rent kayaks and paddle around in the Springs and down the river and yes, see monkeys, turtles, and gators. I recently spent a wonderful day there with my family and was amazed to see manatees in the springs again! On the flip side, one of the reasons the flow of the Springs has slowed is because of the giant water tower across the street which pumps water out of the aquifer and supplies water for surrounding areas. This is thanks to a former Mayor and State Repre-sentative. Things could be much worse for the Springs however, if our County Commissioners had built a certain “Site R” landfill just a few miles to to north of it. Myself and many of my neighbors managed to successfully fight that proposal several years ago. The Springs have always held a special place in my heart. I grew up in Tampa, but my family had a hunt camp in Orange Springs and we came up here on weekends. As a child, I remember the days of Ross Allen and his snakes, the deer feeding pen, and the old board wak through the swamp. When I moved here in the 80’s, we got Season passes and I took the kids to Wild Waters often. I went to several Summer concerts there, my favorite being the Beach boys. There is also a wonderful museum and historical area with camping and walking trails. Marion County schools have eductional school field trips there. I will continue to go to the Springs and support that wonderful natural resource, which we need to protect and preserve. I hope others will too.

  10. So many memories at wild waters as a child . Then as a adult and new mother. It use to be so nice for us locals to have a nice place to take our families too and have as much fun as we did at wild waters. Now we have to drive hours pay a lot more to go somewhere. Not only that but the memories of so many is left rotting away. The state all about history and then they come in an allow history of so so many people being destroyed. Why? For more natural things!!! Natural was driving by and seeing the water splash out the sides of the slide as kids laugh and have a great time going down them. How much natural could that be. This was a place you could take your teen to give them fun things to do so you didn’t have to worry about what they was doing. The state comes in takes our history away and leaves it to rot. Sad.

  11. We visited there in 1952 when I was 10 yrs old. At that time they had the Ross Allen institute and milked venonmous snakes to make anti-venom. We watched them milk a rattlesnake and he walked around in a pit with many poisonous snakes. Also took the glass bottom boat ride and I still have our picture on it. Wonderful place for an inquisitive 10 yr old who lived on a farm in Kansas.

  12. Scott May

    So many memories here. When we first moved to Ocala in 1970, my father worked at Silver Springs as a rattlesnake and alligator handler.

    From the time iWild Waters opened, I spent nearly every summer at the park. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  13. Kayla Morris

    You are awesome for going through and doing this shoot in the heat just to show off some history !,I hope that maybe wild waters opens back up one day so I can carry on the tradition and take my son to the water park.I have went there many times as a kid and want my son to experience it also.As for silver springs I haven’t got to experience the place yet but have done a bunch of research on the place it has been around for quite some time and is just a beautiful place,But I’m going to take my son and we can at least experience that together 💖

  14. LIsa Jordan

    I grew up in Orange Park, FL and we often visited Silver Springs, Six Gun Territory and my Aunt and Uncle in Ocala. It’s always sad to see one’s childhood memories become only memories. Thanks for the trip down memory lane.

  15. Barbara Henderson

    I came to Silver Springs when I was five years old. I have memories of the glass bottomed boats. I returned when my son came to work at Wild Waters and Silver Springs. It was a beautiful place! Loved the glass bottomed boats again and our Captain, Oscar. He told us the history of the area and allowed us the go feed the alligators. Such good memories! Such a shame to see Wild Waters closed. It was so different than any other water park! Thanks for the memories!

  16. My grandparents moved to Ocala when I was 6 and my parents along with my brother and me moved there when I was 14. The highlight to visiting my grandparents was a trip to Silver Springs. We visited Wild Waters multiple times as well, though not as often. I keep saying I will go to Silver Springs again next time I’m near by, but haven’t made it yet, this encourages me to make the effort to see it before this treasure fades away as well.

  17. Carl kight

    So many childhood memories from both parks. My father works for Georgia Pacific in Palatka and in the summers years ago GP would have family day at both parks. We would spend first part of the day at silver springs then finish the day at wild waters. Went there many times growing up! Last time I was there was 2005 or 2006 I didn’t even know the park had closed. Thank you for sharing the photos and allowing some of us to take a trip down memory lane.

  18. Lifelong (mostly) Floridian here (from Lake Butler — a few hours north). I loved this; thank you for sharing it.

  19. !

    Ive been to the nature park on a school field trip back in the 80’s! Loved it! Never got to go to the waterpark though! Would’ve loved it! I remember the monkeys on the glass bottom boat ride! Like riding down the amazon river! Cool place ! Gonna go again if ever in Florida

  20. Jodi Heckmann

    I grew up going to Silver Springs & Wild Waters quite often. It was great having something local to enjoy. I remember being a flower girl at my cousin’s wedding at Silver Springs and also singing on stage later on during a karaoke competition before Pam Tillis took the stage.

    My best friend and I spent many summer days at Wild Waters. My favorite water slides were Osceola’s Revenge and Bunyan’s Bend, and also the Hurricane. I took my own kids there also, and when I heard about it’s closing, I took my youngest as often as I could. We were there for its final day. I left with tears in my eyes. Looking at these pictures of it abandoned brought more tears to my eyes. I have so many fond memories of both parks. Such a shame to see it let go.

  21. Billy Martin

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane. I worked there from 91 to 93 as a lifeguard before I joined the Army. I still have a lifeguard competition plaque we earned 3rd place, not bad for a smaller park.

  22. Amanda

    I spent every summer at Wild Waters when I was in middle school. In high school, my boyfriend was a lifeguard. So many memories of developing independence and making friends. I’m sad that my kids can’t have some of that, too.

  23. A. LUSK

    Great memories of taking my children there! Wonderful summer fun everyone!

  24. Madelaine

    I am so glad they allowed you to go in and take pictures of childhood memories. It’s just very sad to see this gem we once had go to waste. This use to be an amazing place to go growing up as my mom use to work in the Employee Café preparing food for all the workers back when I was a kid. Since The State took over I have not been back. As I here rumors of how there is really nothing to do at Silver Springs but to ride the boats. Its just sad as this use to be the go to spot all year round from listening to famous singer’s in the winter at Silver Springs to hang with friends in the summer at Wild Waters.

  25. Keri

    I also worked here in high school. It was my first job! 1984. It was hot and boring, but we went for free on our days off! I dated and older lifeguard and felt so amazing about the prospects of the future. I love silver springs and reading this made me much more emotional than i expected.

  26. Keri

    I also worked here in high school. It was my first job! 1984. It was hot and boring, but we went for free on our days off! I dated and older lifeguard and felt so amazing about the prospects of the future. I love silver springs and reading this made me much more emotional than i expected.

  27. Savvy

    My mom worked in the main offices when I was around 5 or 6 I grew up rooming both parks almost daily. Even though I’m only 23 it still is sad to see such a huge part of my childhood let go so easily.

  28. Sara

    Cool pictures & great (tho sad) read! So sad it’s gone. I worked at silver springs in high school and was in a wild waters brochure in the 90’s haha 🙂

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      That’s too cool Sara! Do you still have a copy of the brochure? I’d love to include a scan of it on the blog!

  29. Debbie Cummings

    I just saw an advertise on TV trying to bring tourist back to Marion County. I know this may not play in line with the FDEP, but the water park helped tourism and local businesses no matter how or what FDEP wants to say.

  30. was 9 months pregnant with Ginet Bilancio going down those slides and keeping Nick Bilancio and Beau Knoontz wet!

    was 9 months pregnant with Ginet Bilancio going down those slides and keeping Nick Bilancio and Beau Knoontz wet!

  31. Lisa

    I grew up right down the road from Wild Waters and Silver Springs. My parents used to take me and my brother there every Saturday during the Summertime. Now as an adult I drive past Wild Waters and it just makes me sad that our kids aren’t going to have memories like I do. Having a water park that was literally at our back door was great. The prices were afordable and we always knew we would see our friends there. Watching nature take over the park is a beautiful thing but I would rather have the chance to make memories with my kids in the park like I was able to do when I was a kid. Thank you for the beautiful artwork of a place that many of us in Marion County were able to enjoy as kids.

  32. Enjoyed the pictures! Couple things though. The river is currently over 100 cubic feet of water flow per minute over the 85 year average (per USGS). The river is higher and flowing stronger than when I visited it for the first time in 1963. Second it is teaming with fish! It’s a no fishing area! I don’t understand how and why environmental visitors don’t look into the spring and see that the spring is currently still right up to the boat dock at the same point as when the glass bottom boats were first launched in the 1940’s and that the silver river is over its banks all the way to the Oklawaha river.

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thanks Mike! Good to know about the current environmental status! The reports that I read must have been from several years back. I’ve amended the text so that it doesn’t come across as if these issues are still affecting the springs today.

  33. tori bass

    I really appriciated the walk down memory lane! i used to go to wildwater all the time as a kid and a teenager. I remember when they opened up the night club style nights . That was fun ! and the adult swims were pertty awesome! it really was the only thing in miles that kept kids cooled down duing these hot summer months. sad to see it go along with our generation..

  34. Randall Hunter

    Ocala desperately needs a place like wild waters. The state ran it into the ground when they took over by upping the prices. Should have been $10-15 bucks to get in and it would always be packed. grew up in Indiana and we had a similar water park in our hometown. It was only open 4-5 months out of the year due to winter. They charge $8 to get in and the place is always packed.

  35. Jennifer Rich

    I grew up at Silver Springs & Wild Waters. My father & other family members worked there and we made a lot of memories. It was a great family place. I loved the petting zoo, with the deer & goats. Feeding the giraffes. The island and all the activities. The Jungle Cruise boat ride on the Island, where you got to see Zebras, Monkeys, Giraffes and other animals running free. You can’t forget the famous Tarzan call on the ride either. Everyone always looked forward to that. The wonderful educational shows. The display of reptiles. Bird Shows and display of staff walking around with parrots & owls around the park. The glass bottom boats where they passed a loaf of bread around and you were able to lean out the windows and feed the fish. My favorite boat captain Oscar.
    The pizza place and then later a treat in the ice cream shop. Oh you can’t forget the fudge shop either! They had the best fudge! The gift shops were always a must too. Relaxing in the field and spending time with the family while watching a concert. Feeding the squirrels and being able to stroll thru the trails. Then later came the bear exhibits and the Jeep ride & kiddie play area. Oh how I wish my kids were able to make memories there.
    I spent a lot of summers at Wild Waters too. “Here come the WILD WATERS WAVES” That was what was heard over the park speakers and everyone would go running to the wave pool. The Silver Bullet, Osceolas Revenge, Bunyans Bend, The Hurricane where you raced your friend,playing volleyball and putt putt golf were just a few of my favorites. I also remember Grad Night. The park was opened at night. All HS Graduates got to go there and the movies. It was just a fun, affordable and safe place for everyone to have fun with their family. I just wish todays families were able to enjoy it as much as we did.

  36. Brittany

    I was 16 when I started working there. I started out as a survey girl. Then I moved up to retail. I also worked in food and beverage when needed. Then they became the office assistant and the retail Department.i was moving up. I worked there for 5 years. It was my home away from home. I have so many story’s. I also went way before I was 16 with my family. It was the hangout spot. So when I found out it was closed I was sad. It’s not the same I will say that. I wish I could take my kids there. So many memories.thanks for the pictures.

  37. Kelly H

    I had a season pass to Wild Waters when I was a preteen and teenager. It was my home away from home all summer long! It’s so sad to see it abandoned and neglected like this. I also remember one summer when they opened the springs at Silver Springs to pass holders, we could swim in the springs for free! I have so many great childhood memories at both parks. I even had a job at Silver Springs when I was 16. It’s a shame that today’s kids in Ocala don’t have a fun, safe, family-oriented place to go in the Summer time.

  38. Mandi

    This was literally the only affordable amusement park in Florida. I always felt the “Financial” reason why it closed down was because it actually competed pretty well with Busch Gardens, Disney, and Universal. (Since it was cheaper, one could go 4-6 tines for what it costed to go to one of the Big 3)
    It’s a shame it got closed. Hopefully someday someone builds something like it elsewhere in the state

  39. Great piece, alot of people never got to enjoy the park as we did, I’m 43 and spent countless weekends roaming the wave pool and everything else wild waters had to offer. The silver springs side is a mystery to me now,why is the state holding the land hostage so to say, why not make it a state swim area like Alexander springs or juniper or something? So many wasted facilities and land to let just sit there stagnant.

  40. Rachel

    Growing up i was here every summer all the time. More than not and I swore i would work there when i was old enough. This was my first job (lifeguard) and by far my favorite year filled with fun memories and fun people.

  41. Christina Baker

    I was born and raised in Ocala and have been going to Wild Waters since I was a little girl. I remember going with my mom, aunt, and all my cousins and having a blast. When I was in middle school I had a “splash pass” I went every weekend it was open and all summer meeting up with friends from school. When I was in high school I worked as a lifeguard during the summer there, it was my favorite job! I have many memories here and it truly makes me sad to see this place rot away! Everytime I drive by it makes me sad and makes me sad my generations kids can’t enjoy such s wonderful place that used to bring so many people joy 🙁

  42. Kayla

    I grew up in Ocala and had a pass for Silver Springs. Wild Waters also was visited many times. One time a friend and I had the whole park to ourselves due to her dad doing electrical work on the park. That was the best. It’s very sad to see it closed. Though I do love and am fascinated by abandoned places! Great work on this!

  43. ali

    I have lived in ocala my whole life and spent many of birthdays at wild waters! oh the memories! these pics really make me feel nostalgic, I would love for them to reopen but don’t see that ever happening ❤ what a cool asset this is to ocala

  44. Fantastic piece! I am a Florida native and former resident of Silver Springs and I always appreciate the history of such places. Also, as a Photographer, I applaud your ability to gain the approval of the state to let you capture these images, that is no small feat 😉

  45. Robin Stewart

    I took my kids there EVERY summer. We bought passes. We literally spent our summers in the water park. I am SO SAD to see this. It just breaks my heart.

  46. Ashley

    I use to go to both parks multiple times a year (some times every weekend). But since the state took over, everyone I know (including myself) completely stop going. This is the first time I’ve seen anything about it in a long while. I’m 20 btw.

  47. I MOVED FROM RHODE ISLAD 19 YEARS AGO & I HAD THE PLEASURE OF SILVER SPRINGS, IT WAS A WONDERFUL PARK, ITS SO SAD WHAT THEY HAVE DONE WITH IT, I JUST MOVED TO VIRGINIA, I WILL ALWAYS HAVE THE GREAT MEMORIES OF SILVER SPRINGS

    THANK YOU FOR SHARING THE GOOD TIMES & BAD TIMES OF SILVER SPRINGS PARK

  48. Karen Sironi

    I grew up in Florida so we did go to Silver Springs. It’s sad this is how it is today,

  49. My family visited Silver Springs when I was a kid…probably 74ish. (I’m 52). There wasn’t a water park then, so it had to be around that time. We had great fun there…I remember the boat ride & monkeys in the trees…one that came to the boat & showed off for us. I enjoy your art in the Woolworth Art Gallery here in Asheville, & online. I think I met you in the gallery here years ago. Love your work!

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thank you for sharing your connection Billy! I remember going as a kid as well. Was a fun place to visit. Never went to the waterpark myself, wish I had. Thank you for your support!

  50. Christine Waldman

    Had a season membership to both Silver Springs and Wild Waters. Loved taking my children there. We always saw monkeys. Will always have our memories. Thank-you for your documentation . Have one of your pieces of the inside of an old airplane.

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thank you for sharing Christine! So glad you enjoyed the images and write-up. Also thank you very much for your support!! 🙂

  51. Randy Conrad

    As someone who grew up in Florida and spent his summers at Wild Waters, I love this! Many fond memories of those slides and especially the wave pool. Hate to see it in disrepair, but your photos, as always, show the beauty that remains!

    • Walter Arnold (Author)

      Thank you Randy! So glad you enjoyed 🙂

      • Paul Thompson

        Absolutely enjoyed reading and following along with the photos.
        Even with the typos.
        I’m curious if you’ll also be doing so with Paradise Park and 6-Gun Territory, if anything still stands for either of those parks.

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