Property of the month feature
Calling all outdoor enthusiasts: Explore Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area
Feb. 8, 2024
The Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area helps protect water resources in Marion County, Fla.
Explore the outdoors and local ecosystem with a visit to Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area. Located in Marion County, just minutes from Ocala, the St. Johns River Water Management District property provides a buffer to nearby Silver Springs while also offering opportunities for resource-based recreation.
Purchased in 2015, Silver Springs Forest protects the headwaters of Half Mile Creek and an unnamed tributary that flow into the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers, which are both designated as Outstanding Florida Waters, as well as the Silver Springs springshed and more than 1,000 acres of diverse wetlands. Water resource benefits include reducing nutrient loading into springs and rivers, allowing for improved water quality and water storage. The forest links Indian Lake State Forest, Silver Springs State Park, the Cross Florida Greenway and District-managed lands to the Ocala National Forest, helping to create a contiguous swath of protected public lands that provides increased space for wildlife and resource-based recreation for people. Within 25 miles of the property, more than 640,500 acres of land are protected for conservation.
“At about 4,900 acres, Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area is a fairly large property,” Land Manager Amy Copeland explains. “With three public access points and lots of trails to explore, it’s pretty easy to get away from the crowds and enjoy a self-guided experience.”
With over 12 miles of blazed trails, including a connector trail to Indian Lake State Forest that borders the property on the northwest side, the forest is popular with hikers, bikers, birders and equestrian users. Natural habitats range from flatwoods to hydric (wet soil) hammocks and bottomland forests. Pine plantations occupy the majority of the uplands, and where feasible, the District works to restore a proper forest canopy to the area. Prescribed fire and other land management practices are employed year-round to promote healthy forest stands, control invasive species and improve wildlife habitat.
A helmet skullcap wildflower blooms at the Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area.
Diverse wildlife can be seen in the creeks and the swamps. It’s possible for users to spot bobcats, songbirds, birds of prey, wading birds, gopher tortoises, otters, and occasionally black bears. The property’s wildlife management area (Silver Springs Forest Wildlife Management Area) is a popular destination for a variety of seasonal hunting, particularly during the deer and turkey seasons. For more information about hunting at this property, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission or visit their website.
Whether you grab your hiking boots, binoculars, bike or horse, be sure to plan a visit to Silver Springs Forest Conservation Area. Visit the District’s online recreation guide for a property map, driving directions and more: www.sjrwmd.com/lands/recreation/silver-springs.