Crystal-clear waters made Silver Springs one of the top tourist draws in Florida in the era before Mickey Mouse. The first tourists to Silver Springs came via steamboat in the 1860s, below, and glass-bottom boats were invented there in 1878. Johnny Weissmuller swam there for his Tarzan movies, and 1954’s Creature from the Black Lagoon was filmed there. But the big theme parks drew the crowds away, leaving the venerable attraction east of Ocala struggling for tourists even as it added rides and animal exhibits to compete. On Tuesday, Silver Springs reopens as a state park, with $5-a-carload admission. The glass-bottom boats are expected to resume, and the park is planning canoe and kayak rentals as well as hiking trails. “We’re getting back to basics, to why people were attracted to springs in the first place,” said state park manager Sally Lieb.
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