In the center of springs country, a spring with the largest known flow in the world and Florida’s first famous spring attraction—Silver Springs, in business now for more than 150 years—is now a Florida State Park. Perhaps Spanish explorers were the first tourists to Silver Springs where the hull of a small boat thought to be of Spanish origin still lies on the bottom of the spring. The first real trade in tourism began in the mid 1800s when visitors came by stage coach and pole barge. As its acclaim spread, a steamboat line developed to haul cargo and passengers up the winding Ocklawaha and Silver Rivers, passing dense forest and abundant alligators to finally arrive at the source of the spring’s ever-increasing fame.
The invention of the glass bottom boat in the late 1800s opened a new window into the springs environment.

— The Springs of Florida 9781561649693