Silver Springs is a group of artesian springs that feed into the Silver River in Marion County, Florida. It is the largest artesian spring in the world and the site of the oldest commercial tourist attraction in Florida. In 1971 it was designated as a National Natural Landmark. Its main features are the glass-bottom boat tours on the river, which have operated in one form or another ever since their first usage there in 1878. Long privately owned and operated, the springs area was formerly the focal point of a small amusement park named Silver Springs Nature Theme Park. Developed in the late 19th century, the springs became a tourist destination for Northerners following the American Civil War. Over the years it changed hands several times, with various operators introducing boat rides and building related attractions of varying scientific and entertainment quality. It was first used as a location for a Hollywood film in 1916, and it became popular with the series of Tarzan films in the 1930s and into the 1950s. Beginning in 1993, the first thorough scientific studies of the springs were conducted and wildlife rehabilitation was started. That same year the State of Florida bought the underlying land, but private operators continued to conduct the operation of the attractions and concessions. Environmental issues such as nitrate runoff, related to development in the region, adversely affected the health of the park and tourist revenues declined. On January 23, 2013, the Florida Cabinet announced that the state would take over the facility after the end of the 2013 summer season, and the park operators would pay a $4 million buyout of their lease. In October 2013, the State of Florida took over operations of Silver Springs Nature Theme Park and combined the property with the adjacent Silver River State Park to form Silver Springs State Park.
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