The seven-mile run of the Silver River, from the outflow of the big spring to a confluence with the Ocklawaha River, is one of the most beautiful stretches of wilderness river in Florida. At a flow rate of about 3 miles per hour, the Silver River provides a breathtaking scenic experience for those in canoes or kayaks. Motorboats are allowed on the river but are strictly limited to “no wake” speed.
Within the park, a modest canoe and kayak launch site is located at the end of a trail running from the museum. A more highly developed launch site is available almost under the Highway 40 bridge that spans the Ocklawaha River. From here, boaters must run the canal and then turn westward, upstream on the Silver River. It is an easy paddle up to the head of the river, then a lovely drift with the current back to the launch site.
If you have sunglasses with polarizing lenses, you’ll be able to look right through the clear water to observe turtles, garfish, big bass and many other freshwater creatures. And don’t overlook the grasses and other plants that live underwater. As you drift, look for hardwood trees, a wide variety of shrubs and sabal palms on the banks, a number of aquatic plants along the river’s edge, basking alligators on the banks and many other varieties of wildlife.
Leave your fishing gear in the car—fishing isn’t allowed on this river—take along your camera, your binoculars and some drinking water, and treat yourself to a magnificent day on a carefully preserved and protected stretch of one of the most unusual rivers in the world. From Ocala Website
Yes, the Silver River does have wild Rhesus monkeys. I've seen them about 70% of the times I've paddled the Silver River. There is no best spot for observing them. I've seen them a few hundred yards from the Ray Wayside boat launch to all the way upstream near the springhead. While they are an exotic species, Rhesus monkeys are fairly common on the Silver River.
The story of their origin supposedly goes something like this... In 1936, the owner of the Jungle Cruise at Silver Springs, Colonel Tooey, came up with the idea of creating a monkey island on the Silver River to entice more tourists to the area.
Not thinking the monkeys would swim away, he placed them on the island. The monkeys did indeed swim off the island and propagated. The monkeys can now be found up and down the Silver and Oklawaha river corridors.
A bit of a controversy surrounds the monkeys. Biologists would like to rid the area of the wild monkeys, they are an exotic species and potentially cause damage to the environment and the native species. Town's folk enjoy and lobby to keep the monkeys. Currently the wild Rhesus monkeys are managed and from what I understand the population has been culled before. From Wildlifesouth.com