Monday, October 03, 2011

The Most Beautiful River in Florida

Rainbow River, Dunnellon, Florida

We awoke Sunday morning to a temperature of 53 degrees, a few degrees higher than predicted.  Since we had the windows open all night , we had to turn on the heat pump for a few minutes, for the first time.  We were happy to find out it worked!  On our old motorhome we only had the furnace which ran on propane. It went through propane very quickly.  We are really going to like this heat pump because it has us toasty warm in minutes.

We are loving the nice cool weather.

We decided to make the 20 mile drive to Rainbow River State Park, in Dunnellon, Florida.  We dove on this river many, many years ago and I remembered it as the prettiest river I had ever seen.   It hasn’t changed.

On the way we ran across a kayak launch on highway 484 right on the river.  We got out to take some pictures.  You can rent kayaks there, or they will shuttle you back to your car after you paddle down river. 

It was beautiful.

Rainbow River kayak launch

kayaks on launch off highway 484

They charged a $5.00 fee to launch your kayak.  You could park right next to the water and avoid having to carry your boats too far.  We liked that!

Right across the street was a free launch site.  It wasn’t quite as pretty, and you had to carry your kayaks a little further.

kayak launch across the road hwy 484

kayak access blue run..hwy 484//free

Rainbow River kayak run launch

Our Gps had us all turned around, but we finally found Rainbow Springs State Park.  There are two sections of the park.  The “head” springs is the swimming area and the most beautiful.  It is where the Rainbow River begins with crystal clear water flowing from the Florida aquifer.

At the headsprings, there is an area roped off for swimmers, but the kayaks and canoes can paddle up right next to the spring.  It’s incredibly beautiful.

You walk up to this scenic overlook.

Rainbow River SP Headspring

Rainbow River SP Headspring

You can rent kayaks there, but I’m not sure if they let your bring in your own kayaks.  If they did, it would be a good haul to carry them to the water.

Rainbow River SP Headspring

The swimmers were enjoying it, but the 72 degree water is way too cold for me.  They must have been kids….or Canadians.  Smile

Rainbow River SP Headspring

Rainbow River SP Headspring

Rainbow River SP Headspring

We walked down the hill to the kayak launch area.

These kayaks looked to be floating on air, not water.

kayaks floating on crystal clear water at headspring


About this time, we wished we had brought our kayaks.  This was a fact finding day to explore, but we will be back in the next few days with the kayaks.


After we left the headsprings part of the park, we headed over to the campground area of the state park.  It’s several miles away.  They have recently built a new campground with full hook-up sites (water, electric and sewer).  The sites are huge and large enough for any big rig.

Site 6.  There is a large patio area off to the left that you don’t see in this picture.


site 8


site 9


The old campground is gone.  It was a small circle with sites crammed close together and only large enough for small trailers.  We never liked the old campground and never camped there, but it was popular because it was right on the river.

The new campground must have been designed by an rv’er.  The roads were wide and paved.  The sites were large,  and angled so that you could just slip right into them.  They were level, but not paved.   There was plenty of vegetation between the sites and they were far enough apart to give plenty of privacy.  There was a large patio area on each site.  No tall trees to block our satellite signal though!   Not much shade either.

Rainbow River SP - new campground

Rainbow River SP - new campground

There are two loops.  The loop with the smaller numbers is the best in our opinion.   The other loop has smaller sites and some tent sites and less privacy between sites.

The cost is $30 a night, plus tax.  In Florida you pay the hotel tax of about 10%.   About the same price as Lazy Days….and you don’t get breakfast and lunch!

A lot of people like to float down the river on inner tubes.  The park runs a shuttle to carry people from the put in to the take out spot.  You can’t drive down to the river due to the shuttles, but you can put your kayaks into the water from the campground…..if you want to carry them a good distance!   The campsites are NOT on the water and you can’t see the water from any campsite, but it is within walking distance.  This area is not nearly as pretty as the head springs.

swimming area/kayak launch on rainbow river by campground

Another place to launch boats is called KP Hole Park.  It’s a county park with a small fee to get in or launch your boats.  We didn’t pay the fee so I don’t have pictures.  We may decide to launch there though because it’s fairly close to the head spring which we think is the prettiest part of the river.

We spent the day exploring and enjoying the beautiful river.  We’ll be back with the kayaks.  The only problem with this river is they don’t allow you to take disposable items. They work very hard to keep the river clean and beautiful.  No cans of coke, no baggies for a sandwich, no napkins, no disposable water bottles.  If you want to bring food, you need tupperware  type containers for your food and drinks.  They mean business too, and enforce the rules. 

Al never even mentioned football all day.  He usually watches football on Sundays, but I think after Saturday night, he was discouraged.  He was rooting for the Rays (they lost), the Gators (also lost) and the Cornhuskers (lost too).  He’s hoping that’s not a sign of things to come when the Bucs play Monday night football!

On the way home we had to turn around….and go back to see if I saw what I thought I saw.


I did!


I don’t believe I ever saw a camel before.  It was right near Ocala in the middle of horse country.  There were 3 camels and several llamas.  Quite  a site!


  1. Those kayaks certainly did look like they were floating on air!

  2. That is the most clear water I've ever seen. No wonder they're serious about keeping the river clean. I would hate to see junk on the river bottom.

  3. I agree, that is a most beautiful river!! So clear!! Those kayaks do look as though they are floating on air. Amazing!!
    Glad you enjoyed your explorations and found some good possibilities for this week!!

  4. great place to go paddling!!!..the campground sure does look like it is big rig friendly!!!

  5. I LOVE Rainbow Springs. We stay there when visiting my family in Crystal River. We launched our SeaEagle Runabout here last April, but it IS a long trek from parking to launch. I think we will go to the launch site on 484 from now on. We will be staying in Site 9 12/25-12/30, while inbetween workamping jobs. We're planning on boating/kayaking the Withlacootchie as well this winter, if you have tips on that please pass them along!
    I love Baxter too!

  6. Love the pictures where the kayaks appear to be floating on air. People have to see the clarity of the water in person to believe it!

  7. We love Rainbow Springs. It was our favorite of the ones we kayaked last winter. Your pictures are so beautiful.

    We paid a local livery (Ranibow River Canoe and Kayak). They took us from their site to the county park to launch. Then we paddled up to the head springs @ the State Park and slowly floated back down. The river merged with the Withlacoochee River and we took out at the livery. It was a long paddle but very easy and oh so beautiful. Cost was $15 plus $3 for the county park.

  8. Oh my goodness! What a beautiful place and the water is so clear it's unbelievable! We just went kayaking for the first time Saturday and really enjoyed it. We may have to check out this place too!

  9. That is one beautiful looking, crystal clear river! Wow!

    But, I've got news for you, 72F water is still way too cold for this Canadian!!!

  10. Me an beautiful love kayaking we have our own. Thanks for the pics and tips. It wont be long and we' ll have to come see & do in person. Enjoying the Blogg thanks.


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