RAINBOW SPRINGS STATE PARK
RAINBOW SPRINGS STATE PARK
19158 S.W. 81st Pl. Rd.
Dunnellon, Florida 34432
Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years. Rainbow Springs is Florida's fourth largest spring and, from the 1930s through the 1970s, was the site of a popular, privately-owned attraction. The Rainbow River is popular for swimming, snorkeling, canoeing, and kayaking. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the headsprings. A picnic area at the spring includes tables, grills, and pavilions. For large gatherings, private pavilions can be reserved. Tubing is not allowed in the headsprings area of the park. Tubers can launch at the Tube Entrance on SW 180th Avenue Road. The Campground Entrance with a full-facility campground is about nine miles from the day use area. The Headsprings Entrance is located three miles north of Dunnellon on the east side of U.S. 41. The campground is located on S.W. 180th Avenue Road about two miles north of County Road 484 and two miles south of State Road 40. The Tube Entrance is located 1.4 miles south of the campground Entrance on SW 180th Avenue Road.
Throughout the park, on all of the Nature Trails and along the river exist many wonderful birding opportunities. A brand new park birding list has been created and a guided bird walk is offered the second Saturday of every month except June, July and August. Please call the park for more details.
The crystalline waters of Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River have undergone many name changes throughout its history. Wekiwa Creek, Blue Spring, and Blue Run are just some of the names we have assigned this magical body of water. Since this place has attracted and sustained human inhabitants for over 15,000 years, it is very likely that many other names we will never know once described these waters in terms equally attractive. The crystal clear water, abundant fish, wildlife and vegetation has attracted a number of activities.
The springs became popular in the late 1880's when hard rock phosphate was discovered in the area. A small community called Juliette flourished near the springs during this "boomtown" era. In the 1930s the spring was developed as a tourist attraction. Sea walls, a lodge, gift shop, the waterfalls, and a reptile exhibit were developed. It was during this time that the name was changed to Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River because of the prism of colors visible when the sun's rays shot through the sparkling water. It was also due to the fact that there were some 30 different "Blue Holes" in Florida and this would help visitors find their way!
Under new ownership, the real heyday for the attraction occurred in the 1960s. During that time, activity greatly increased with glass-bottomed boat rides, riverboat rides, a log raft ride, a gift shop and cafe, an aviary, a leaf-shaped gondola/ monorail system, a rodeo, and submarine boat tours. When I-75 was built however, traffic was diverted away from this area and tourists began heading to a new attraction called Disney World. Rainbow Springs Attraction closed in 1974.
The entire Rainbow River was designated as a Registered Natural Landmark in 1972, an Aquatic Preserve in 1986, and an "Outstanding Florida Waterway" in 1987. The state purchased the original area that was the Rainbow Springs Attraction in 1990. Volunteers cleared the overgrown park and opened the park on weekends to the public in 1993. The Florida Park Service officially opened Rainbow Springs State Park on a full time basis on March 9, 1995.
FACILITIES AND ACTIVITIES OVERVIEW
Full Hookup Sitesyes
The Rainbow Springs State Park campground is located on the river about a mile and a half downstream from the main headspring and day use area, a driving distance of approximately 6 miles. All sites have water and electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), and are equipped with sewer hook-ups. Most sites will accommodate a 40-foot RV with slide out. A dump station is located between the upper and lower campgrounds. A campground store, recreation hall, showers & restrooms, laundry, pool, and playground complete the amenities offered.
Guided Bird Walk
Guided Bird Walks are on the last Saturday in Sept-April led by Volunteer and President of Citrus County Audubon, Fred Hileman along with other birding enthusiasts. Meet in the parking lot at 8:00 a.m. at the Headsprings Entrance Parking lot unless otherwise instructed. Beginners are welcome. Bring binoculars or other birding tools, good shoes, and water. A few pairs of binoculars may be available for use.
UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service''s "Go Springs and Get Wet"
Enjoy a fun day at Rainbow Springs State Park during the UF/IFAS Marion County Extension Service''s "Go Springs and Get Wet" program on April 2nd. Learn about Florida springs, protecting our state''s precious water, and underground caves during the first half of the day, then after lunch enjoy a guided hike through the park. Lunch is included with the registration fee. In the afternoon from about 2pm - 3:30pm, participants are welcome to participate in an optional "Get Wet" activity. You may choose to go on a guided canoe/kayak paddle or jump in the water to assist in an algae clean-up project in the headsprings.
You must register to participate in this program. To register online at Eventbrite, click here(link is external) or call the Marion County Extension Office at 352-671-8400.
Guided Butterfly Garden Walk
Stroll among the flowers in our peaceful wildlife habitat butterfly garden. Learn from a garden Volunteer about the importance of the variety of host and nectar plants and discover the caterpillars, chrysalises, birds, butterflies and pollinators living among the blooms.
Please allow yourself at least 15 minutes to walk from the main park entrance back to the butterfly garden. Be prepared to walk uneven, sloping, paved and unpaved walkways. Participants should bring water and wear comfortable clothing and closed toed shoes. Bug repellant and sunscreen is recommended. There are no restroom facilities near the butterfly garden. Well behaved pets on a leash are welcome. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult.
Education Series for the Curious Adult
On the third Thursday of January to April, Rainbow Springs State Park and the Friends of Rainbow Springs welcome you to interesting and educational presentations on various topics for the curious adult. Presentation topics can include such things as native bees and pollinators, azalea care, the springs of Florida and how to protect them, butterflies, wildlife and more. The programs are presented by park staff, volunteers and guest speakers from a myriad of professional backgrounds in an open-aired ADA accessible pavilion at the Headsprings. Programs begin at 10am, please come at least 15 minutes early to enjoy the refreshments provided by the Friends of Rainbow Springs State Park. Check back each month to find out what interesting presentation will be given next!
This month, join us for a program on Gardening for Butterflies. Would you like to attract more of these colorfully beautiful pollinators to your yard? Then come to Rainbow Springs State Park on April 21st to learn how to create a garden that butterflies can''t resist.
The cool, clear waters of the headsprings attract swimmers from late spring through fall. Swimming and snorkeling are restricted to the buoyed swimming area. The average depth in the swimming area runs from 5 to 18 feet; the water temperature averaging 72 degrees year round. Swimming hours are from 8 am to one hour before sunset. The swimming area is closed during thunderstorms. All inflatables, including rafts, tubes and balls are not allowed in the park. Swimmers may wear life preservers or use the popular " swim noodles."
During the busier summer season lifeguards may be on duty. Other than a small wading area for toddlers, the water is over 5 feet deep. Please be prepared to carefully monitor your own children and non-swimmers.
Starting at the state park and flowing into the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon, the 5.6 mile long Rainbow River is truly an outstanding waterway. The crystal clear water flowing past moss-draped cypress trees competes for your attention with the river otters and large numbers of wading birds. Launching access to the river is somewhat limited. Many boaters launch at the popular KP Hole County Park, approximately 1-? miles downstream from the park. Privately owned boats launched at the headsprings must be carried from the parking area approximately 1000 feet to the canoe launch. Campers may rent or launch their own canoes or kayaks at the state park campground. Canoes and kayaks, including paddles and all safety equipment, are available for rent from our Visitor Service Provider, Dragonfly Watersports. A number of special regulations apply to the Rainbow River, so be sure to review the river rules prior to any boating activities.
Snorkeling the headsprings of the Rainbow River is a favorite activity but is only allowed in the buoyed swimming area. However, it is allowed from the campground or from boats once you are outside of the headsprings. Please be aware that state law requires dive flags for all snorkelers. Another way to enjoy snorkeling is to sign up during the summer for a ranger-guided tour. You will learn what you are looking at and be allowed access to the otherwise protected headsprings area.