Dave's Yak Tales

Cedar Key Sunset

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Rainbow River

I began a new month of kayaking with a visit to Dunellon, FL, to paddle the Rainbow River, Saturday, December 1, 2007. Dunellon is in the northernmost part of Citrus County. The launch is a city park, adjacent to City Hall, on the Withlacoochee River. I got an early start, the restrooms were still locked. The Dunellon City Hall clock read 8:13 as I put in, past an ibis and limpkin searching the shore for shells. A short paddle up the Withlacoochee and I arrived at the end of the Rainbow. River. The Rainbow is 5.5 miles from a group of springs to the Withlacoochee. More springs add to the flow in the first mile and a half, one source lists 18. All these springs make the Rainbow a deep, clear beautiful River for its entire course. Fish and turtles are easily seen several feet below the surface. All those fish, easily seen make it a happy hunting ground for birds like these cormorants.

Homes line the Rainbow for most of its length. But strict rules, no wake, no alcohol, and no disposables, help to keep it clean. Rainbow Spring State Park preserves the area around the headwaters in a day use only area, and a non-contiguous campground is downstream. The gap between the day use and camping area is Rainbow Swamp, which has a beautiful spring run coming from a small spring. I use to paddle up the run, and snorkel this hidden gem. But a new owner has put up this sign

I went past the sign, I do not think trespassing applies to a navigable waterway, but I did not go all the way to the spring. Why the State did not buy this land, I don't know.

Until I got close to the headwaters, I saw more otters, 6, the boats, two. Five of the otters were in one group. The human crowd was a big change from my last visit, on Labor Day. On that holiday, the river was full of floaters tubing. No tubers today. Plenty of scuba divers and snorkelers, however. They began to appear just past the campground, getting into the water from Marion County Park, K.P. Hole, or from tour pontoon boats. All were in wetsuits. Wimps. The weather was fantastic. Mid 7o's. The water, as you should know from reading my spring related posts, was 70-72.

I arrived at the day use area and ate my 50 cent lunch with a million dollar view.

The view is from the top of a man made hill. Fill from phosphate mines. From the 1930's to the 1970's Rainbow Springs was a privately run attraction. Gardens, a small zoo , glass bottom boats, waterfalls, and so on. Just the waterfalls remain. Artificial, water has to be pumped up to the top, but they make a nice picture.

I strolled the falls area, also viewing a couple springs, walk through the old zoo area, through a native plant garden and then a 1.5 mile hike through a natural area. This butterfly was in the native plant garden.

There is a swim area at the Park, but access to the springs is not allowed.

Unless you're a bird

Plenty of snorkeling once outside of the Park, and I took advantage. Clear water, diverse underwater scenery make the Rainbow a great snorkel.

I was in the water over an hour. Panfish and bass, needlefish and huge gar, springs and flowing eelgrass, other areas with white sand bottom, others with limestone outcrops and boulders, plenty to see in front of your mask. A large group snorkeled the opposite side of the River from my location. A tour, I assume, from the 25 or so same colored snorkels poking above the surface. I ended my drift at KP Hole Park, where another large group of wetsuited snorkelers were getting out of the water. This had to be a school or girl scout group. 11-14 year old girls and a few adults. I got back in the yak, thinking, could be worse, could be 11-14 year old boys, and floated down the crystal clear waters of the Rainbow River


kel said...

I recently kayaked the Rainbow River and loved it. I didn't get pictures, so i really enjoyed yours. The one thing i didn't enjoy, was the smokers and i saw many butts floating in the water.

Dave said...

It blows my mind that people smoke while tubing, or when walking in a forest. I think its part addiction, part stupidity.

Anonymous said...

why do you care dave your not proving a very good point

Dave said...

I care because I am concerned about the heath and beauty of the world we share.

David said...

Anonymous, look who's talking. Your point is not caring and defending careless insensitivity.