Floridian Nature

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Florida Nature: Rainbow River
swiiming at rainbow river state parkThe Rainbow River is located in the southwest corner of Marion County Florida. It is formed by a first magnitude spring that is ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge. In addition to the springs located at the headwaters, there are many smaller springs that discharge from numerous caves, rock crevices, and sand boils the entire length of the river. The Rainbow River is a gently winding river that is 5.7 miles long and merges with the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon Florida. The headwaters is the anchor for the Rainbow Springs State Park. This first magnitude spring is not one large vent but is numerous vents that issue 400 - 600 million gallons of crystalline water every day.

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 Rainbow Springs State Park is a popular destination to swim, snorkel, canoe, picnic, or stroll on the walking paths to enjoy the many plants and animals that abound here. Archaeological evidence indicates that people have been using this spring for nearly 10,000 years. Rainbow Springs is Florida's fourth largest spring. 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!



rainbow river in Dunnellon FloridaUnder 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.

Rainbow Springs State Park is comprised of 1,459.07 upland acres (which includes around 100 acres of wetlands) and 12.83 submerged acres. The most significant natural feature is the first magnitude headspring basin which produces between 400 - 600 million gallons of fresh water per day, forming the Rainbow River. The looking glass waters of Rainbow Springs come from several vents, not one large bubbling spring. The river itself supports a wide variety of fish , wildlife, and plants, many within easy viewing by visitors. In total, the park contains 11 distinct natural communities, including sandhills, flatwoods, upland mixed forests, and hydric hammocks. Visitors are able to see a variety of wildflowers in season; oak, longleaf pines, magnolia, dogwood, redbud, and hickory trees; gray squirrels, red-shoulder hawks, swallowtail kites, barred owls, whitetail deer, and a wide variety of wading birds. The relative peace and quiet of the winter season offers much for the nature enthusiast. There is an interpretive room located in the visitor center displaying historical, natural, and cultural resources of the park.

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.

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The Rainbow River is located in the southwest corner of Marion County Florida. It is formed by a first magnitude spring that is ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge. In addition to the springs located at the headwaters, there are many smaller springs that discharge from numerous caves, rock crevices, and sand boils the entire length of the river. The Rainbow River is a gently winding river that is 5.7 miles long and merges with the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon Florida. The headwaters is the anchor for the Rainbow Springs State Park. This first magnitude spring is not one large vent but is numerous vents that issue 400 - 600 million gallons of crystalline water every day.
The Rainbow River is the perfect place to enjoy a lazy river ride on a tube or in a canoe. Just check the weather and don't get caught halfway down the river by an afternoon thunderstorm that is ever so common on summer afternoons in central Florida. The Rainbow Springs State Park is a popular destination to swim, snorkel, canoe, picnic, or stroll on the walking paths to enjoy the many plants and animals that abound.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. Its clear spring fed water has a constant temperature of 72 degrees, making it a refreshing way to enjoy Floridian nature on a hot summer day!
Rainbow River
Date published: 10/23/2013
4 / 5 stars