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Latest update: August 2022

Rainbow River... Florida

Kayaking a Popular FL Spring Run

Rainbow Springs, a first magnitude spring (the fourth-largest in Florida), forms the Rainbow River which winds with an easy current for almost 6 miles to the Withlacoochee River. A designated Outstanding Florida Waterway, the entire river was named as a Registered National Landmark in 1972. Exceptional water clarity makes this run popular with tubers and snorkelers, especially on weekends and holidays. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Rainbow River, kayak, canoe

Distance: 6 miles
Location: Marion County (Dunnellon)
Difficulty: Easy
Tidal: No
Launch points: Rainbow Springs State Park (bring wheels!), K.P. Hole County Park, Blue Run of Dunnellon Park, Centennial Park Boat Ramp (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Crystal River/Kings Bay, Ocala National Forest

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Easy Peasy Mobile Kayak Rental (kayak / paddleboard rental, mobile pickup/delivery including campsites & Airbnb)
KP Hole County Park ( kayak / tube / paddleboard rentals)
Rainbow Springs State Park (kayak / canoe rentals)
Rainbow River Kayak Adventures (kayak / tube rentals)
Rainbow River Canoe and Kayak (kayak / paddleboard rentals)
Rainbow River Water Taxi (pontoon boat shuttle - diving, snorkeling, tubing, sightseeing)

Support and Advocacy:

Rainbow River Conservation, Inc.
Friends of Rainbow Springs State Park

 

 

Kayaking on the Rainbow River... Comments and Photos

A few more springs feed the river with no runoff tributaries, so the water is crystal clear for viewing the underwater world. Ideal for kayak, canoe, or paddleboard. Very popular for tubing, especially in the season April to October - to avoid the tuber jams, paddle in the fall and winter. Little or no shade, plan on cooling off with a dip or two as you explore. Devil's Elbow, the deepest point, is a popular scuba diving area. Boating is allowed so keep aware, but the entire river is an idle speed/no wake zone.

Signs along the riverside include a list of prohibited items: paddle Rainbow River, kayak, canoe

 Page Summary:

  1. KP Hole upstream to Rainbow Springs State Park
    - KP Hole County Park
    - On the River
    - Rainbow Springs State Park
  2. Blue Run of Dunnellon Park to Withlacoochee River
    - At the Launch
    - On the River
    - Blue Run of Dunnellon Park
  3. Wildlife
  4. More Information and Resources

KP Hole Park upstream to Rainbow Springs State Park
(3 miles round-trip)

KP Hole County Park (9435 SW 190th Ave. Road) is a good launching spot for Rainbow River, served by several outfitters. Tubing is very popular here, especially in the summer. Facilities include parking, restrooms, picnicking, swimming, boat ramp, concession and rentals. Parking is at the park, with overflow across the road. Park fee applies.

We paddled about 1.5 miles upstream to the State Park, and back. An easy paddle, a short detour onto a scenic side stream was a bonus.

KP Hole County Park

On the River


Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs is Florida's 4th largest spring and one of the most beautiful with crystal clear blue-green water, forming the headwaters of Rainbow River. The 72-degree spring is popular for swimming and snorkeling, and the river for tubing and kayaking. The 1,470-acre park is exceptionally scenic, with paved walkways winding through the gardens and to the waterfalls, and a 2.5 mile nature trail. Other activities include camping, picnicking, and birding. The Visitor Center has restrooms, snack bar, and gift shop. On weekends and especially in the summer, the park and river can be very crowded. State Park fee applies.

Visitors may launch their own vessel. From the parking area, it's about 1,800 feet to the launch, requiring portage - for that reason, we launched at KP Hole County Park. The launch is just past the swimming area, with kayak, canoe, and paddleboard rentals available.

To the Launch

Rainbow Springs State Park

Blue Run of Dunnellon Park to Withlacoochee River
(2 miles round-trip)

Blue Run of Dunnellon Park (19680 E. Pennsylvania Ave./SR 484) provides a free kayak launch onto the Rainbow River and is a tuber takeout from the river. A boardwalk leads from the staging area to the launch, about 200 feet. We paddled upstream a short distance, and then downstream to juncture with the Withlacoochee River. Upstream, many tubers are seen. The tuber exit is at the Park, so continuing downstream are only paddlers and boats. Homes are located along the north riverbank in this section, while the south side is more natural. An easy paddle.

At the Launch

On the River


Blue Run of Dunnellon Park

Facilities at Blue Run of Dunnellon Park include parking, porta-potties and walking/nature trails. No fees. Parking at the main entrance off SR 484 is limited, overflow and trailer parking is available around the corner at a lot on San Jose Blvd. (1/4 mile by car with a 1/10 mile walking trail back to the launch). A connector biking/walking path leads to the Dunnellon Trail, part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Across the SR 484 bridge, Swampy's Bar & Grille is a popular spot for food and beverage.

Wildlife

The river, a State Aquatic Preserve, boasts abundant wildlife including alligators, turtles, otters, raccoons, deer, and birds such as hawks, owls and various waterfowl.

More Information and Resources

Some History:

Archaeological finds at Rainbow Springs date back 10,000 years. In the early 20th century, the area was mined for phosphates, then developed as a tourist attraction in the 1930's. The three picturesque waterfalls are manmade, built on phosphate tailings. Later acquired by the State and opening as a State Park in 1990, the land around the spring has largely been returned to a natural state though the gardens and waterfalls of the original attraction have been preserved.

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