Sunday, June 12, 2011

Trip 41: Rainbow Springs State Park

State Parks visited:  33

Sixteen years ago, Rob and I embarked on an adventure that has taken us both across the country and around the world.  We've weathered storms and celebrated smooth sailing.  We developed hobbies, changed jobs, moved countless times, had fun, shed some tears, and started a family.  Most of all, we've relied on each other, loved each other, and maintained a true partnership.  In celebration of our 16th wedding anniversary, we did something we truly love to do:  We went camping!!

The Friday of our anniversary, after putting in the necessary time at work, we loaded our gear and our kayaks and headed for Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, Florida.  We knew it would be after dark by the time we got there, so Xandra arrived first and checked us in.  Pretty soon Chris showed up and they set up camp.  Eventually we got there.  Our site was near a pretty busy intersection of the park, but that wasn't really a problem.  My problem was the cold!  I had been expecting heat and ended up shivering most of the night.  In fact, I was only able to sleep after I snuggled up to Rob and got Olivia to snuggle up behind me.

After brewing my morning necessity and taking care of breakfast, we got ready for our first adventure:  Tubing!!  That's one of the great things you can do at Rainbow Springs, and we wanted to see as much as possible.

Okay, here's where it got a little weird.  We left our camping area, drove down the road to the tubing entrance, paid the fee for the tubes, and then took the bus to the tube launch...which was right by our campsite.  Oh well, at least now we know the ins and outs of tubing at Rainbow!

The water was clear and cool and so inviting on a hot day!  With the exception of Xandra, who swam the whole way, we launched our tubes and began a leisurely float down the river.

Dragonflies and damselflies were our constant companions down the river. 

Pretty soon we reached the end of the tubing run.  Having gone tubing last year down the Ichetucknee, this experience was completely different.  The Ich was narrow and shaded and tubing was pretty much all you did there, although there were a couple of brave kayakers in the water.  On the Rainbow, the river was wide and bright, much like the St. Johns River here at home.  We also shared the river with kayakers, boaters, snorkelers, swimmers, birds.  Lots of activity.  And it was a lot of fun!!

After tubing, lunch was our top priority.  After that, we decided to head up to the headspring area of the park.  The park is so large that we had to drive several miles down the road to get there.  There are formal gardens, waterfalls, and lots of beautiful things to see.  There is also a swimming area, but we weren't planning to swim that day.  Weddings are popular at the headsprings area, and sure enough, we saw one in progress.

We tried to talk 'em out of it....;)

We wandered as much as possible, through the paths with waterfalls surrounding us and back through the butterfly garden.  The park used to contain a zoo as well, and we walked through that too.  Eventually it was time to leave.  We headed, of all places, to the local Wal-Mart for a sleeping way was I going to shiver all night again!...and then did some geocaching on the way back to camp.

Then it was time for some swimming at the tube launch, which was the swimming area for the campground.  After that, we had dinner and relaxed around camp.

The new sleeping bag helped a lot, and I had the nicest, coziest night's sleep I've ever had while camping!  Sunday was Mother's Day, and I eased myself awake to find Olivia eager to give me her gift.  She decorated a bag at school with a poem about breakfast in bed, and inside was a granola bar, tea bag, and a very nice thing she wrote about her favorite things about me.  I don't think I have ever felt so special on Mother's Day before!

After packing up camp and checking out of the campground, we launched our kayaks and headed upstream to the headspring area of the park.  It was an easy paddle and unbelievably beautiful!!  Once we were back in the headsprings area of the park we went for a swim, and then paddled around outside the swimming area.  The volunteer riding around in the park patrol boat recommended a particular cove for us to stop and check out, and I'm grateful he did.  There is a sunken glass-bottomed boat there and I was able to take many awesome pictures of fish and a turtle there.  Here are a bunch of photos from the paddling trip:

We got back to the take-out point and loaded the kayaks for the drive home, and ended up stopping for wings along the way.  This trip has, so far, been my favorite camping and paddling experience.  The whole weekend spoke to me of love, family, friendship, appreciation.  It's going to be hard for any other parks to meet the Rainbow Springs standard, but we keep on trying! 


  1. What a wonderful trip!
    I am embarrassed I got so behind in reading your blog! I am catching up now and thoroughly enjoying vicariously. I DO need to get out there!
    Wonderful entries, Paula!

  2. Found the picture of the sunken glass bottom boat and turtle. Definitely will have to go there.

  3. My first husband and I enjoyed this park immensely while we lived in Ocala in the early 1970s. It was fun to read about it now. Great review!