When you think of Florida, you probably dream of three things: Disney, palm trees and water. Whether it’s the waves of the Atlantic Ocean, or the calm seas that make up the Gulf of Mexico, so many people come to Florida for sun, sand and the sea between their toes. However, if you do some research, and travel a little ways off the beaten path, you’ll come to a lesser known State Park near central-west Florida. Welcome to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, FL!
Rainbow Springs State Park has some interesting history, being several times over the years a privately owned tourist road-side attraction, complete with waterfalls, glass bottom boat tours and even a zoo!?! Today, it is managed by the State Park Service, and for a mere $2 entrance fee, you too can enjoy the beauty of this place.
Mother Nature installed the first (and in my opinion best) attraction that this place has to offer. A crystal clear, turquoise swimming hole that is out of this world beautiful!
I mean, come on….LOOK at how clear that water is!
The water is a constant 72 degrees, which is a bit chilly for this lady, who likes her swimming water to be the temperature of warm bath water…..but that didn’t stop lots of people from jumping in for a nice swim under the sunny sky.
Because water is constantly flowing from the natural underwater spring, the color and clarity of the water at the headsprings area has this amazing turquoise color, and is soo clear you can see everything under the surface (including little fishies swimming around!)
In the summer, the State Park offers inner tube “rides”, in which you slowly float down the beautiful river, and get whisked back to your car by a tram when you arrive downriver. This was closed when I visited earlier this month, but will open up as an attraction in the summer. I do hope to be back to experience it!
For rent on site are kayaks and canoes, giving everyone a chance to glide along the calm waters.
The park has picnic benches, a pavilion for large gatherings, large grassy hills that you can play frisbee on, and even a concession station, complete with hot dogs, ice-cream bars and nachos (the diet of all who wish to don a bathing suit 😉
On my visit, throughout the park, the azalea bushes were in full bloom, only adding to the beauty of the area.
The other part that makes this park so interesting to visit, is the historic side. As I mentioned, it used to be a tourist road-side attraction, at one point having a zoo and rodeo. You can see remains of some of the zoo enclosures, and posted signs describe to visitors how the area was used.
The enclosures were a bit rundown and spooky, having been around for several decades.
Some of the sidewalks even were stamped concrete to look like wood planks!
And the last thing to see, but definitely not least, are the WATERFALLS!!!!!! When this place was designed in the 20s, 30s, and updated in the 60s and 70s, several waterfalls were created to add to the allure of the attraction. These waterfalls are so beautiful!
The falls are positioned along meandering paths that wind through the park. The native plants around them are lush, green and full, making this seem like paradise!
Signs make sure swimmers stay where they belong…..;-)
I could have stayed forever, walking among the trees, hearing the water crash down on the rocks, and looking at the water everywhere! If you are traveling through Florida and can take the time to visit, it is well worth your while! I can’t wait to go back!