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Latest update: April 2021

Rainbow River... Florida

Paddling a Popular 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:

KP Hole County Park (rentals)

Rainbow Springs State Park (rentals)

Rainbow River Kayak Adventures (rentals)

Rainbow River Canoe and Kayak (rentals)

Rainbow River Water Taxi (shuttle-diving, snorkeling, tubing, sightseeing)

Support and Advocacy:

Rainbow River Conservation, Inc.

Friends of Rainbow Springs State Park

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 (alcohol, disposable containers, etc.)


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

The launch at Rainbow Springs State Park is about 1,800 feet from the parking area, requiring portage. A good alternative is to launch at KP Hole County Park, about 1.5 miles downstream from the State Park, and then paddle to the State Park and back. An easy paddle, a short detour onto a scenic side stream was a bonus.


Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs State Park has camping, diving, boating, fishing, picnicking, and nature trails. The Visitor Center has restrooms, snack bar, and gift shop. Originally developed as a tourist attraction, the area around the spring has largely been returned to a natural state though the gardens and waterfalls of the original attraction have been preserved. State Park fee applies.


KP Hole County Park

KP Hole County Park (9435 SW 190th Ave. Road,) is a good launching spot for Rainbow River, served by several outfitters. If using your own vessel, a per-person fee applies. 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.


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 the 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, otters, raccoons, deer, and birds such as hawks, owls and various waterfowl.

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