The Rainbow RiverDunnellon, FL
The Rainbow River is the nicest river I’ve ever visited. Its’ beautiful water, unspoiled surrounding and swimming appeal make it a top spot in Florida. I’ve been wanting to explore the Rainbow River for years. I’m so glad I finally did!
THE SPRING HEAD
The water that flows down the Rainbow River begins at the spring head of Rainbow Springs. Rainbow Springs is a 1st magnitude spring that has the fourth highest flow of all Florida springs. Consequently, it produces a water flow of 493 million gallons of water per day! Water produced by the spring originates from natural rainwater collected from underground caves throughout a 770 square mile area. The water temperature is 72 degrees, year-round.
The Rainbow River is roughly five miles long and starts at the spring head and flows south until it meets with the tannic Withlacoochee. Its’ best characteristic is its’ crystal-clear water combined with an “Old Florida” feel. As you travel up the river towards the spring head, the water gets clearer and clearer. The water temperature is 72 degrees year-round and the depth of the river varies from two feet to 20 feet. Beautiful homes, tucked among the majestic oak trees and cypress trees, line the shoreline. The Rainbow River is one of the most beautiful rivers I’ve ever seen!
RULES ON THE RIVER
For safety and environmental purposes the river has some rules. First, the entire river is designated an “idle speed/no wake” zone. Second, it’s important to know that all food and beverages must be stored in non-disposable containers (i.e. Tupperware, Yeti, etc.). Finally, alcohol is not allowed, however, if you’d like a drink you can check out Swampy’s Bar & Grill. It is a great place and has dockage directly on the river. For more info about the river rules click HERE.
NAVIGATING THE RIVER
After launching at the Dunnellon Public Boat Ramp, you’ll head up-river. Initially, you’ll see that the water color is tannic and looks like coffee. That is because it’s mostly water from the Withlacoochee River. About a mile into the journey you’ll notice that the river splits. Stay to the left to enter the Rainbow River. Immediately upon entering the river the water will change and it gets clearer as you travel up-river. The entire river is an “idle speed” zone so sit back and enjoy the scenery. It took me roughly two hours to get to the northern most part of the river and a little over half of that to get back. The biggest thing to watch out for is others enjoying the river. You’ll share the water with numerous kayakers, SUPs’, tubers and swimmers so stay alert.
CROWDED DURING SUMMER WEEKENDS
During the warmer months the river can get crowded — especially, during the weekends. As a result, it’s best to try and visit the river during the weekdays, if possible.
DUNNELLON BOAT RAMP
The Dunnellon Public Boat Ramp is a great ramp to use when accessing the river. It’s a nice ramp with approximately 20 parking spaces and is free of charge. I imagine it gets crowded during the weekends but when I visited on a Friday in late September there were only five other trucks there. In addition, the ramp has nice restrooms and an equally, nice dock for staging. You can only launch one boat at a time and you have to park up the hill. As a result, it can take a bit longer to launch.
KP HOLE BOAT RAMP
Another boat ramp is the one located at “KP Hole”. KP Hole is located close to the spring head and is the best place to launch a canoe, kayak or SUP in my opinion. It’s also a great place to launch a small boat. Even though I didn’t use it, I found out that any boat on a single-axle trailer can launch there. As a result, KP Hole is ideal for small boats like a Carolina Skiff, Boston Whaler Sport or Montauk, or a skiff like a Maverick or Hewes. There aren’t a lot of parking spaces but they’ll “accommodate everyone” according to them. The cost is $20 to use the ramp.
CANOES, KAYAKS AND PONTOON BOAT RENTALS
The Rainbow River is great for paddle sports. The ideal way to do it is to launch at the spring head or KP Hole and paddle down-stream. The current is strong and would make for a challenging kayak or SUP paddle if rowing against it. There are numerous places that offer rentals or you can bring your own.
Freshwater Spring, Unspoiled, “Old Florida”
Sandy Pockets & Lot’s of Grass Beds
Only in Sandy Areas
Yes (at both ramps)
COST TO ENTER RIVER
No Cost for Boaters Launching at City Ramp/ $20 to Launch at KP Hole
Use Bow Anchor and Powerpole if Necessary
Swampy’s Bar & Grill (with dockage)
NEARBY BOAT-FRIENDLY HOTELS:
Click on the 360 Video below for an immersive look at this location
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