© Team Navigator 2012
The Rainbow River in Florida is located in Dunnellon in the southwest corner of Marion County or
about 20 miles southwest of Ocala Florida, 100 miles northwest of Orlando and 100 miles north of
the Tampa-St Pete area. It is formed by a first-magnitude spring that is ranked fourth in the state
for volume of discharge. In addition to the springs located at the headwaters, there are many
smaller springs that discharge from numerous caves, rock crevices, and sand boils the entire
length of the river.
The Rainbow River is a gently winding river that is 5.7 miles long and merges with the
Withlacoochee River in Dunnellon, Florida. The headwaters are at Rainbow Springs State Park.
This first-magnitude spring is not one large vent but is numerous vents that spew about 400
- 600 million gallons of crystal clear water every day. Rainbow Springs State Park is a popular
destination to swim, snorkel, canoe, picnic, or stroll on the walking paths to enjoy the many plants
and animals that abound here.
Once named Wekiwa Creek, Blue Spring, and Blue Run, archaeological evidence indicates that the waters of the Rainbow River have
attracted and sustained human inhabitants for over 10,000 years. The crystal clear water, abundant with fish, wildlife and vegetation along
with the constant water temperature of 73 degrees, has attracted a number of modern day activities.
Rainbow Springs and the Rainbow River became popular in the late 1880s when hard rock phosphate was discovered in the area. A small
community called Juliette flourished near the springs during this "boomtown" era. In the 1930s the spring was developed as a tourist
attraction. Sea walls, a lodge, gift shop, the waterfalls, and a reptile exhibit were developed. Under new ownership, the real heyday for the
attraction occurred in the 1960s. During that time activity greatly increased with glass-bottomed boat rides, riverboat rides, log raft rides, a
gift shop and cafe, an aviary, a leaf-shaped gondola/monorail system, a horse rodeo, and submarine boat tours. Not faring well when
traffic began using I-75 instead of U.S. Highway 41, with many tourists heading to a new attraction called Walt Disney the attraction
closed in 1974.
The Rainbow River was designated as a Registered Natural Landmark in 1972, an Aquatic Preserve in 1986, and an "Outstanding Florida
Waterway" in 1987. The state purchased the original area that was the Rainbow Springs attraction in 1990. Volunteers cleared the
overgrown park and opened the park on weekends to the public. The Florida Park Service officially opened Rainbow Springs State Park on
a full-time basis on March 9, 1995.
The state park is comprised of 1,459.07 acres of upland which includes around 100 acres of wetlands and 12.83 acres that are submerged.
The most significant natural feature is the first-magnitude headspring basin which produces between 400 - 600 million gallons of fresh water
per day, forming the Rainbow River. The looking-glass waters of the Rainbow River come from several vents, not one large bubbling spring.
The river itself supports a wide variety of fish, wildlife, and plants, many within easy viewing by visitors. In total, the park contains 11 distinct
natural communities, including sandhills, flatwoods, upland mixed forests, and hydric hammocks. Visitors are able to see a variety of
wildflowers in season; oak, longleaf pines, magnolia, dogwood, redbud, and hickory trees; gray squirrels, red-shoulder hawks, swallowtail
kites, barred owls, whitetail deer, and a wide variety of wading birds. The relative peace and quiet of the winter season offers much for the
nature enthusiast. There is an interpretive room located in the visitor center displaying historical, natural, and cultural resources of the park.
From Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainbow_River
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