Florida

Canoes, butterflies at Rainbow Springs State Park

 
 
 <span class="cutline_leadin">Quiet waters: </span>Paddling canoes in Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon.
Quiet waters: Paddling canoes in Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon.
Helen O’Connor

Orlando Sentinel

It wasn’t a picture-perfect day for outdoor exploring.

In the midst of a recent cold snap, temperatures were in the 40s, the sky was overcast and a drizzling rain soaked the boardwalks at Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon. Only a handful of people braved the weather, but the 1,472-acre park rewarded the effort with its lovely waterfalls and evocative scenes on the Rainbow River.

With a steamy mist rising from its quiet surface, the headsprings of the Rainbow River looked more like the setting for Creature From the Black Lagoon, but it was still lovely, in a spooky way.

Florida’s fourth largest spring, Rainbow Springs was home to a privately owned tourist attraction from the 1930s to the 1970s. It is west of Ocala and south of Gainesville. Now the state park (floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings) remains a prime spot for canoeing, kayaking and tubing, on days when you’re not bundled in a jacket.

Even without the benefit of sunshine, the tumbling waters of Seminole Falls were a tranquil treat. That waterfall was built in 1937, early in the park’s era as a Florida tourist magnet. Soil for the waterfall was moved from a nearby phosphate pit.

The park also offers trails, native plants and flowers, opportunities for bird-watching and a butterfly garden. The butterflies were avoiding the cold air on my visit, but the garden path was still inviting, lined with ironweed, fire bush, blue-eyed grass, mimosa vine, scarlet sage, Florida elephant’s foot, coral bean, wax myrtle and strawberry bush.

The headsprings and campground, about six miles away, are the backdrop for activities that include ranger-guided walks and snorkeling expeditions. I’d also recommend a meal at Swampy’s, a local favorite on the banks of the Rainbow River at County Road 484 in Dunnellon.

A steaming bowl of gator soup complemented my view of the river, also steaming.

If Rainbow Springs is this pretty in the rain, imagine its power to enchant in the sunshine.

Read more Florida Travel stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
The Falcon’s Fury drop tower officially opened Tuesday at Busch Gardens.

    Florida

    Falcon’s Fury finally opens at Busch Gardens

    Four months behind schedule and without advance notice, Falcon’s Fury opened Tuesday at Busch Gardens in Tampa.

  •  
A few months ago, the Desert Inn had a for-lease sign in front and looked abandoned. The restaurant has reopened under new management, and there are ambitious plans for the rest of the property.

    Yeehaw Junction

    Desert Inn to get a Wild West revival?

    Some men look at an old restaurant and ask: “Why?”

  •  
Tallahassee is a rooted place with a sense of history, more genteel and dignified than any of the state’s other urban centers, and infinitely more Southern.

    Quick trips: Florida

    Visit Tallahassee for fine and funky food (and football)

    Boiled p-nuts. Sometimes “boiled” is spelled wrong, too. There are stands that dot the back roads of the rural Florida Panhandle, fronted by hand-lettered signs that tout the glories of the green peanut. The outskirts of Tallahassee are P-nut Central, the stands’ proprietors hunkered over burners at the back of rattletrap trucks in the hot sun. So you stop.

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK



  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category