Florida summers in the suburbs can be scorching when you are surrounded by strip malls and roads that cross through nearly every patch of green around. The solution? Just add water. Spring water that is! The cool waters of the Rainbow River in Dunnellon beckoned us a couple weeks ago. So, we piled the family in the ‘ol swagger wagon and journeyed two hours north leaving at 6:30 a.m. to ensure we got there before it reached capacity.
We opted for a four hour float down the river and started at AWA rentals. We pre-packed a lunch careful not to include ANYTHING disposable. This rule is strictly enforced to keep the Rainbow River beautiful. The AWA shuttle took us up to K.P. Hole, a nicely renovated county park with bathrooms, vending machines, and air compressors for pumping up your personal rafts. Bring $5 CASH to avoid a huge line for using cards. County employees were sniffing thermoses too for alcohol!
During the crowded, but beautiful four hour float we saw diving birds (cormorants), a river otter, a small alligator (2ft. resting by the woods), mullet schools, river grasses, clear water, and of course, lots of trees! We attached all tubes together and enjoyed getting out of the them occasionally with goggles on to get gorgeous underwater views. Teenagers jumped from one of a couple of rope swings after climbing up on nailed on footholds. Homes are built up on one side of the river for most of the journey. However, the left side remains undeveloped. Most people exit after 2 hours at the Rainbow River State Park exit. If you continue on for 2 hours more, reapply sunscreen and eat a snack on the float. We literally saw only one piece of trash the entire trip! This is no doubt the result of the strict enforcement of the no disposables rule. The last two hours of the trip is less crowded with tubers.
If you rent from AWA rentals, exit RIGHT at Swampy’s restaurant and right where you parked to begin with. There is a bridge dead ahead so you cannot miss it. You can change clothes in AWA’s tiny garage bathroom. It’s not pretty, but utilitarian. I would recommend Swampy’s for sure. It does get crowded too as Dunnellon is a small town with few choices on the river for lunch. However, we’ve always found it worth the wait.