Despite the development, Rainbow Springs offers a range of activities


Site: Rainbow Springs is located at 19158 SW 81st Place Road in Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon, southwest Marion County. Subway rentals are available at 10830 SW 180th Ave. Road.

On: A former phosphate mine site turned into a tourist attraction, Rainbow Springs has come a long way to its state park status acquired in 1990. The site still has many vestiges of its past, however, between the phosphate pits , man-made waterfalls and even bird remains and animal cages.

A first-magnitude spring with a flow rate of over 400 million gallons per day, Rainbow Spring ranks among the highest discharge rates of more than 1,000 artesian springs in Florida. There are also several other smaller springs in the Rainbow Springs group, which flow south as the Rainbow River and merge with the Withlacoochee River.

In addition to its history, Native American artifacts from 10,000 years ago, as well as fossils of mastodons and mammoths, have been found here.

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The houses are built a few yards from the Rainbow River in Dunnellon.

Visitors: Rainbow Springs is a popular recreation area, especially for swimmers, snorkelers, and paddlecraft. Kayak and canoe rental is available at the springs, as are inner tubes at the entrance to the tubes. Entrance fees are $ 2 at the head springs or free for children under 6.

With high attendance during weekends and holidays, the entrance to the springs closes after reaching capacity. Visitors can also picnic, camp and hike.

The entrance to the sources is open from 8 a.m. to sunset all year round. The entrance to the tubes is closed from October to March and has variable hours the rest of the year. Check the availability of tubes and camping online.

Joe Wallace enters the Rainbow River Cave in Dunnellon, Fla. On Tuesday, October 19, 2021.

Problems: Although it is a popular place for recreation, advocates say it harms the Rainbow River system, especially tubers that throw litter, trample vegetation and increase the turbidity of the water.

Rainbow Springs has been identified as being weathered due to excessive concentrations of nitrates in the water, which causes excessive algae growth. Under the Florida Springs and Aquifer Protection Act, sources with impaired water quality require a Basin Management Action Plan (BMAP) to meet standards within 20 years.

The analysis revealed that 20% of the nitrogen load in the region’s groundwater was caused by septic systems, 13% by the use of urban and sports fertilizers and 54% by livestock waste, including horse and cattle farms, and agricultural fertilizers.

Groundwater withdrawals and industrial development have also contributed to flow reduction and ecosystem degradation. Although the flow has increased recently due to a rainy summer, it is down by about 20% in the long term.

Future: Advocates say intensive agriculture should be discouraged in favor of better practices, the amount of water withdrawn for development should be reduced, and recreation should be limited.

The City of Dunnellon will consider an ordinance later this year to limit the number of foreign sellers who can offer tubing and shuttle service along the river.

Under BMAP, nitrogen levels are to be reduced over 20 years by banning new septic tanks, connecting lots to the central sewer, reducing fertilizer input, using better irrigation and more. Again. Advocates say the targets are insufficient to reduce nitrate levels and are currently calling for a stronger action plan.

Contact reporter Danielle Johnson at


Sally J. Minick