Well, home for a little less than a month, and we’re already headed out for a weekend trip to Rainbow Springs State Park just west of Ocala, Florida. After our long trip out west, we’ve decided to try and spend the next few months close to home with short drives. Of course if feels weird to hook everything up and head out for a two hour drive. For some reason it feels like I should be driving for six to eight hours before stopping. Also, since it’s summer, we’ve decided to try and visit springs and beaches until Halloween.
Rainbow Springs State Park is separated into three sections. There is the spring head, the campground and the tubing area. You are only actually at the springs at the spring head, which is the source of the Rainbow River which runs by the campground and the tubing area. As a camper, you get access to all three areas, but you have drive to the tubing area and the spring head.
The spring head is located near the intersection of FL-40 and US-41. It was originally a tourist attraction until the mid-70’s. So there are walking trails that take you by the old zoo area and by a number a man made waterfalls that were featured in the gardens. You can also swim in the springs, nice cool refreshing water at 72 degrees F. The water is very clear, and a great place to swim on a hot day. The only drawback is that the access to the swim area is off a large dock platform, and you can’t really stand up in the water once you get in. So there is a large crowd of people trying to hang onto the dock. If you move away from the dock, the crowd thins out, but you have to tread water or swim.
The tubing Area is located about a mile and a quarter south of the campground entrance to the park. For day visitors that want to tube, they park at the tubing area and take a tram up to the campground river access. If you are staying the campground, you can tube down and take the tram back (the tram has a fee that is not covered by park admission or camping fees), or you can do what CurbCrusher gang did: I drove down to the tubing area first thing in the morning and parked the toad and rode a bike back to the campground. There is not a lot else to the tram area other than the parking lot and a boardwalk that leads to the river. Tubing on the river is pleasant as the entire Rainbow River is an idle zone for power boats, so there is not a lot of worrying about getting run over.
The campground is located along the Rainbow River between the head springs and the tubing area. It is at most a quarter mile walk from the campground to the river bank. At the river bank, there is a marked off area for swimming and a tube/canoe/kayak launch point. The tram from the tubing area drops folks off close to the river bank, so there are not a lot non-campers wandering around the campground. The campsites are full hookup with 30 and 50 amp, water and sewer. There are two or three pull-thru sites and most sites wide and of good length. There is very (VERY) little shade in this campground, and on hot days you can hear every single air conditioning unit running all day long as the rigs sit in the sun. The bathhouses are fairly new and clean and comfortable. There is a store/office, a game room and a small pool that are available at the campground. You can also rent canoes, kayaks and tubes from a concessionaire located by the river bank.
We had a great weekend at Rainbow Springs. We tubed the river on Saturday morning, a trip that took about two or two and a half hours. The rest of the time we relaxed and enjoyed the company of our fellow Florida Pop Up Camper club folks that showed up. We did take some time to head up the head spring and enjoy the gardens and the spring water for a couple of hours. We also found it very refreshing and relaxing to just sit in the river near the campground and enjoy the cool water. Pictures, as always, are in our Flickr account.