Having won a cabin rental along the Rainbow River in a charity auction, we made a 5 day multi-river paddle trip our anniversary vacation. We drove down from Jacksonville early in the morning, and since check in wasn't until 4, we went right to the outfitter (Dragonfly Watersports) and got on the way to our first paddle of the Rainbow River.
First off, let me tell you that folks at Dragonfly are awesome. Shuttle was $15 for the first boat and $6 for the second. NO scheduled times; they go when you want to. We launched out of KP Hole Park. The park charges a $3 launch fee each. No disposable containers are allowed on the Rainbow so be sure to have your water and snacks in sports bottles and Tupperware.
We paddled about a mile upstream to get to the spring head. It's in another park and the spring head was roped off for swimmers. We turned around and headed back downstream for the 5 or so mile paddle to the take out at the bridge. The Rainbow is lovely, but once you pass KP, it is totally developed with houses on one side and loaded with tubers (in warm weather).
Highlight: my first otter sighting.
Authors Note: Though the Rainbow is certainly lovely, it lacks that "otherwordly" quality that draws me back to places like Juniper and Ocklawaha. The next day, we went back to Dragonfly to do the Withlacoochee.
We stayed at the Rainbow River Club. Talk about a laid back place with a great deal. A 2 beadroom cabin with full kitchen, living room, and a giant screened in porch is $100 a night. This place is so laid back, you just get there and go to your cabin and walk right in. The keys are inside along with a welcome letter. Just catch up with someone at your convenience before you leave to settle up your bill. The address I provided is for the main property which is villas. The cabins are a short drive away.
Here is the contact info for Dragonfly Watersports:
20336 E. Pennsylvania Avenue
Dunnellon, FL 34432
(revs. only) 1-800-919-9579
Launch at KP was $3 each. Dragonfly's shuttle was convenient, immediate, reasonable and very friendly. In fact, when we pulled out where we parked the truck, the Dragonfly guys were there with their shuttle bus waiting for tubers. They saw us coming out and carried our yaks and put them back up on our truck.
From I-75 you can take 484 west and then 41 south in Dunnellon, and follow the signs.