On my first trip to the Rainbow river I was looking for the State Park as a launch site but as I crossed the river on highway 484 and looking down saw how beautiful and crystal clear the water was I turned around and put my kayak in right there! This is probably the clearest river in the state. Most of the west side of the river is lined by houses and docks, which does not detract from the beauty. There is a no wake law for the entire length of the river that seems to be enforced. No alcohol, food, or disposable containers are allowed on the river. There is a moderate current but not enough to make it too strenuous.
We put in at the "tuber exit" which is a small parking area on the east side of the highway 484 bridge and paddled upstream to Rainbow Springs State Park. The length of the river from the 484 bridge to the headspring is 4.7 miles. KP Hole is a Marion County Park located on the east shore 3.2 miles from the bridge and 1.5 miles from the spring. The state park also has a fee and offers a great swimming area, canoe/kayak launching site (see photo), formal gardens and waterfall!
The wildlife along the river is bountiful. We saw several families of otters, many types of wading birds, pied billed grebes, wood ducks, and lots of fish. The aquatic vegetation and limestone formations on the bottom near the spring are really interesting. There are many places to dive and snorkel. The only bad thing I have heard about this river is that if there are a lot of boats you can choke on the exhaust fumes as they idle up and down the river. There were a few boats when we paddled the last Saturday of March and I could see how the air could get a bit thick with outboard fumes. The last mile of river to the headsprings doesn't allow any form of motorized vessels :)
KP Hole has clean restrooms, snack bar, swimming beach, and boat ramp. The State Park has a canoe/kayak launch area, snakc bar, restrooms, trials, and giftshop. There are NO FACILITIES at the Hwy 484 bridge.
KP Hole $2. State Park does have a fee ($1.00)
Rainbow Springs State Park is located west of Ocala Florida. Take Highway 40 west, then left on highway 41. The State Park is a few miles south on 41 on the left side. To get to KP Hole county park continue on 41 into Dunnellon, take a left on SW 190th Ave. there is a sign on 41 directing you to the park. To get to the 484 bridge continue into Dunnellon turn left on Highway 484 continue for a few miles, when you cross the bridge the parking area is on the right.
I paddled the river again this past weekend and found out that a new "rule" has changed the hwy 484 launch site. I was told by a Marion county parks employee who was parked at the bridge that kayaks were no longer allowed to be launched from the bridge. The bridge is being used as an exit for tubers only.
KP Hole (352) 489-3055
Rainbow Springs State Park
Go To this web site and type in Dunnellon, Fla. KP Hole also has river maps that a very nice attendant gave us.