Camping Rainbow Springs State Park in West Florida
Camp Florida: I’m talking with Cindy today. She’s a Park Ranger at Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida. How’s it going today, Cindy?
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Cindy: It’s a beautiful day. It’s warm and everybody should be here with me.
Camp Florida: I’ll hop on a plane right away and get down there.
Cindy: Sounds good.
Camp Florida: The place looks amazing. So, let’s start with how long Rainbow Springs State Park has been there and how it got started.
Cindy: Well, in the 1920s, Rainbow Springs was a private tourist attraction, and it slowly developed over the years into a place, which had rodeo, a petting zoo, animal shows, and mermaid skits that you could see from an underwater viewing boat. You could even ride in a leaf-shaped gondola on a monorail through a bird aviator. I mean it was quite really a great tourist destination here, in Florida. But you know, all that came to an end in the early 1970s, after I-75 diverted the North/South traffic away from US-41, and Walt Disney World, yay, opened its doors, so all that traffic went a different direction.
Camp Florida: Oh.
Cindy: Yeah. It was a unique start for our location here, but the State took it over in the 1990s and, with a lot of help from our local community, we opened our doors. We couldn’t have opened them up, really, without them, without their input. They were the ones that were instrumental in getting the State to actually buy the property. So, we started business basically in 1990 – mid-’90s.
Camp Florida: Did you say mermaid skits underwater?
Cindy: They did. They did. If you go onto the Florida Memory Project, you can actually see a lot of the pictures that they took from that time period, and they’re really, really interesting. They’re very funny.
Camp Florida: I’m going to have to check that out. I’ll see if I can find some of those photos to add into this post.
Cindy: Oh, you would love them.
Camp Florida: It’d be fun to add a couple of those.
Cindy: You would love them. They’re great.
Camp Florida: And so, what types of camping do you offer there?
Cindy: Well, we have 50 RV and tent sites, okay, that you could have both on. And then we have three sites that are for RVs only. They’re pull-through sites. And in addition to that, all of those RV or RV and tent sites have water and electric hook-up – 50amp, 30amp, and 20amp – and sewage connection as well. And then we have seven tent only sites that you actually – they call them hike-in sites, but reality is it’s not much of a hike, but you can’t drive up onto them, so you park in one location and walk back to your site. And there’s seven of those.
Camp Florida: Okay. And generally, those are the kind – you know, it’s not a long hike in, but it still adds to the seclusion of the site a little bit, I’m assuming.
Cindy: Yeah, it does. It does.
Camp Florida: Nice.
Cindy: It keeps some of the sites more pristine, especially the four new ones at the end. 57 through 60 have got a lot of shade and there’s a lot of trees surrounding those sites there.
Camp Florida: Okay. And what are the most popular activities for guests there?
Cindy: Water sports. Hands down, it is water sports. It’s all about the spring and the spring run. That’s what our Park’s big highlight is. The springs are gorgeous. It’s always 72 degrees, and that makes it feel chilly in the summer, so everybody from Florida wants to get cooled down, and the water feels warm in the wintertime. So, everybody in Florida also wants to come here in the wintertime. Some place to get into 72-degree water, where the steam is coming up in the wintertime is pretty awesome looking.
Camp Florida: That sounds great.
Camp Florida: Now, what are some of your favorite attractions in and around that area?
Cindy: Okay, I want to tell you just a wee bit more about that. About our water sports, because I don’t know if people know, but I mean like you can.
Camp Florida: Please do.
Cindy: You can swim here. You can snorkel and canoe, and kayak all year long. All that goes on all year long. But we have another special thing that sets us apart from other people, and that’s our Lazy River Tubing Run. Okay, I mean there aren’t many places in Florida can you go to like you can here. I mean it’s a beginner river. You know, it’s not white water and all that. It’s just a relaxing float down the river, and our tubing season starts in April for weekends only up until Memorial Day, but then we’re open every day, daily, from Memorial Day till Labor Day, and then we are open only weekends again after that, up until the end of September. So, our main tubing season is only during the summertime, but it is very, very busy. Very popular.
Camp Florida: Okay.
Cindy: So I highly recommend that. And another thing, we have beautiful displays in the spring; you know, about February/March. And we have three stunning, manmade waterfalls, which were part of the early private theme park days. And they’re often used as like a backdrop for wedding photos. That’s our most popular things that people do here.
Camp Florida: Awesome. Tell me a little bit about that tubing run. Is it that a river flows through the Park, or did you actually build a manmade run?
Cindy: No, it actually is the natural springs. We have three different segments of our Park. We have the Head Springs, where the water comes out of ground, where the waterfalls and gardens, and all that stuff is, and picnic area and all. And then we have the campground, and the Spring Run comes up out of the ground at the Head Springs and flows down by the campground, which is a mile and a half downstream. And then it heads on past the tubing area, which is another mile and a half to two miles downstream. And the whole river, in total, is just a six-mile river that empties into the Withlacoochee River.
Camp Florida: Oh, so it’s pretty long. So, how long does the tube run take?
Cindy: It takes about two hours.
Camp Florida: Perfect. Oh, that sounds like a blast.
Cindy: It is.
Camp Florida: Two more questions for you.
Camp Florida: If you were just going to spend one hour in Rainbow Springs State Park, how would you spend your time?
Cindy; Okay, one hour. You’ve got enough time to take a walk through the Head Springs portion of our Park and see the three waterfalls, and go through the gardens and all. And then, if you’re good and lucky and smart, you will take a quick, memorable dip in the Head Springs.
Camp Florida: Okay.
Cindy: Is there room to add onto this and say: could I tell you what my favorite three hours is?
Camp Florida: I would love it if you would tell us that.
Cindy: Okay, because I love to do this. It’s my absolutely favorite things to do. I tell people about it all the time; is you rent a canoe or kayak and you paddle through the top four, 1700-feet of the river, which is the protected aquatic preserve. Then paddle outside of the preserve and jump overboard. Man overboard. And then drift with your vessel for about an hour downstream to the campground. Then you get back into your kayak and paddle back upstream. It’s best to take some goggles of course, so you can appreciate the underwater beauty. And then, if you have time afterwards, I would take a short, 15-minute walk or so through the waterfalls (Unclear 6:41.8). But my favorite part of the river, the thing that sets our Park apart from other places is the water and what’s underwater, and so get out on the water if you can at all do it.
Camp Florida: That sounds absolutely beautiful. Last question for you. If you were just going to spend one night in Rainbow Spring State Park in Florida, which specific campsite would you choose and why?
Cindy: I would definitely choose Site #51. That is my favorite. It’s fully shaded. It’s surrounded by trees on three sides and it’s very private. Just what I like to have on a campsite.
Camp Florida: All right. Well, thank you for so you much good information today, Cindy, and thanks again for chatting with us about Rainbow Springs State Park in Florida.
Cindy: Thank you.