The Place to Share
Canoeing & Kayaking

Rainbow River, from KP Hole County Park to Rainbow State Park, Dunnellon FL
By reading further, you agree to our Terms of Use

Copyright 2001 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Galen Hekhuis
  • Date Submitted: 5/2001
  • Location: about 4 miles north of Dunellon
  • Class: Typically flat water, spring fed river with about a 1 or 2 mph current
  • Distance Paddled: 4 miles to the state park and back
  • Water Level: this spring fed river is typically not affected by low water drought conditions elsewhere
  • Water: fresh, clear
  • Wildlife: anhinga, alligators, ibis, great blue heron, turtles
  • Special Regulations: To reduce litter, no disposable containers are allowed. Landing in the state park is prohibited everywhere except the designated canoe landing to protect the shoreline.

Entry and Exit

  • Directions:Coming from Ocala and north on I-75, exit at Route 40 west to Dunellon. about 16 miles until Route 40 joins Routes 41 and 45 south. Drive about 2 miles (past the entrance to the state park).
    Coming from the south, Exit I-75 onto Route 484 west to Dunnellon. Then take Routes 41 and 45 north.
    Turn east at the sign to KP Hole County Park at SW 99th Place about another 2 miles down the road. Just after crossing the railroad tracks, turn left onto SW 190th Av. Rd. to KP Hole County Park on your right. Extra unpaved parking is on the left of the road opposite the park's paved parking lot.
  • GPS: N 29 degrees 05.217' W 82 degrees 25.705'
  • Fee: $2 per person for boat launch
  • Description: sloped ramp, concrete ramp
  • Parking: unpaved parking across the street if you might return after the park closes or paved parking in the park itself
  • Facilities: restroom, picnic tables, swimming area
  • Handicap Access: paved ramp, paths, and accessible restrooms

Exit (optional)

  • Directions: From the water, the park canoe landing is just over 1 1/2 miles upstream from the county park. This deck is the ONLY place watercraft may land in the state park. The swimming area and spring head are another 200 yards upstream from the canoe landing. The park may also be reached by car from Route 40/41/45 about a mile north of the road to KP Hole County Park.
  • GPS: N 29 degrees 06.091' W 82 degrees 26.217'
  • Fee: none, with the receipt for the launch fee from KP Hole County Park (though that may change in the future)
  • Description: wooden deck and beach. While you can rent canoes and sit on top kayaks at Rainbow Springs State Park, there is no way to get your own boat to the water.
  • Parking: adjacent paved
  • Facilities: restroom, picnic tables, swimming area in spring, campground, trails, waterfall
  • Handicap Access: paved ramp, paths, and accessible restrooms

What We Saw

The Rainbow River is fed by Rainbow Springs, a 500 million gallon per day spring that stays in the low 70s year round. It runs into the Withlacoochee River (below Dunnellon) , which then flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

If you think of Florida as pretty much a panhandle and a peninsula, Rainbow Springs is about a third of the way down the peninsula, or about 90 miles north of Tampa, on the same western side.

Tom Sisk (AKA paddlrat, rbp clique #00), Al Vazquez (, and I agreed to meet at KP Hole park about 10 am. I got there a bit early, waited around a bit, and then went ahead and put my kayak in the water, figuring that I'd probably run into Al and Tom on the river. I went up to the springs, and then back to the take-out/put-in (it depends on what you're doing) and met up with Al and Tom.

Al had a sit on top, Tom had a sea kayak, which he said he could roll, but he never demonstrated it.

Anyway, we took off paddling upstream towards the springs. There are waterfront homes on one side of the river, but the water is deep and clear in many places. Many people like to snorkel to scuba as they drift down the river.

I was feeling quite full of myself and was pointing out the wildlife. I pointed out an anhinga bird up in the trees by the shoreline, apparently drying its wings. I went on and on about how anhingas have no oil on their feathers, and, while excellent underwater swimmers, need to dry out their wings before they can fly. As we got closer and closer to the bird, it looked like it was upside down drying its wings. Al and I both remarked that we'd never seen one of these birds do this before, and we paddled closer to get a better look. It became evident as we got closer that the bird was quite dead, and must have gotten a foot caught when it expired, resulting in its rather unique upside down perch. Anyway, Al got some good pictures of it before he realized it was dead.

Later, we happened on an alligator sunning himself. As Al took pictures, we noticed that the alligator, unlike the anhinga, was not dead, and noisily splashed into the water. Then it surfaced for a moment right between Tom and me. It saw us I think, because it went underwater again (no doubt terrified by Tom and Galen). It was only about 5 feet long I guess, not big as alligators go, but none of us volunteered to go swimming right there.

The paddle up to the springs was pretty uneventful aside from that, and soon we got to the headwaters and turned back.

On the way back, Al and Tom noticed a jacket on the bottom of the river (the water is remarkably clear) and they tried unsuccessfully to retrieve it. Both Tom and I remarked that if we had a sit on top like Al we would have been in the water in a flash to retrieve the jacket, but Al remained unmoved by the goading, and, so did the jacket.

When we got back to K.P.Hole County Park, we took out at the boat ramp. There is a free boat ramp down in Dunnellon on the Withlacoochee River, and you can paddle up the Withlacoochee to the Rainbow, and then paddle up to the springs that way. As a matter of fact, my brother (in my old Wilderness Systems Pamlico that he bought) and I did that last May, but the trip, while looking short on the map, is actually quite a bit longer, taking most of the day, due to the meandering nature of the lower part of the Rainbow River. I would recommend leaving before noon if you want to do that route. (Leaving before noon is something that Al and Tom may find too much of a challenge.:-)

The swimming area at the spring in the state park is pictured at left.