Rainbow River to Withlacoochee River (S)

Rainbow River to Withlacoochee River (S)

The Scenic Rainbow River
The Scenic Rainbow River

Brief Overview:

The Rainbow River, is located, in Dunnellon, Fl, about 20 miles southwest of Ocala, in Marion County. The headspring, Rainbow Spring, is a 1st magnitude spring that ranks 4th in the state for volume, discharging 400-600 million gallons of water a day! The spring is composed of numerous vents rather one single vent. There are many smaller springs along the river, discharging water from numerous caves, crevices and sand boils. The river is 5.7 miles long, flowing into the Withlacoochee River, where it’s crystal clear water meets the dark tannin water of the Withlacoochee.

The Rainbow River had several names over the years, including Wekiwa Creek, Blue Spring and Blue Run and in the late 1930’s was renamed The Rainbow River. In 1972, the Rainbow River became a Registered Natural Landmark and was followed by becoming an Aquatic Preserve in 1986 and an Outstanding Florida Waterway in 1987. The river hosts an abundance of wildlife and diverse vegetation. The water clarity is extraordinary!

Further, interesting history on the Rainbow River can be read on Lars Anderson’s website Adventure Outpost.

River Details:

Location IconLocation: The Rainbow River, is located, in Dunellon, Fl, about 20 miles southwest of Ocala, in Marion County. It flows south for half of it’s length, turning southwesterly for the final half.


Kayak Launch IconLaunch point(s): The launch for this paddle was K.P. Hole County Park – 9435 SW 190th Avenue Rd, Dunnellon, FL 34432. Nice launch, Restrooms, Parking fills quickly! Daily user fee of $5.00, Rentals and tours. Take Out Point: Goldendale Boat Ramp.


Distance IconPaddle Distance: K.P Hole launch to Goldendale Boat Ramp is 8.4 miles


Duration IconDifficulty: Easy.


Duration IconAverage Paddle Time: 2.8 mph.


Width Depth iconWidth and Depth: This is an open river with no canopy, measuring 95′ to 200′ wide. The average depth of the river ranges 8 – 15 feet with the deepest spot at Devil’s Elbow 20 – 25 feet deep, about a 1/2 mile up from K.P.Hole


Current tidal IconCurrent – Tidal: The river is spring fed and the current is a gentle 1.7 mph on average.


Side Paddle IconSide Paddles: There is a side ‘paddle’ if you want to venture up into Gissy Spring Run, also known as Indian Creek. It is very shallow and has several trees over it requiring us to leave the kayaks and walk along the sandy bottom. The property was posted at some point as well as having a gate so we decided to turn back. It was pretty though.


icon-restroomsRest Areas: Restrooms available at the launch at K.P. Hole, Blue Run Park and several areas along the river where it is shallow enough to exit your kayak.

The Paddle Route…

Rainbow River Paddle Map - Sept 2018
Rainbow River Paddle Map – Sept 2018

I found this map online called K.P.Hole and the Rainbow River which provides some interesting information…

Paddle to the end of the Rainbow…

Once again, back on the Rainbow River.  This time it is all ‘downstream’ on a sunny, warm to hot, September afternoon.

KP Hole - Canoe & Kayak Launch
KP Hole – Canoe & Kayak Launch

Launching at K.P. Hole County Park, we decided not to paddle up to the head spring this time around but to go from here downstream and enjoy the flow. Fortunately it was a school day and there were very few folks paddling on this warm afternoon. We pretty much had the river to ourselves, which was quite nice.

A gentle flow took us past numerous Anhingas, Cormorants, Egrets, Herons and Wood Ducks. What I found interesting was this time I noticed a Wood Duck rookery!  At mile 4.0, ( 29° 2’44.82″N, 82°27’8.60″W ) passing on the right side of an elongated island, were numerous Wood Ducks of different ages, on the water and roosting in the trees along our left side. What was quite noticeable were the numerous wasp nest from the Brown Paper Wasp.  I’ve never seen this many wasp nests along the river.

Complimenting the diverse Fauna was an equally diverse Fauna. We were treated to blooming Cardinal Flowers, Climbing Hemp Vine, Spider Lilies, White Butterfly Ginger and more. The red berries from the Dahoon Hollies seasoned the shoreline with color. The Flora and Fauna can be viewed in the Gallery below.

The Withlacoochee…

Confluence of Rainbow-Withlacoochee Rivers
Confluence of Rainbow-Withlacoochee Rivers

Paddling onward, we paddle by Swampy’s Bar & Grille on our right, our destination for cold beer and good food when the paddle is over. Also, Blue Run of Dunnellon Park is on the eastern side of the river, a nice launch area for future paddles.

At mile marker 4.4 the Rainbow River flows into the Withlacoochee.  It is obvious when you reach this point as the clear water from the Rainbow is absorbed by the darker tannin of the Withlacoochee. We paddle on,  over a winding Withlacoochee River, the day is getting warmer and we are getting tired. The take out at Goldendale Boat Ramp was a welcome sight.  We had a great paddle on a beautiful day.  We enjoyed a nice meal and cold beer at Swampy’s Grille, ending another chapter of Florida Paddle Notes.

***Please note:

  • Parking for all launches fill very quickly, often by 10:00am so an early start is wise.
  • Disposable containers (such as cans, plastics, glass, plastic foam or paper) are not permitted on the River.
  • No Alcohol on the river.
  • Coolers are subject to search.
  • The entire Rainbow River is a designated “Idle Speed/No Wake” zone.
  • The main springs are protected. Motorized vessels, anchoring, diving and fishing are not permitted beyond the marker buoy.

Rainbow River Gallery:

The Rainbow River
The Rainbow River

Rainbow River Flora & Fauna: