Rainbow Springs State Park that is! On Monday, January 19th, we left Quail Run RV Resort around noon, facing another easy driving day, a journey of 78 miles. Boy, we’re really getting used to these short driving trips! On our way out of the campground, we stopped to have our propane tank filled, knowing that we were heading north where the temps would most likely be a lot cooler, and then to the nearby Marathon station to fill up on cheap diesel ($2.44/gal).
Once we finished with all of those mundane tasks, we hopped on I-75N towards Ocala, eventually taking exit 341 for SW County Road 484, then turning onto SW 180th Avenue Road.
Note that there are three separate entrances for Rainbow Springs State Park– one for the Campground, one for the Headsprings and one for the Tubing area. The campground is on the east side of the Rainbow River with the entrance located on S.W. 180th Avenue Road about two miles north of County Road 484 and two miles south of State Road 40. The Headsprings Entrance which is for day use only is on the west side of the Rainbow River and is located three miles north of Dunnellon on the east side of U.S. 41. Also be aware that at the intersection of U.S. 40 and U.S. 41, there is a narrow underpass that is 14’1″ high. Definitely do NOT trust your GPS to take you to the correct entrance. The correct Lat/Lon for the campground is 29.086765,-82.416991.
Here’s a dash cam video of our arrival.
Driving from the campground to the Headsprings is about 7 miles and takes about 15 minutes because it’s on the other side of the river. With a canoe or kayak you could paddle upstream from the campground about a mile or so to reach the Headsprings.
About the campground
We checked in at the office, then headed over to our site #9 which was just a few sites away from where we stayed last year (site #6). We totally love this park! All sites have water and electric (20, 30, and 50 amp), and the best part is that they all have sewer hook-ups. No short showers here! Woo hoo! Loops B & C in our opinion are the best as most sites are quite large and spacious – the ones on A loop aren’t as private or big. Our particular site was 72′ in length and very private.
Each gravel site has full hookups (water, electric and sewer), a picnic table, a fire ring and most (but not all) are pretty private due to all of the growth surrounding each site. On our site, the picnic table and fire ring were tucked away to the side and were not visible from the road. There are really no bad sites here, but we would favor sites 5-24 along the outer perimeter for privacy with sites 7-10 looking particularly deep and private. We liked #9 a bit better than #6 due to the better privacy and no issue with satellite reception (DISH Western Arc). Sites 11-16 will almost definitely have issues with satellite reception.
Each loop has a separate bathhouse which look fairly new and are very clean. There are also a coin laundry facilities.
Doin’s While There
As we were settling in, the people next door, Sam & Gail, came over to say “hi”. Nice folk from Gainesville. After spending some time chatting with them, we went for a walk down to the river. Due to all the recent rain, the river was pretty high. You can tube on the river but it was a little too chilly for that yet. Must be busy during the warmer months. Fun watching the kayakers and canoers fighting the strong current heading upriver towards the Headsprings.
That night we threw ourselves (we were the only guests) a welcoming party by the campfire! Woo hoo! While we were sitting there we were entertained by Sam’s drone (he had told us about it earlier in the day) hover over us – he was giving a demo to visiting family members. Very cool!
Back last November, Rob had a brain fart and accidentally left the parking brakes on in the Odyssey while it was being towed, so they were fried (the regular brakes were fine). On Wednesday, Rob decided it would be a good time to fix the brakes. He had ordered all the parts he needed while at Riverbend but somehow with all our activities he had never found the time there.
While he was playing mechanic, I had a much more enjoyable day, walking down to the river and talking to other campers. In fact, I was gone so long, Rob finally called me to make sure I hadn’t been kidnapped or something. When I returned to the site, I barely recognized him (wish I had taken pictures!) – talk about a grease monkey! Yuck! Want to know more about this project? Not to worry, Rob has already posted all the gory details.
Sam and Gail had called us that morning with an invite to join them that night for some “dawgs” around the campfire. Luckily Rob finished the brakes just in time and was able to scrub himself clean so he was sort of recognizable. Once we arrived Sam demo’ed the drone to us, explaining all the technical details to Rob and showing him a high def video taken by the drone of Rainbow River. I could see a “wow, wouldn’t it be fun to own one of these” look in Rob’s eyes which was quickly squashed with my “don’t you even think about it” look!
For your viewing pleasure, here are some videos of the drone:
Our video of Sam giving us a demo of the drone
Sam’s video Flyover of Rainbow River State Park Campground – shows what the campground looks like from the air. You can see our beast (us too) at timestamps 1:05 and 1:33.
Sam’s Rainbow River Flyover – beautiful video showing how clear the river is.
You can check out his other video’s here.
Little did we know that a few weeks in the future, there would be headlines about a drone flying over the White House. Hard to tell but it looked very similar to the drone that Sam had. Sam was even interviewed about the White House incident by the local ABC news station in Gainsville!
What a fun evening! Sadly they were leaving in the morning so we didn’t get to spend any more time with them.
When we stayed here last year, we were thrilled to see the resident eagle which would perch on a pine tree branch directly behind our site. Well he/her is still in residence and hanging out in the same places. Initially I spotted it while walking – it was flying overhead with Spanish moss hanging from its talons, then later with a long piece of straw. Must be in nest building mode. Later it was perched in the same tree behind site #6. Unfortunately we couldn’t get any pictures but here’s one from last year.
We couldn’t leave the park without visiting Rainbow Springs Headsprings again. Yes, we had been here last year but it was so nice we wanted to go back especially since it was a beautiful day to walk around the park. While there, we met up with Jennifer and John from Orlando – I had met them the day before while fitbit walking. We spent some time chatting with them about their forthcoming trip to New England.
In the 1930s the spring was developed as a tourist attraction. Sea walls, a lodge, gift shop, the waterfalls, and a reptile exhibit were featured. Under new ownership, the real heyday for the attraction occurred in the 1960s. During that time activity greatly increased with glass-bottomed boat rides, riverboat rides, log raft rides, a gift shop and cafe, an aviary, a leaf-shaped gondola/monorail system, a horse rodeo, and submarine boat tours. Later, the downturn came when traffic began using I-75 instead of U.S. Highway 41, with many tourists heading to a new attraction called Walt Disney World, the attraction finally closed in 1974.”
We meandered along the paths, passing by the waterfalls and just enjoying the walk and the day.
On the other side of the gift shop, there is an area for swimming where we were surprised to see a number of people taking advantage of the warm 72 degree water despite the coolish air temps.
Purple Sage Cafe, Dunnellon
Cute place (and yes, it was painted purple inside), standard breakfast fare, excellent service. I had my usual eggs with bacon and Rob had his usual corned beef hash with two eggs. Both were served with homefries and toast. Would we go back? Sure, it was OK and is not too far from the campground.
Gail and Sam had told us how good this restaurant was so we just had to try it. Glad we did – it was excellent! For a change of pace, I had Eggs Benedict which were delicious and Rob had their home made corned beef hash, both meals were served with home fries and toast. Definitely will go back there again when we are in the area.
Boulevard Diner, Dunnellon
On the morning of our departure, we drove to the Boulevard Diner, a place we had gone to last year. We both had poached eggs on their home made corned beef hash with hash browns and toast. Not very impressed with the hash – sure seemed like canned hash to us this year. It was good as were the prices, but it seemed like things went downhill a bit.
Brat Cat does it again!
It started out innocently enough. We were sitting outside by the campfire on our last night there, the sun had set and it was getting dark. Rob was sitting in the chaise lounge chair holding Sparky as he usually does (by the tail to ensure that he didn’t run away) and Gizmo was content in my lap. Within a split second, our peaceful scene changed dramatically as Sparky jumped from Rob’s arms. Oh, great! Rob quickly grabbed a flashlight and spotted him under the coach but then he disappeared. Now where did he go???
Realize this is the brave kitty who runs and hides as soon as the coach starts moving, the brave kitty who rolls up into a ball when it thunders, the brave kitty who is scared to death of loud noises emanating from the TV so he runs and hides on the bed, the brave kitty who runs into the bedroom every time we get ice cubes from the dispenser in the fridge – yep, he’s a real brave explorer all right! Somehow being alone out in the dark with owls, hawks, eagles, coyotes and who knows what other creatures lurking, ready to pounce on him, doesn’t seem to bother him at all.
We both searched all around our site and the adjacent sites, then out in the street but no sign of him. Hard to see anything at this point in time. As I was walking along the road towards the site next door, a guy was approaching so I asked him if he had seen a cat. Nope, he replied. A minute later though after he passed our site, he yelled that a cat was headed back towards me. Within a few seconds, Rob was able to grab him, inside the coach he went with a scolding from both of us (not that he listens to anything we have to say). I don’t know Sparky, you better start behaving yourself – one of these days, your luck may run out.
On Friday, January 23rd, we would be on the move again – when we made our reservation here at Rainbow Springs SP, there were no sites available on that weekend. Where is our next stop? Another familiar place – can you guess where?