Our next stop is Rainbow Springs – one of the four freshwater aquatic preserves in Florida. Located in the
southwest corner of Marion County, northeast of the city of Dunnellon, the aquatic preserve begins with the
250-feet semi-circular spring pool with four main springs. The springs feed the winding Rainbow River, which
is two to eight feet deep and an average of 150 feet wide. Limestone surfaces along the first mile of the
river form an almost solid rock floor in some places. The river flows over the gently rolling countryside to
meet the natural tea colored waters of the Withlacoochee before spilling into the Gulf of Mexico.
Rainbow Springs has a very active citizen-based organization. Mr. John Jack Dennis shares a few comments about
their success to protect Rainbow Springs River.
Rainbow Springs #3
Photo: Clyde Butcher
John Jack Dennis:
One of the biggest things we did was, the river was named an Outstanding Florida Waterway, right at the same
time it was named an aquatic preserve. Which is really, really big because very few rivers in the state of
Florida are an aquatic preserve. So we got that in and that gave us some more clout with the county. Right after
that, we got our no wake idle speed put on the Rainbow River and that was one of our great, great breakthroughs.
This last ten or twelve years, we have kept our river at where we think it’s in great, great shape. We
continuously keep a’looking at it; see what has to be done. We have throughout the river, all the way up from
the top down to the K.P. Hole area and down to the Rio Vista area. We have a lot of people involved; we get a
lot of feedback. And any time, anything is a problem, they get to us. The Rainbow River Conservation acts on
it quickly with their board. We are trying to make it a caring river. Now that we can hold this river like this,
it will be here for my grandchildren; it will be here for other grandchildren.
The crystal clear spring water, colorful aquatic vegetation and an abundance of fish and wildlife make Rainbow
Springs a popular spot for swimming, diving, fishing and boating. Local retired school teacher, Mr. Tom Gaitanis
talks about the special opportunities the river provides for the community.
I have been interested in the Rainbow Springs and the aquatic preserve as a recreational asset for the children
of the community. Being a school teacher, I have been interested for decades about the recreational opportunities
that existed here. And we have no movie theater here in Dunnellon and so for our kids, other than sports, the
recreational activities are somewhat limited.
The river kinda renews you as an individual. In the hurry scurry of daily life, in earning a living and the
myriad of things you are involved with, to get out on the Rainbow River and peacefully float down on an innertube
is an experience of renewal. It kinda takes you back to where you can get out the next week and earn that living,
deal with your teenage kids, so forth and so on; it’s a very peacufel experience. As a local resident, if what
I want is peace and solitude, I can enter the river on a weekday at 3:00 in the afternoon and for the most part
have it pretty much to myself.