Tubing on the Rainbow River

The author of the article sent this to me. It was published in a local paper.  Some information may be old.  Phone first before going.

The number for the park is 1-352-489-3055 1-352-489-3055. It is called K.P. Hole park in Dunnellon. I hope you enjoy your trip!

Summer Adventures:A Visit To The Rainbow River By DAWN

It’s very hot outside, and the temperature seems to be rising every day.On the Rainbow River, however, it’s a cool 72 degrees. A few weeks ago, practically melting from the brisk hot air, I set off toward Dunnellon with Heather Kelly and Gene Roberts hoping for a relaxing ride down the Rainbow River. The trip to Dunnellon is not short. It involves a trek down I-75 and another trek 20 miles into the heart of Marion County. The trip through the county was interesting, however.

Adjacent to horse country, Dunnellon offered many chances to spot beautiful, graceful horses, a few goats, and, on one opportunity, miniature horses. As a side note, did you know that they can train miniature horses as guides for the blind? One,Cuddles, has become quite famous. Visit http://www.guidehorse.org/ for information about the so talented little animals. I, being a horse lover, noted each appearance with “Oh look, horses!” Sometimes, for variety, I noted the color — “Oh look, brown horses.” As there are approximately 9,000 of them to be seen, this may have become a little wearing to my companions. Seeing my child-like delight however, they failed to complain.

As we neared the river, we noted more and more cars on the road with canoes, kayaks and other small boats, but I failed to accurately grasp just how busy the river would be. We arrived before noon, and found both parking lots full and our only parking option to be on a grassy lane, about a half-mile from the park. My best advice is to arrive early. Gina Peebles, administrative manager for Marion County Parks,reported almost 29,000 people visited K.P. Hole Park during April, May and June, and most visit on weekends. “It’s best to try to get there early, that way you can really enjoy the heat of the day,” she said. Parking might be a little closer, as well.

I own a tube, and so did one of my companions, but the other was tubeless, leaving us to rent from the park. I was worried that, from the amount of cars, tube rentals may not be available, but it was no problem. Entry into the park is $3 per person, and the park features picnic tables, a swimming area, locker rooms, lockers, grassy areas for relaxing, and tube, life vest, canoe, diver down flag, and oar rentals. Renting a tube costs $9 and features a shuttle ride from the float end to the park. Shuttle tickets also are available for those who own a tube as well. Bring identification, as rental requires it. On the day we visited, the park was fully-staffed, and within a short amount of time, we had paid admission and rented a tube. Those of us owning our own tube procured quarters and headed to the air pumps. I would advising blowing up your float before visiting the park, as this was, by far, the longest wait. The park offers four air stations, but these fill fast, and the line can get rather long. For the princely sum of $17, (two dollars in quarters to fill the tubes) we were in the park. After a generous slathering with a high-SPF sunscreen, and a locker rental for our identification, car keys, dry clothes and towels, we were ready to hit the water. When packing for a trip to the river, I advise you bring a mesh bag to store sunscreen, and water. The sun is brutal during the four-hour trip, and some rafters come off the river resembling steamed lobsters. No disposable containers are permitted on the river, so all drinks and foods must be placed in a thermos or plastic container. The river is both beautiful and amazingly clean, and not allowing disposable containers, I am sure, helps keep the area pristine. I would also advise wearing water shoes and string, more on that in a minute.

Our walk from the car and wait in the air line made us hot and ready for the cool water. The water is 72 degrees, as it comes from the cold-water Rainbow Spring. This temperature is much, much colder than the Gulf or many lakes in the heat of summer. As an escape from the hot sun, however, the temperature was perfect. A short stairway leads to the water, and from there it’s time to float. Being a river, and not a pool, the bottom is covered in mud and grasses, all of which caused my most-squeamish companion to squeal undelightly. Watershoes allow you not to sink into the muck, and allow for better traction when hopping on and off your float. They also protect your feet from little rocks that dot the bottom. Getting on the float is also a bit tricky for first-timers, and, sometimes old-timers, no matter how many times you try. The only advice I have is to keep jumping. You’ll get it eventually.

The river is not very wide, and privately-owned homes run along both sides. Most homes have docks and ladders, but tubers are not permitted to trespass on private property. Homeowners, however, mostly seem ambivalent about the tubers, sometimes waving, but most often paying no mind to the parade of traffic down their backyard. Keep in mind the fact you will not be able to leave the river. Four hours without any stopping is a longtime. Bring everything you may need before setting f oot in the water.

The current moves slowly most of the time, and with chirping birds and the warm sun, floating on the tube is one of the most relaxing ways to spend the day. Just floating would have made the day perfect, but within minutes of being on the river, we saw otters playing. I had never, ever seen an otter in the wild, and just seeing the playful, adorable creatures swimming and flipping onto their backs made my day. Ms. Peebles said the river also boasts a variety of fish, turtles, birds and the occasional alligator. We saw fish, turtles and birds, but missed out on seeing an alligator. In all the time of Marion County having the park available, Ms. Peebles said alligators have never attacked tourists and floaters. Alligators may prefer a warmer environment.

Other tubers are friendly, waving and offering hellos, but as the current forces you slowly downriver, you may find yourself having joined a new group. This is why string is important. For those wanting to stay together, the string will help keep your group together. After all, constant paddling back to your companions does not make for a very relaxing day. Napping, chatting, and thinking only of delightful things are encouraged. After all, it’s four hours to think only of yourself, nature, the pull of the current and the warmth of the Florida sun. Eventually, the ride does come to an end, and after a short wait, the shuttle appeared and whisked us back to the park. And while zipping to work on the Citrus Connection bus for my first adventure was fun, this was a much better way to ride.

UPDATE – The address is 190 Avenue Rd., Dunnellon.  They are open at 8am.  They say that on summer weekends, they are full by 9am.

Another way to tube on the Rainbow River is to tube through the Rainbow River State Park.  They have three entrances.  One for camping, one for the head springs and one for tubing.  The tubing entrance opens at 9am.  They say that they don’t shut their gates.  As long as you make it through the gate by 2pm, you’re ok to tube.  The state park link is:  http://www.floridastateparks.org/rainbowsprings/

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