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The Rainbow River has been a natural Florida gem for decades and continues to draw locals and tourists to its crisp cool waters. The Rainbow River is fed by the headspring at Rainbow Springs State Park which is one of Florida’s largest freshwater springs. The river’s vibrant colors and crystal clear water make it the perfect addition to any vacation or weekend getaway. With tons of activities that are fun for the whole family, make sure to add Rainbow Springs kayaking and tubing to your Florida to-do list!
Getting to Rainbow Springs
Rainbow Springs State Park is located about 2 hours northwest of Orlando and about 2 hours northeast of Tampa. Not far off I-75 is the small town of Dunnellon, Florida. From downtown Dunnellon, Route 41 will connect you to the Rainbow River.
There are a few places where you can begin your adventure which we will get more into later. Rainbow Springs State Park is the furthest point from town and you can use this address to navigate to the park’s entrance. K.P. Hole is just downstream from the mouth of the spring, use this address to get to this county park.
When to visit Rainbow Springs for Kayaking, Tubing or Swimming
Like most Florida springs, there never really is a wrong time to visit. Just as you would think, Rainbow Springs and Rainbow River can be jammed packed on the weekends in the summer and on holidays.
Rainbow Springs State Park is known to reach capacity during these peak times so it is advised to arrive early. The same goes for K.P. Hole and the various kayak rental companies in the area.
The winter and during the weekdays are more optimal times to visit. Less people are on the water for a more enjoyable experience.
Rainbow Springs State Park Activities
Rainbow Springs State Park is the perfect spot to cool off in the summer months. Again, use this address to navigate to Rainbow Springs State Park. The park opens at 8:00 am everyday and the entrance fee is only $2 with no fee to park. A large designated swimming area is located directly near the mouth of Rainbow Springs. The water is crystal clear and a crisp 73 degrees year round.
If you aren’t up for swimming, but would like to enjoy a short walking trail then take a lap around to see the waterfalls. That’s right, Rainbow Springs State Park boasts what I believe are Florida’s only waterfalls. Though they are man-made, they are still beautiful!
There is also a concession stand as well as a gift shop that are located near the entrance to the park. Restrooms and changing facilities are also available. It is also worth mentioning that Rainbow Springs State Park has some slight inclines for their pathways that can become slippery when wet. Take caution especially if you are in flip flops.
What to Bring for Your Rainbow Springs Kayaking Adventure
Rainbow River and Rainbow Springs is very exposed. You will be in the sun and there is not much cover aside from the walking trails of Rainbow Springs State Park.
- Apply your sunscreen and pack extra to reapply.
- Bring along a reusable water bottle like my favorite Camelbak that I literally don’t leave home without.
- A hat is a great idea and something I tend to forget.
- Any waterproofing you’ll need to keep your phone, camera or keys dry. Try something like this for easy access to electronics that is guaranteed to keep your stuff dry.
Rainbow Springs Kayaking and Tubing
There a a few options if you are looking to get out on the water for a leisurely float along Rainbow River. First decide if you’d like to do tubing or kayak, then you can choose which location to launch from.
1. Tubing or Kayaking from Rainbow Springs State Park
For both of these options you will need to pay the $2 entrance free for Rainbow Springs State Park. Here is that address again.
Rainbow Springs Tubing will cost you $20 per person which includes a tube and a tram back to the state park. The float is approximately 2 hours. This activity is closed from November through March. Check this website for more up to date information.
Rainbow Springs kayaks, canoes and standup paddle boards are available for rent at Rainbow Springs State Park as well. I have not launched or rented from this location, but it does not seem that they offer a return shuttle service. Therefore, rentals are only able to be paddled around the spring area. Rentals are available for the full day or also by the hour starting at $16/$22 an hour for single or doubles respectively and $50/$60 for all day rentals. Check Rainbow Springs State Park’s website for more up to date information on prices.
2. Tubing or Kayaking from K.P. Hole
K.P. Hole is a county park that offers tube and kayak rentals along the Rainbow River. Here is the address again to navigate to K.P. Hole county park. K.P. Hole is only 3 miles down the road from Rainbow Springs State Park. There is a $5 daily usage fee for the park’s activities which aside from kayaking and tubing also include picnicking and swimming. K.P. Hole provides tubing and shuttle services from May 1st through September 30th.
Rainbow River Tubing from K.P. Hole is a great option. It costs $10 to rent a tube which includes the shuttle service back to the park after your float trip. If you bring your own floatation device then the cost is only $7 for the return shuttle service.
Rainbow River Tubing from K.P. Hole to Blue Run of Dunnellon Park which is the Tuber’s Exit takes approximately 4 hours depending on the water levels and weather.
It’s also worth mentioning that no alcohol is permitted on the river and I have heard of the staff checking coolers at K.P. Hole. If you are looking to enjoy some drinks while floating, check out Ginne Springs, which is one of the few places that does allow alcohol on the water in Florida.
Rainbow River Kayaking rentals for downstream trips from K.P. Hole are $25 or $35 for single or double vessels respectively. These prices are to paddle the length of the Rainbow River to the Tuber’s Exit. This trip takes approximately 2 hours depending on the water levels, weather and if you decide to just float or paddle.
Rainbow River Kayaking rentals for upstream trips from K.P. Hole cost $8 for a canoe or $10 for kayaks per hour. The upstream paddle towards Rainbow Springs State Park takes approximately 1.5 hours and is extremely beautiful.
If you’d like to launch your own paddle board or kayak, you will only be charged the $5 daily entrance fee. This is a great option in my opinion! Paddle upstream to the Rainbow Springs State Park and you can even dock there to get out and explore the state park. If you do dock at the state park then it will cost you $2.
3. Renting a Tube or Kayak from Aquatic Wilderness Adventures
Aside from the county and state park you can also rent from a local business called Aquatic Wilderness Adventures. The advantage to this route is that they are located right next to the Tuber’s Exit so you’d basically be floating back to your car. Use this address to navigate to Aquatic Wilderness Adventures. They are open daily at 8:00 am, but do have different cut off times for each activity. Check this website for more information. Arrive early especially on the weekends and holidays to ensure you’ll get a chance to tube!
Tubing from Aquatic Wilderness Adventures is similar to the other options. Aquatic Wilderness Adventures will transport you to K.P. Hole to start your float. Price for tubers is $15 for the 4 hour float. Tubers will also be required to pay the entrance fee at K.P. Hole which is $10. If you have your own tube, the price is only $7 for the shuttle. For more up to date prices check the Aquatic Wilderness Adventures website here.
Kayaking from Aquatic Wilderness Adventures in a single kayak can be rented for $27 and a SUP for $37. A double kayak would cost $40. These prices also include the shuttle. If you’d like to put in your own kayak and have it transported to K.P. Hole for you, it is $10. For kayakers, you’ll also have to pay the entrance fee to K.P. Hole, but it is only $5.
3. Renting a Tube or Kayak from Rainbow River Kayak Adventures
Another place you can also rent tubes or kayaks from is Rainbow River Kayak Adventures.
Tubing from Rainbow River Kayak Adventures is located close to the Tuber’s Exit which is essentially the end of your float. Use this address to navigate to the Rainbow River Kayak Adventures shop. Renting a tube for the 4 hour float will cost you $15 which includes their shuttle service. If you bring along your own tube, the cost is only $10 to utilize their shuttle service. **It is also important to know that when they drop you at K.P. Hole you will be required to pay their fee of $10 for tubers before you launch.
Kayaking from Rainbow River Kayaking Adventures is a similar process to tubing. The prices for renting a kayak start at $30 and go up to $55 depending on what type of vessel and how long you’d be renting for. If you’d like to use your own kayak for a float down Rainbow River, they will transport it and you for $20. For more up to date information, check their website here.
Route for Rainbow Springs Kayaking
The route for Rainbow River is fairly simple! The Rainbow Springs State Park is where the headspring is located. From here the water flows towards the Tuber’s Exit which is fairly close to downtown Dunnellon. The total length is about 5 miles. Though you can’t start your float directly at the headspring, you’ll have to put your tube in just a bit downstream.
This float usually takes about 4 hours in a tube. If you decide to kayak or paddle board along Rainbow River then it might be a little faster. Weather and water levels play a huge part in determining how long the float is. If there has been a ton of rain and the water levels are high, expect a slightly faster float.
The beginning of the float, or the first hour or so, is much more beautiful than the latter bit. When you start your adventure, trees line the river and the colors of the water are very vibrant. As you get closer to town, the route becomes more residential with houses on either side.
There really aren’t any turns to miss making this a pretty straight forward route. There is, however, one turnoff that is worth exploring. Keep reading to see how to find it!
Points of Interest Along Rainbow River
Rainbow River is filled with tons of wildlife. Everything from fish, turtles, otters and birds. Unfortunately, manatees are not seen in the Rainbow River due to a lock system downstream that is no longer in use. If you have your heart set on seeing a manatee, check out where I go to swim with them!
If you are kayaking from K.P. Hole there will be a turnoff just upstream to the right behind a few cypress trees. If you are paddling downstream from Rainbow Springs State Park then this turnoff will be on your left.
When I stumbled across this skinny side stream, I was told it goes back for about a mile onto private property. I paddled until I saw a gate and then turned around. Like I said, this could be private property so I encourage everyone to not trespass! I simply followed a camp group in this direction assuming they knew the area fairly well.
The current is fairly strong along this side run and the water is pretty shallow in most places. I saw some folks walking along, though I remained on my SUP to paddle the length of it. Be careful as I was also told that alligators frequent this area quite often. The mosquitos are also pretty bad so I recommend to reapply that bug spray before exploring this area.
After Your Rainbow Springs Kayaking Adventure
You’ll most likely be hungry after your float down Rainbow River. The good news is that located near the Tuber’s Exit is Swampy’s Bar and Grill. This is a locally owned restaurant with some great tasting food and killer drink specials! Coming from Orlando, it’s hard to find cheap beer so when our server said “$2 Yuenglings” I almost cried! Another highlight is their gator bites. If you are visiting Florida from out of state, give them a try! For more information on this awesome bar and grill, check out their website here.
I want to remind everyone that plans to paddle any of the springs in Florida to remember to NEVER discard anything (trash, plastic bottles, etc.) while enjoying these natural places and NEVER harass the wildlife. Let’s keep Florida WILD!
Interested in paddling more of Florida’s springs? Check out my interactive map or some of my favorite natural springs in the sunshine state!