About the Area
The Withlacoochee River (or Crooked River) originates in central Florida's Green Swamp, east of Polk City. It flows west, then north, and then turns northwest and finally west again before it empties into the Gulf of Mexico near Yankeetown. The river is 141 miles long and has a drainage basin of 1,170 square miles.
Along its route are the 46-mile-long, Withlacoochee State Trail, the longest paved rail trail in Florida, the Cypress Lake Preserve, a 324-acre, park with approximately 600 feet of frontage, and Nobleton Wayside Park, a 2-acre park in Nobleton that includes a boat ramp, shelter, basketball court, and picnic tables.
The Withlacoochee River flows through Pasco and Hernando counties, and then forms part of the boundary between Hernando County and Sumter County, and all of the boundary between Citrus County and Sumter County, between Citrus County and Marion County and between Citrus County and Levy County (including Lake Rousseau). The largest city close to the river is Dade City.
The Rainbow River is located in Dunnellon, Florida,in the southwest corner of Marion County, about 20 miles southwest of Ocala, 100 miles northwest of Orlando and 100 miles north of the Tampa Bay area. It is formed by a first-magnitude spring (Rainbow Springs) that is ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge. In addition to the springs located at the headwaters, there are many smaller springs that discharge from numerous caves, rock crevices, and sand boils the entire length of the river.
The Rainbow River is a gently winding river that is 5.7 miles (9.2 km) long and merges with the Withlacoochee River at Dunnellon, Florida. The headwaters, Rainbow Springs, is the anchor for Rainbow Springs State Park. This first-magnitude spring is not one large vent but is numerous vents that issue 400 - 600 million gallons of crystalline water every day. Rainbow Springs State Park is a popular destination to swim, snorkel, canoe, picnic, or stroll on the walking paths to enjoy the many plants and animals that abound here.
Once named Wekiwa Creek, Blue Spring, and Blue Run, archaeological evidence indicates that the waters of the Rainbow River have attracted and sustained human inhabitants for over 10,000 years. The crystal clear water, abundant with fish, wildlife and vegetation along with the constant water temperature of 73 degrees, has attracted a number of modern day activities.
The Rainbow River was designated as a Registered Natural Landmark in 1972, an Aquatic Preserve in 1986, and an "Outstanding Florida Waterway" in 1987. The state purchased the original area that was the Rainbow Springs attraction in 1990. Volunteers cleared the overgrown park and opened the park on weekends to the public. The Florida Park Service officially opened Rainbow Springs State Park on a full-time basis on March 9, 1995.
Rainbow Springs State Park comprises 1,459.07 acres. The most significant natural feature is the first-magnitude headspring basin which produces between 400 - 600 million gallons of fresh water per day, forming the Rainbow River. The looking-glass waters of Rainbow Springs come from several vents, not one large bubbling spring. The river itself supports a wide variety of fish, wildlife, and plants, many within easy viewing by visitors. In total, the park contains 11 distinct natural communities, including sandhills, flatwoods, upland mixed forests, and hydric hammocks. Visitors are able to see a variety of wildflowers in season; oak, longleaf pines, magnolia, dogwood, redbud, and hickory trees; gray squirrels, red-shoulder hawks, swallowtail kites, barred owls, whitetail deer, and a wide variety of wading birds. The relative peace and quiet of the winter season offers much for the nature enthusiast. There is an interpretive room located in the visitor center displaying historical, natural, and cultural resources of the park.
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