It's April, so that means it's swimming season! Rainbow Spring was on our way back to Gainesville from Goethe State Forest, so we obviously had to stop by and take the First Swim of Summer. And this First Swim happened to also include tubing, just to make it a little more epic.
Tubing in Florida is basically the best-- our rivers are wide, slow, and lazy-- perfect for sunning and relaxing. And attempted cannonballs.
Rainbow River is crystal clear, with emerald river grass waving on the floor. It's warmer than most spring-fed rivers, and it's not canopied so there's full sunshine the whole float. (FYI-- a tupperware sandwich container works pretty well for camera protection for river shots. We made the whole two hour float with no mishaps. I need to get a Lifeproof phone case ASAP, but until then...)
The only drawback is that the state only bought one bank of the river, so the opposite bank is developed. Houses line the water the whole way, and motorboats putter loudly up and down the river, complete with tanned party people blasting country music drinking Natty Light. This is the risk every time you travel south of Gainesville... there too many people.
And not just any people, these are Floridians. There is a reason that Florida gets its own section in Weird News. We rode the tube tram right behind some kids in their late teens, one of whom had "Chedda Bob" tattooed across his back. I would have taken a picture, but I am seriously the worst at snapping sneaky shots. I always leave the volume up or have the flash on. Pretty embarrassing.
When the float was over, we headed to the source of the river- Rainbow Spring. Holy Baby Jesus, what an amazing spring.
Rainbow Spring used to be privately owned as a resort from the 1930s-1970s. Those people went all out, building man made waterfalls, azalea and lily gardens with thousands of flowers, and at one point even a sad little zoo with bobcats and raccoons (the cages are still standing). The resort closed in the 1970s as Disney World slowly began to destroy the Florida, and it was left abandoned for a decade or so until the state bought it.
Obviously, we had to take a dip in the spring, and luckily there is a floating dock for jackknifes and cannonballs. The water felt perfect-- 72 degrees all year round.
One thing to remember about visiting any of Florida's springs-- the are best to be avoided on the weekends if you don't want to compete for swimming space with 43570923 little kids. It's like that anywhere, even at smaller parks like Wakulla Springs. Rainbow Spring was definitely worth the trip and I'd like to return, but probably on a Tuesday.