Good intentions are so easy to put on the back burner, no matter how good they seem.
I remember when we first got to Florida, we had big plans of paddling all the rivers, photographing as many of the State Parks as we could, the lists we made of things to do was pages long and we were so excited about doing all of them. And then the task of building up the Low-Key Hideaway grabbed a hold of us and those lists were left in the camper that was then put in storage.
Our kayaks were hidden away to grow mold and collect dust. I cant remember the last time we used most of our toys. Our bikes have rust on the chains and the tires are dry rotted from hanging on a bike rack for years.
Pulling these toys out of storage the last few weeks now that we have time to use them, we found most of the handles, latches and anything made of rubber or nylon has withered away to a brittle, weak, chalky mess. Numerous things on our camper have done the same thing. Latches that normally hold up a hatch break the first time you go to use them. Stabilizer Jacks that haven’t been used in years are rusted closed and rubber seals on numerous water connections are leaking. It’s made for a fun couple of days finding out a seal is leaking while 2 minutes into a shower.
RV’s are much like boats. Don’t use them, and they stop working. When we were on the road fulltime we rarely had issues with our equipment because we were using everything we had with us on a daily basis. Much like my waistline that has been neglected over the past few years, our poor camper and our beloved collection of toys need to be exercised to keep everything at its proper size and shape. What have we learned? Don’t stop exploring or at least making road trips a monthly routine!!
Long before we had sold the Low-Key Hideaway, we had made plans with friends we had met at the Tiki Bar to do some paddling on their next visit to Cedar Key. Most people have normal jobs where they get set vacation time and have to make arrangements for it months in advance. So we had all talked back and forth on Instagram, Facebook and through emails to keep up to date on their visit and made sure we’d be around to go paddling with them.
Trev and Anne are hardcore Stand Up Paddle Boarders who paddle on a regular basis. Cindy and I are fat, workaholics who love to talk about paddling, but do it on a bi-monthly basis, if we’re lucky.
So I was a little nervous that we’d have trouble keeping up with them. So much so, that Cindy said she’d float in her Kayak saying there was no way she’d be able to paddle multiple miles on her SUP when she hasn’t even been on it in months.
We all met at Sunset Isle Campground where we’re staying for the time being. We figured we’d use this as home base for the next few days while we paddle various rivers and springs in Central Florida.
The Beautiful Rainbow River
We left Cedar Key around 10am for the K.P. Hole Boat Launch in Dunnellon. It’s only about an hours drive from Cedar Key, and it’s a pretty drive through the Goethe Forest with almost zero traffic till you get into Downtown Dunnellon.
We drove separate vehicles because we had called the K.P. Hole who told us after Labor Day weekend, they stop running a shuttle. So we dropped the girls off at the boat launch, which is a very affordable $5 per person to use their launch, and Trev and I went to drop one of the vehicles down at Blue Run Boat Ramp. We had originally thought about starting at the headwaters of the river in the Rainbow River State Park, but they do not let you drive down to the waters edge. They make you portage all your gear 1800′ to the ramp, where K.P. Hole which is 1.4 miles down from the Main Spring allows you to drive right up to the waters edge to unload your gear. Considering there was 5 of us, we did not want to make that hike right off the start. And just so you’ll know incase you’re wanting to do this, Rainbow River State Park only charges $2 per person and $5 per vehicle, where K.P. Hole charges $5 per person, but nothing for your vehicle.
So once the trucks were spotted and we were back at the boat launch site, we all agreed we’d paddle up to the head springs to get a little workout. It was right around high noon, so the day was still young and it was in the low 80’s with a cool breeze, so working up a little sweat would be perfect.
This river is amazing! Crystal clear water, a mix of white sand bottom in sections laced with what looks like an old roadbed that has crumbled and flooded over. Of course its just the Florida lime rock bottom that resembles a roadbed, but it’s fun to imagine an ancient roadway that we’re paddling over. Certain sections have thick grasses flowing in the swift current that almost glow a neon green. Large schools of fish swim below you obviously not bothered by the shallow draft of a stand up paddle board. At times I felt like I could have reached in and grabbed one of the fishes who almost seemed to swim right up to my board to check me out.
Turtles, Birds and the local wildlife are almost immune to our presence. From what I’m told this river is beyond busy during the warm summer months and on the weekends, so the wildlife must be immune to paddlers, people floating past in tubes or folks swimming down the river. This is why we were paddling it mid-week and what is considered the off-season here in Florida. There were 4 other trucks in the parking lot of the K.P. Hole boat launch today compared to an attendant directing traffic and closing the park down due to a full capacity a few weeks ago.
Paddling upstream to the head waters was more of a workout than I thought it would be. Rainbow Springs is a series of springs which, taken together, are first magnitude springs and qualify as one of the most productive in flow in Florida. An average of 493 million gallons per day (mgd) flows from the springs. Water emanates from the Upper Floridan Aquifer which is fed by rain falling on approximately 700 square miles of land in western Marion, eastern Levy and southern Alachua Counties.
By the time we reached the main spring area, I was hot, tired and ready to jump in the water. Of course, the others are all a bunch of wimps and said they’d be fine watching me swim while they relaxed on their boards???? PUSSIES!! I never pass up a chance to swim in some crystal clear springs.
Jumping in that 72 degree water was just the refresher I needed. After a quick swim, I crawled back on my board and we turned to head downstream. Once we were moving with the current, you barely even had to paddle. This is the way to float down a river. My Tripple X Stand Up Paddle Board is so stable because of how big it is, I could grab my underwater camera, bend down, or even lay down if I needed to and snap multiple photos while we’d be passing one of the numerous springs flooding the river.
Multiple times did I jump in to get a shot of one of the others paddling over me. Once they’d be past me, I’d just climb back on the board and paddle a few strokes to catch back up with them.
A few hours later we were at our take out point down at Blue Run Boat Launch. They say the float takes 4+ hours when tubing, but the Stand Up Paddle Boards are considerable faster. Once we had the boats loaded on the roof rack, we dropped the girls off at the waterfront restaurant, Swampy’s, so they could get our food ordered, and Trev and I went to retrieve our other truck we had left at the K.P. Hole.
This river is very strict saying they do not allow alcohol on it. Numerous signs reminded us about this during the paddle. So after a multi hour paddle we were all ready for a cold beer and some food.
Swampy’s offers fantastic scenery overlooking the water. They had killer Happy Hour specials, but the food was simply ‘OK’. I’d eat there again, but I’d just order appetizers, so there would be no chance they could overcook/undercook anything I ordered.
I’d HIGHLY recommend this river for anyone visiting Central Florida. Heck, I’d make the drive no matter where I lived in Florida to paddle this stretch of waterway. Be sure to bring a snorkel and mask as you’ll want to keep your head underwater as much as you keep it above. This river is amazing when you have it all to yourself. I’m guessing late fall is a good time to have some seclusion as we only saw a handful of people paddling up or down the river. DO NOT bring alcohol with you. We saw ZERO trash while on this river and I LOVE that.
I hope you enjoy our photos as much as we enjoyed making them. Contact Us if you’d like to purchase any and I can direct you to where they’re located.