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Rainbow Springs

Rainbow Springs, Florida
Rainbow Springs, Florida. / Paul Clark, Flickr / CC BY 2.0

WorldBlue  In short

One of the most powerful springs in Florida is Rainbow Springs. This giant spring system emits some 19 650 liters of clear water every second, creating a large river.

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GPS coordinates
29.1025 N 82.4376 W
Location, address
North America, United States, Florida, Marion County, north from Dunnellon
Alternate name
Blue Springs (until the 1930ies)
Average discharge
19 450 l/s (in the time period from 1965 to 2010)

Map of the site

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WorldYellow In detail

Description

Rainbow Springs have formed in Ocala Limestone that formed in the Upper Eocene some 35 million years ago. Springs, though, are much younger.

Lucid water of Rainbow Springs, Florida
Lucid water of Rainbow Springs, Florida. / Florida Fish and Wildlife, Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

This is a whole group of smaller spring vents – there have been counted even 87 vents.

The first major springs form the head of the river but there are rather many springs further along with it. Six of these vents – each of them separately – are 1st magnitude springs.

The head of the river starts with an impressive spring pool that is 100 by 110 m large. The deepest spring vent in it is at the depth of 3 m.

This spring pool is absolutely amazing – a giant basin of lucid spring water with a sandy bottom.

The most powerful are Rainbow Springs No. 6. and 7. further down the stream with the medium output of some 4730 liters per second.

These springs form the Rainbow River (Blue Run) – a 9.2 km long river that falls into Withlacoochee River.

Rainbow Springs are well researched and the measurements from 1965 to 2010 show that the medium output of all springs together is some 19 650 liters per second (3). Most likely, over the last decades, the output of these springs has decreased.

Temperature of the water is 23.4 degrees.

In this scenic and comparatively wild area can be found numerous rare animals and plants, such as indigo snake, Florida mouse, Sherman’s fox squirrel, and others. In the river have been found fossils of mastodons and mammoths.

History

When Europeans arrived in the area in the early 19th century, there lived Timucua people.

An early settlement there was Juliette, and, most likely, it was located at springs. This settlement started to develop around 1839 but disappeared completely around the 1920ies.

A sub-boat in Rainbow Springs around 1969
A sub-boat in Rainbow Springs around 1969. / Robert A. Ellis, Sr., Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In the 1890ies – the early 20th century the area around the springs was mined for phosphate, there arrived more people, and the towns of Dunnellon developed.

The impressive group of springs was called simply Blue Springs and this beautiful natural area was well known. In the 1930ies there was founded a private company – Blue Spring Company – and a theme park was established. The river bed was dredged and cleaner to provide better visibility and special, unique boats were constructed for visitors. These were so-called sub-boats where the visitors could descend deeper and look at the underwater world at their eye level. Five of these boats have been preserved up to this day, although in a bad condition.

Rainbow Springs, monorail around 1969
Rainbow Springs, monorail around 1969. / Robert A. Ellis, Sr., Flickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Additional attractions were the artificial waterfalls – Rainbow Falls and Seminole Falls – that were built over the piles of phosphate tailings. The theme park included also a zoo and a famous monorail.

In the 1930ies the generic name of springs – Blue Springs – was changed to Rainbow Springs.

As the interstate road network was built and other attractions were developed elsewhere, the popularity of Rainbow Springs fell and in 1974 the theme park was closed.

In 1972 this geological wonder was designated as a National Natural Landmark.

Nevertheless, with the further development of mass tourism, the idea of the theme park was revived. State purchased the land in 1990 and in the 1990ies the park was reopened. Now it is a state park with an active organization of volunteers – Friends of Rainbow Springs.

References

  1. First Magnitude Springs of Florida, Florida Geological Survey Open File Report No 85. Accessed in May 30, 2022.
  2. Rainbow Springs State Park. Accessed in May 30, 2022.
  3. Rainbow Springs State Park, Advisory Group Draft Unit Management Plan (PDF file). Accessed in May 30, 2022.

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