Inger and Jeff Latreille
10,000 Year Old Spring
~Saturday, January 16, 2021~
Finally, a beautiful day, though a bit chilly…..the high about 56. And a perfect day to kayak with some manatees. I’m sure you’ve noticed, nothing has been crossed off the to do list for a while because we’re making up for the lost days we didn’t get to check off the must see list. The weather is finally cooperating so we have to take advantage of those good days when they come.
Along the 75 minute drive, we saw the turnoff for Cedar Key (the quaint town that the camp host recommended to us yesterday), with the hope that we could stop there on our way back, depending on what time we wrapped up our day at Rainbow Springs State Park. This is the one thing that I really wanted to do during our stay in Northern Florida and was so concerned that the kayaks would all be taken by the time we arrived. But my worries were unwarranted. There were plenty to be had. My only disappointment...there are no manatees in Rainbow Springs. ☹️ Apparently, there is an old lock system on the waterway between the Rainbow River and the Gulf of Mexico. Because that system is no longer used, manatees cannot travel to the Rainbow River. The last sighting of a manatee in the area was in the mid 90’s. I guess I had gotten this spring confused with Fanning Springs State Park. Well at least we got to see them a little bit on yesterday’s visit to Manatee State Park.
The question…..how long to rent the kayaks for? We started at 2:00 and the rentals have to be back by 4:00. So 2 hours it is….45 minutes out and 75 minutes back. It turned out to be a perfect amount of time. We’ve never seen water so crystal clear, even in the 15-20 foot deep sections.
The turquoise blue water at an even 75 degree temperature year ‘round, looks so inviting. There is evidence that this spring dates as far back as 10,000 years ago and is Florida’s fourth largest spring. What animal wouldn’t like to live here? It is a peaceful, serene place with beauty all around.
We witnessed a few of the animals that call this place home…...the swimming kind….turtles and fish but also the flying species like waders, divers, osprey and hawks that would either take an occasional opportunity to rest and sun themselves, or fly along the river corridor (check out the video!) There were a few times that we saw bubbles coming from underneath the surface of the water thinking it was aquifer action when in fact they were schools of scuba divers. There were a few scuba diving companies with their pontoon boats loaded with eager divers. This really would be a perfect place to learn with the water so clear and warm, even in depths of 5 to 20 feet.
After we turned in our kayak rentals, we got our faithful pal Sadie and went on an hour stroll through the rest of the park.
There are several trails where Sadie was on high squirrel alert, but the highlights were the views of the Springs and the man-made waterfalls. We came to find out that around the 1930’s, Rainbow Springs was a privately owned theme park with a zoo, rodeo, gift shop and monorail system. There are still remnants on the property from that time. But due to the developments of the Orlando theme parks, this unfortunately drew many people away from the smaller town attractions. The park as we see it today wasn’t established until 1990.
Since it was a little late in the day, we decided to forgo our visit to Cedar Key, possibly going tomorrow. When we got back, we noticed a few more new arrivals in our “neck of the woods”. It’s nice having neighbors to help liven the place up.