Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

An Unexpected Extended Stay at Gracious Rainbow Springs

February 11 to March 1, 2017                                                                 Most Recent Posts:
Rainbow Springs State Park                                                                    Finishing Off Disney
Dunnellon, Florida                                                                                   Update




  IMG_0073Most of the pictures in this post are of the simply beautiful Rainbow River and its inhabitants from the daily paddles I did during our first 4 days there before we were laid low for the next 2 weeks. Such a shame not to be able to enjoy what was glorious weather by a gorgeous river. But that’s our life and for the record, here’s how it went.

We left Disney World on Saturday February 11 and moved to Rainbow Springs State Park in Dunnellon Florida. When we arrived the smell of smoke was heavy in the air. At check in we found that they had just done a controlled burn on this area of the park. Not an auspicious start. Shortly afterward the power went out for 3 hours. But it wasn’t tooo hot.

We got set up but if you recall, our jacks will not come down. Bless Rainbow Springs, this site was as level as the one at Disney so we could still put out our slides. Here, we hoped to get a few things accomplished in the “work” department, the jacks being one, and alternate with fun paddling in the beautiful Rainbow River every day. At first, things went as expected.



First accomplishment. We don’t have our mail sent to us very often. We do nearly everything on line but it is becoming tax season so the box arrived and you can take a look at our joy as we sort through it.


Second Accomplishment. It took all of Monday but David and the HWH technician on line got the jack problem diagnosed as the shuttle valve was stuck and needs to be replaced. So the part is ordered and David says it isn’t too big a job to replace it. One problem partly down.


Third Accomplishment. On Tuesday David worked on the slide bushing problem and putting Winnona’s grille back which was taken off in the jack diagnosis. The grille deal required the both of us and was no easy reinstall especially when one of us thought it was going in upside down and the other didn’t. Sadly it was and had to be done over. Doing it once was hard, doing it twice was well….   Here’s David looking in through the grille as he attempts to reattch the bracket without being able to see it.


Fourth Accomplishment. On Wednesday he drove in to Dunnellon for an infusion at the Cancer Center and was gone all day of course.

By Thursday he has the cold but still isn’t feeling too bad and when the part comes for the jackets he puts it in and we’re back in business.  Fifth Accomplishment. He also gets started on the final top bushing but night closes in.   This is how it was left when I took him to the hospital.   IMG_1245



That morning, we had found that we could not get the drawer under the refrigerator to open.  We keep some pots and pans in there so we thought one of them had gotten out of place and wedged.  We tried shaking the drawer and putting a long handled knife sharpener in the very small opening but the problem had to be in the very back.  The only way to access that drawer becuase the refrig is on top is to take the pantry sliding door and all its shelves out of the wall so we can reach in and find out what’s up.   So we do that and it isn’t anything jammed at all.  It turns out that the left hand railing is secured in the front by a screw that had not been put in well in the first place and had wobbled itself to be so loose that the latching mechanism wouldn’t release the drawer.  Not sure how he was able to get the screw out and put a longer screw into a solid piece of wood but we were back in business again.  What a PIA to get that drawer out.  But while the pantry shelves were out, they all got cleaned as well as all the jars and cans that were in them and the rails got oiled.



From that point on, he’s too sick to do anything and the details of these days were the subjects of two previous posts.  If you haven’t read them, they are here. The first is The Good, The Bad and The Irritating. written when I wasn’t feeling too badly YET.  The Second is Update.   These links will take you to them.


The details of his stay in the hospital and my getting sicker and sicker with the virus aren’t worth detailing. But what is worth it is that I was able for the first 4 days at Rainbow Springs to take the kayak out from the campground dock and paddle each day up to the spring where the day use state park is or south to the tubing take out used beginning in the spring. David said he wanted to get the things accomplished and then on the remaining days he would paddle but of course that didn’t happen as he got sick before he could and neither of us had the strength after he came back from the hospital.

So in all the many days we were here, David was unable to kayak at all and I paddled only those 4 times. But they were splendid.  



The Rainbow River is Crystal Clear for as far as I paddled.  I can see the grasses flowing in the current.  The white sand bottom appears Caribbean blue.  I marvel at all of this because the shoreline opposite the state park is lined with homes nearly all the way up to the head waters and all the way down to the town of Dunnellon a total of 6 miles.  





How do they control the usual toxic run offs from all these people’s lawns and vehicles?  I hope the answer is that the people along the river love it well enough to control themselves.

   There is also a NO WAKE zone along the entire river that “most” of the few motored boats I encountered followed but of course not all.  Some people really believe laws do not apply to them.  I fear our current President appears to be one of those.





There is a sign right in the middle of the river as you approach the headsprings area saying motors must be brought up out of the water.  I lOVE that.  Given the flow of the springs which though not over whelming would prevent even a pontoon from making much progress without a motor, I saw no boats but kayaks and canoes beyond that sign.




When reaching the source of the river, you can dock your boat at the boat rental launch on the left before the swimming area.  Tell them you are from the campground.  Or at least that worked for me.  It may be more trouble mid day when people are busy going in and out here renting kayaks and canoes.

Though all these pictures are from the water, I did get out and walk along the paths one day.  The azaleas are in bloom and are beautiful but the gardens are not maintained as strictly these days as they were when this was a private arboretum.  There is an interesting herb garden which seems fairly newly created and the cage relics of the old “zoo” where once bobcats and other animals were kept for viewing.  Very glad that’s over.

There is a picnic area, a store, a snack bar and restrooms as well.   The swimming area is not large but I always saw someone swimming circles around the perimeter every time I went.






Although I love to be out on the water in the early morning, it was just too cool for that in February or at least for me.  So I took the kayak out mostly in the late afternoon around 3:00 at the height of the heat when others were coming back so I met only a few others and on my way back each day, between 4:30 and 6:00 I paddled or drifted by pairs of beautiful wood ducks. There are wood duck houses along the river beyond the campground boat launch but not above it. The ducks were in pairs all along both above and below.  Sometimes it was hard to see the female but I grew accustomed to scanning for the bright white lines in both of their coloring.






There were also Cormorants, Grebes, Moorhens or Common Gallinule as I guess they are now called, along with Anhinga, Turtles and Coots.  I saw otters one day only and they were too fast for photographs but they are a thrill for me. I just love them even when they hiss at me.  And each day I saw at least one scuba diver complete with dive flag.   The Rainbow River is not that deep so I was surprised that I saw only scuba divers and no snorklers.  But perhaps they were out when I was not.









Often the Limpkin gives himself away with his loud screaming but one day I almost miss him in the grasses.  He makes no alarm sound.  Over the days I am surprised that the birds are so unafraid as I paddle very near them.



I saw numerous turtles basking in the sun but actually saw more of their noses peeking up in the water.   Sometimes their were multiple “noses”.   Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, has conducted turtle sampling in the Rainbow River with Eckerd students and volunteers since 1990.  Such research aided in the 2009 ban on commercial harvest of freshwater turtles.  Foreign demand had descimated populations in Florida’s spring runs. 




I think these two are the red and yellow bellied sliders.





I think this is the first time I’ve seen a gathering of noses.



I was seriously taken with this pair of cormorants when I floated by and thought I saw something blue in one of their mouths.  It’s difficult to see in the more distant pictures but I was actually very close and neither bird moved at all as I floated by and then turned around and paddled back to try for closer pictures of the amazing blue eyes and matching mouth.






I assume the color in his mouth is part of his breeding “plumage”.  Isn’t it amazing?



The anhingas were probably the most numerous birds on the river each day.  I saw them in the water where they have gained the name “snake bird” for obvious reasons.



I saw them swimming and fishing but mostly drying their wings.






My last day on the river I looked forward to exploring again a side spring that we had found on previous visit.  The little spring is at the end of fairly short run and overlooking the spring is a wonderful little cabin.

I was so excited to be in such an out of the way  and beautiful water way.



But in a very short time I came to a downed tree covering the entire run. I tried seeing if I could get the kayak under it and perhaps pull out, sit on the tree, pull the kayak through and get back in. I think the plan might work but would rather have on my bathing suit just in case. So regretfully I turned back to return the next day. But the next day I had to take David to the hospital and from then on there was no more kayaking.






I turn around and start back up the spring along the shore line.  Drawn by what looks like a blue hole, I pull in and look around.  








I pull in and am surrounded by little fish.  They approach the kayak on both sides.  Most are 6 to 8” long.  Some smaller, some larger.


Not being a fisherperson, I have no idea who they are but I greatly enjoyed spending time with them and wonder why they were so interested in me.  Normally when I paddle down a river, the fish high tail it out of sight.





Now you can see why I am so very sorry our here was so faught with illness that we did not get to spend every single day enjoying this wonderful river.  It’s hard to be trapped with a debilitating illness for so many days so near such a treasure.

Finally yesterday I was able to go to the grocery.  I would love to stay here until we are able to kayak again at Rainbow Springs but I’ve paid enough cancellation fees over this unexpected extended stay already.   Time to get back on track. 



I really do HATE reservations.   But only the truly brave come to Florida in the winter without them.  Without the help of a friend and the graciousness of Rainbow Springs I don’t know what we would have done since there were NO campsites in the state or federal parks when I was looking for an alternative to St. George.

David is feeling better, me not so much as the coughing has settled into my chest and makes me constantly tired.  But today we are driving 225 miles to St. George Island State Park where we’ll continue to recuperate by the Gulf.   Things could be and have been much worse.

Our deepest thanks and appreciation to the Wonderful Rainbow Springs State Park who came to our aid in our time of need.  You are the best.  Thanks to you all for your comments to the posts I was able to make. They brought the only smiles to my face most days. Thank you also to those who finally figured out the OLW-Google Problem in my absence.  It was google as I had thought

I’ll end this post with a few of the many many wood duck pictures I was so very fortunate to get on my few trips up and down the glorious Rainbow Spring Run.  I doubt we’ll be seeing them here on St. George Island.








  1. Sherry, your pictures truly capture the essence of the Rainbow River. Just beautiful! (And that's why we live here....) Hope you both get over being sick and back to enjoying your travels.

  2. Such a lovely place with lovely birds! Glad to hear things are going better.

  3. What a beautiful place! I don't think I'd ever want to leave.

  4. Beautiful photos of a spectacular Spring Run!!

    Now, find your special place on the beach at St. George with your favorite book, your camera and lots of water to drink, breath in that marvelous salt air, let your body heal and get feeling better. Oh, while you are there, be sure to make a reservation at Rainbow Springs for next year so you can paddle twice a day to make up for this year:o))

    Both of you take care and get well!!!!

  5. Those Wood Duck photos are beautiful. Glad to hear that David is back out of the hospital and recuperating, hoping that both he and you are feeling better soon. Your trip in the kayak looked like a lovely one.

    Also thank you to Rainbow Springs for coming to your aid and helping you out when you needed it the most.


  6. I remember going to Rainbow Springs as a child when it was a private park. Bill & I returned a few years ago to check out the changes and found it just as beautiful as you say. Now you can add gracious to beautiful! Hope you are enjoying St. George and you both continue to gain strength.

  7. Take things easy in recovery. Very good of Rainbow Springs to be understanding.

    The anhinga male is quite a striking bird.

    I've had personal experience recently with an individual who seems to think laws and rules don't apply to him. He doesn't seem to grasp that he's shredded his own reputation. The same applies to 45.

  8. Thank you for sharing these wonderful river shots & all the great birds I missed! I am so glad you made it out while you could. Fantastic wood ducks and amazing shot of the cormorant with blue inside his mouth! I never saw that before. Also was pleased to learn of the impact the research by students from Eckerd College had. I had no idea the turtles were in such decline, nor why! Thank you Eckerd College for making such a difference!

  9. Glad to hear you guys are on the mend!! Your pictures are beautiful!! I can't imagine paddling down that river and experiencing all those birds and other animals. Lucky you 😀 !!

  10. Happy you and David are doing better now.
    What a beautiful place. The birds are so gorgeous and the little fish and turtles everywhere.

  11. You're on your way to becoming a world renowned wildlife photographer. Amazing pictures!

  12. Had no idea Winona was not completely "put together" when David went to the hospital! How wonderful you were able to stay until he returned. What a trial, and as you said it's even worse with beauty you can't access so nearby :-( Hope you're soon 100%! Now those birds, and those trees, and of course the turtles - sooooo wonderful. The blue mouths are so interesting, and they must have liked showing them off to you :-) Hopefully St George will have much to enjoy for both of you.

  13. Beautiful photos of a place we enjoyed so much last March—Rainbow Springs really is a special place. It was warm enough for us to swim when we were there, and it was delightful. I didn't know that cormorants have that amazing turquoise color inside their mouths! Glad you're both feeling well enough to travel, even though I know it must have been difficult to leave the springs before you kayaked as much as you would have liked. My folks say the weather has been perfect in Apalachicola, so I hope it stays that way for your time on St. George Island. Wish we were there to meet up with you!

  14. Your bird photos are truly superb. So glad at least one of you got out into this spectacular setting. Sorry that virus lingers. Hope you both are back to normal by this late comment.

  15. What a wonderful post, except for the part about your illnesses and trouble with your trailer. I particularly loved seeing the white phase reddish egret and your closeups of the double crested cormorants in breeding plumage. I love the anhingas in breeding plumage when their eyes are turquoise and they have the checkered wing patches. Hope you are both moving towards full health.

  16. I hope both of you are in your best health soon! Im also happy to know that there are really great people or strangers willing to help. I would not know what to do if I was in your situation. Bless those peoples hearts. On the other hand, this post is loaded with great captures of birds, especially that Cormorant with his open beck. I did not know they have turquoise color in their mouths. The wood ducks look so unreal but a beauty still.

  17. I was just checking for a new blog post from you, and decided to read this post again. I hope you are both well. If you had the same thing Al and I had, you might have gotten a relapse. I hope not, but when I didn't see a more current post, I was concerned.

    The other day, a friend brought a turtle up to my friend Heidi and I as we were standign outside talking. He was rescuing him off the campground road and wanted to ask Heidi (who is a veterinarian) where to put him. She took one look and said he was a male and was a red or yellow slider and she proceeded to give us some interesting info on them. She took one look at his front claws and determined it was a male. Apparently the males have have longer claws than females in order to help with mating. She showed us his underside and the indentation that helps him mount the females. It was an interesting lesson and I thought of it when I saw your amazing photos. She told us she has repaired many shells on them when they were brought to her clinic after being struck by cars. They have some new kind of glue of something that they use to fix their shells.

    Great Kingfisher shot by the way. I hope you are both just having too much fun to post and not sick and in bed.

  18. Gorgeous post from writing, to pictures. So sorry you couldn't enjoy Rainbow Springs more. I'm so glad they helped you and you could stay when you needed to even if the enjoyment had to wait. What you did get to see..how spectacular!


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