Rainbow Springs is located just over an hour south of Gainesville Florida, or just to the west of Ocala. It was the first stamp I received in the Florida Passport book. Only 174 more to go! This park had a walk up entrance counter as opposed to the normal drive up gates, and as I was walking up, I nearly pissed my pants.
I grabbed my crotch and shuffled up to the gate, where a friendly elderly woman was wearing a ranger outfit. She accepted my card, stamped the passport, and I ran off to the bathroom while hyperventilating.
Beyond the entrance, there was a large overhanging roof with numerous roundtables and ceiling fans where a few people were eating.
The spring pool was down a hill, gasp, one of the rarely seen land slopes in Florida. Actually, Florida has a few more hills than people like to give it credit. A stone trail led about 30 feet down the slope and further down the trail to the platform where swimmers can enter.
The springs were a gorgeous turquoise blue with various patches of almost lime green in embedded patches.
Some of the people swimming in the springs and on the dock near the water however, were not so gorgeous.
Upon sliding into the water, I took a few gasps for breath as the coolness was somewhat shocking.
Always jump straight into cold water; testing the water with your feet first will only engage your mind into fear and a poor attitude towards the discomfort of the cold water.
Jump straight in, embrace the discomfort, and observe the change in your breath pace and how the water feels on your body.
“Come on baby jump’n da water you disappointing me.” A guy with tattoos playing with his child was yelling at a woman on the dock. I assume it was his wife, as she was quite pregnant.
I did my best to block out his constant yelling across the springs in order to enjoy my time in the water. I dipped underneath the water again and swallowed several gulps. Nothing like the fresh water in Florida’s natural aquifer springs. Whether any infant urine was near me at the time is for your imagination.
At nearly all of the springs we have plunged into, there are ropes around the swimming area to prevent people from swimming against the dense plant life, as well as out into the rivers (springs are nearly always immediately adjunct to a river) where alligators are hungry for a snack and ready to tear your flesh from your bones.
I watched one guy pull up the rope and wade into the restricted side of the water. This man, probably close to 40 years old, yelled back at other members of his family, or friends or whoever he was with “Nuh uh you can go over to this side you just can go way over there (pointing over towards the river).”
Oh really? So that rope must be for you to practice your limbo skills.
“OH come on baby I wish you’d just come get in the water for a second!” the first man screamed again.
I had swum a couple of laps around the springs, and was climbing up the stairs at this moment. Time to get away from the incessant yelling and view the waterfalls and flora.
Rainbow Springs is the fourth largest spring in Florida out of tens of thousands. It turns out this State Park was actually a privately owned attraction with a small zoo and apparently rides between the 1930s and 1970s. The ruins of the animal cages remain to this day. I visualized the cages in new condition with monkeys and goats trapped inside and dozens of little children gathered around to watch.
“Mommy it’s a monkey’s ass! He’s throwing poop at the girl monkey!”
Further on down the stroll, there were some sabal palms and beautiful bushes, as well as a butterfly garden that honestly looked like shit, which may be explained by the fact that it was late February and none of the flowers were blooming yet.
After strolling along further and taking some time to enjoy the waterfalls, I headed back towards the actual spring to take one last dip before heading elsewhere. I couldn’t even see the spring yet when I heard Guy #1…
“Baby come on in I’m tellin ya it’s nice, we drove 3 hours for this why won’t you just jump in? Come on baby please I’m begging you please. We drove all day I can’t believe you won’t come in the water please.”
I had been gone from the spring for about an hour at this point, and this guy is still sitting here pleading and begging for his significant other to get into the water like a little baby. Somewhat annoying but I can only imagine the agony that this man is likely experiencing.
People, especially ‘grown adults’ as I occasionally refer to them as, always mocked me when I said I would never get married. The preceding incidence is one of a million examples, but I digress.
I jumped back into the water, took a few more gulps, and swam a couple more laps before we headed out for the day.
Have you ever swum in a natural spring? Did you drink the water? Tell us your thoughts. There might be a spring close to your house!