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Sunday, April 25, 2021

Scalloping and Rainbow River


Scalloping in Homosassa is an adventure that draws tens of thousands of visitors from all over the country each year. Beginning on July 1 and running through September 24, the clear, shallow coastal waters of Crystal River and Homosassa come alive with scallopers of all ages.

Take a scenic boat ride into the Gulf of Mexico's clear-water grass flats. Scallops abound in this unspoiled, preserved, and protected coastline. Snorkel among the amazing sea life as you seek out these delectable morsels in what many compare to an underwater Easter egg hunt.

Encounter some amazing critters such as starfish, dolphins, sea turtles, fish, rays, seahorses, manatees, and many other interesting creatures that make their home in the clear and shallow waters of our Nature Coast.

Water depths for this scalloping adventure generally range from 4 feet to 6 feet, making harvesting scallops a leisurely and fun adventure with minimal physical exertion for those who are comfortable in the water.

Rainbow River:

For a more enhanced experience, this year, the DUDC is supplementing the West Coast Scallop round up dive with the scenic Rainbow River Dive on the following day.

a Florida spring, is unmatched with crystal clear water and over 200 feet of visibility. See many different varieties of fish, turtles and other wildlife up close. Discover fossils coming out of the different springs dotting the bottom. At the end of the drift is a small cavern where Sun fish hangout in abundance. This drift dive or snorkel can be enjoyed by the whole family.

The Rainbow River like a constantly moving drift dive that is approximately 6 miles in length and a tributary of the Withlacoochee River. It is located in proximity to Dunnellon, Florida, United States, in the southwest corner of Marion County, about 20 miles southwest of Ocala, 100 miles northwest of Orlando and 100 miles north of the Tampa Bay area. It is formed by a first-magnitude spring, called Rainbow Springs, that is ranked fourth in the state for volume of discharge. Although it will most probably be somewhat hot and muggy in the July 18th timeframe, it is recommended to wear a 3 to 5 mm (well fitting – Good luck with that!) wet suit, as the water temperature is approximately 72 degrees F year round. However, I must tell you from experience that it is very refreshing.

Diving Planning Information and Logistics

The drift dive could be snorkeled, scuba, or dived with surface supplied air and is fairly shallow with an abundance of wildlife, so it is recommend to bring your UW camera equipment and set up for wide-angle (non-macro) and if snorkeling, use a flotation vest in addition to your wetsuit.

The dive duration is approximately 3 to 4 hours long. We can choose to either higher a captain and pay $50 per person for our personal pontoon boat to follow us, or, park at a parking lot, load and take a ferry ride up the river that will drop us off and we will drift back to the parking lot where we parked our cars and started the adventure.

Rainbow Springs History

Rainbow Springs and the Rainbow River became popular in the late 1880s when hard rock phosphate was discovered in the area. A small community called Juliette flourished near the springs during this "boomtown" era. In the 1930s the spring was developed as a tourist attraction. Rainbow Springs has served as an important natural resource for animals and humans for many years. At one time, mastodon and mammoth lived here and their fossils were found in the Rainbow Springs, along with relics of the Native Americans who used the river for transportation and fishing. The Timucua Indian tribes lived in a broad area of North Central Florida and were present at Rainbow Springs. Arrowheads and earlier stone tools have been found in and around the springs.

Mastodon Jaw

Much later, in the early 20th century, men began mining the surrounding area for phosphate. The new industry brought a boom and the towns of Juliette and Dunnellon were founded. Juliette, once located on what is now park property, no longer exists, but Dunnellon continues to be an active community, welcoming visitors to enjoy area gems such as Rainbow Springs State Park

Rainbow Springs Tourist boat

In the 1920s, this spring was a favorite spot for tourists and locals. As the attraction grew, the river was dredged for glass bottom boat tours; and waterfalls were built on piles of phosphate tailings.

The privately owned Rainbow Springs attraction opened in the 1930s, joining the ranks of family oriented venues that were bringing a great deal of tourism to Florida. The major highways in the state at the time were U.S. 1 on the east coast, U.S. 41/441/27 through the center of the state and U.S. 19 on the west coast. Attractions were often built along these highways and capitalized on the natural beauty of Florida, especially its springs. Before the building of the attraction, the Rainbow River was known at different times as Wekiwa Creek or Blue Run. "Rainbow River" seemed more marketable and the names of the river and springs were changed to the names they bear today.

Leaf Monorail Rainbow Springs

Another feature found only at Rainbow Springs was the Leaf Ride, a monorail system with leaf-shaped gondolas used to transport visitors through the park at tree level. This feature was added to the park in the 1960s. Visitors enjoyed viewing a large aviary, three waterfalls, a rodeo, a small zoo complex and a historic garden.

One of the features that separated Rainbow Springs from similar attractions was the way that visitors could view the spring bottom. Most springs offered some form of glass bottom boat ride, enabling visitors to view the spring through the clear glass floor. But at Rainbow Springs the distinctive sub-boats had stairs that went below the waterline of the boat and visitors could look out at eye level.

The boats were steered by a captain who told the story of the springs and the creatures that called the springs home. A zoo, rodeo, and gift shops and honeymoon cabins were added.

In 1972, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated Rainbow River as a National Natural Landmark. It is also an aquatic preserve and an Outstanding Florida Water.

Mermaid at Rainbow Springs (1960s)

The ownership of the Rainbow Springs attraction changed hands several times, and at one time was owned by S&H Green Stamps and Holiday Inn. The development of the interstate highway system in Florida eventually led to the demise of the Rainbow Springs attraction. The interstate passed by the small towns that hosted such attractions and newer, modern attractions in Orlando drew many away from the older parks. By 1974, Rainbow Springs was closed and the facilities fell into disrepair.

It reopened as a state park in 1990, following petitioning by concerned citizens on behalf of the attraction, the state of Florida purchased Rainbow Springs. It opened to the public as a state park on a full-time basis in 1995.

On October 25, 1990, Rainbow Springs State Park joined the Florida Park Service. The spring was saved from direct encroachment and in the process a part of Florida history was preserved as well. The citizens that supported the acquisition of the park soon formed the park's Citizen Support Organization, called Friends of Rainbow Springs, Inc. This organization led the way in opening the park by physically clearing paths and bringing life back to the gardens and other features. By 1993, state funding allowed for park staff to join the volunteers. Today, the park consists of more than 1,470 acres and has three main entrances. The main park entrance is still on U.S. 41 and at the headsprings of the Rainbow River. The campground and tubing entrance are about seven miles away, by car. Both of these areas have new facilities and open up new recreational opportunities for park visitors. Stop for a visit and experience the Real Florida at Rainbow Springs State Park.

Old dive report:

Mailing Address

Down Under Dive Club

PO Box 1047
Melbourne, FL 32902