Rainbow Springs State Park
Rainbow Springs has served as an important natural resource for humans and animals for many years. At one time, mastodon and mammoth fossils were found in the Rainbow River, along with relics of the Timucua who used the river for transportation and fishing.
Much later, In the early 20th century, the surrounding area was mined for phosphate. The raw industry brought a boom and the towns of Juliette and Dunnellon were founded. Juliette, once located on what is now the park property, no longer exists.
In the 1930’s, Rainbow Springs became a privately-owned theme park. In that time, most Florida spring-based parks had glass bottom boats. Rainbow Springs featured distinctive sub-boats which had stairs that went below the waterline so that visitors could look out at eye level. Waterfalls were built on piles of phosphate tailings, and a zoo, rodeo, gift shops and a monorail with leaf-shaped gondolas were also added.The development of the Interstate highway system eventually led to the demise of the theme park as the interstate passed by other, newer attractions and drew people away from the older parks. Rainbow Springs theme park closed in 1974. The Citizen’s Support Organization, called Friends of Rainbow Springs (FORS), led the way to bringing the park back to life and today the Rainbow River is a designated National Natural Landmark, an aquatic preserve and an Outstanding Florida Waterway.
History of Friends of Rainbow Springs and Rainbow Springs State Park
The organized volunteer effort at Rainbow Springs State Park began in 1990 immediately following the purchase of the site where the commercial attraction had been. Volunteers cleared the old gardens of more than 15 years of debris, weed and exotic plant growth, uncovering walkways throughout the park area. They also did repairs to make the existing facilities usable. In 1992, permission was given to open the park on a weekend basis only.
The original corps of volunteers initiated the incorporation of FORS as a Citizens Support Organization (CSO), a state sanctioned program to raise funds for management approved projects in the park. The corporation became a reality in 1993 as the “Friends of Rainbow Springs” or FORS. The weekend operation, facility rehabilitation and introduction of fundraising events were early efforts of volunteers. The work of the volunteers was merged with a Florida Park Service staff to make full time park operations possible in 1995 when Rainbow Springs State Park officially opened as a full-service state park.
The park now consists of more than 1,470 acres and has three main entrances: The “headsprings” day use area, the tubing facilities and the campground. Visitors from throughout the state and around the world visit Rainbow Springs State Park to swim in the crystal-clear water, tube down the peaceful Rainbow River, enjoy the wildlife and picnic with their families and friends.