A Week in Central Florida: Rainbow and Blue Spring State Parks

From late October to mid November I spent an unfortunate amount of time online trying to lock in reservations at any of our preferred Central Florida spots, while also fitting in at least one new place during our limited time in the area. Our “check online and often for late cancellations” method did not serve us quite as well as usual; though we had a thirteen day window in between our stay at cousin Robb’s and our planned arrival at Periwinkle Park on Sanibel Island, we only had five days covered with Central Florida reservations. We started those five days with two at Rainbow Springs State Park, a very popular camping destination.

Thus, after Robb and Colleen prepared a hearty breakfast, we left their driveway late Sunday morning, gassed up Serenity for the second time this month (something we are not used to given our last three months nearly stationary in North Carolina) and headed south to the newest state park on our RV list. At just over an hour drive time, this is the sort of repositioning move we love; even with a leisurely late departure we can arrive enough to enjoy the first day at a new spot.

Rainbow Springs reminds me quite a lot of Silver Springs State Park, a place Rose and I camped at but once, though I recall visiting the place place a couple of times in my youth. Both parks have a massive, first order magnitude springs with large crystal clear ponds surrounding the main spring boils, which feed rivers that remains clear for quite some distance downstream. Both parks limit swimming to designated areas, and both campgrounds are miles from the actual spring.

Having said that, we thoroughly enjoyed our two days at Rainbow Springs, and would have preferred at least one more, even with our tight schedule for the rest of the month. The campground, or at least our assigned loop, had only limited vegetation, mostly of the low scrub forest variety rather than the canopy forest we generally prefer. This meant not much shade, but fortunately our site position and size were such that we had plenty of privacy from neighbors.

With only two days there we splurged on our second day and rented a canoe to paddle the river for a couple of miles. With snacks and drinks we had a lovely afternoon on the river admiring the nature and houses lining much of both sides, though one of the for sale signs made it clear this particular water front area is well outside of our limited means ($950,000 asking price for one large lot, house not included!)

The canoe trip reinforced our desire to own some kind of boat, even if it is as simple as a tandem kayak. The real challenge for us is how to transport it: a tandem is to tall to mount vertically on our rear ladder, and the Geo Tracker is not exactly set up for something on top of the rag top roof. Ah well, with enough padding and rope I am sure it can be done, so somehow, someday.

Tuesday morning we headed out around noon bound for Blue Spring State Park, which, along with Wekiva Springs and Trimble Park is one of our preferred CFL locations. Blue Springs and Wekiva both have excellent swimming in crystal clear waters, though this time of year the manatees are arriving, so swimming in Blue Springs is restricted. Ah well, this park never fails to deliver in terms of nature and wildlife.

During the first of our three planned three days at Blue Spring we managed to secure two additional days, giving us five total at the park, though we would had to move sites between the two reservations, which is unfortunate not just because of the move, but also because each reservation entails a separate reservation fee, jacking up the daily rate a bit. Irritating!

Son Jackson and Andrea were able to swing by one night, bringing take out pizza from our local recommended spot, Blue Springs Pizza, located just outside of the park, and highly recommended what with the apparent shift back to the original owners this last year. We don’t have any group pictures because we seriously attempted social distancing this visit, eating outside and forgoing contact, etc. It’s strange to read our blog posts from half a year ago and find the exact same comments, i.e., visiting with Jackson and maintaining social distancing. Man, let the vaccine flow smoothly such that this pandemic ends soon!

Incidentally, some of you may remember my unnecessarily detailed explanation of the “Wekiwa” vs “Wekiva” (note the “wa” vs the “va” in the last syllable) many moons ago. In a similar vein, I want to point out that the official name of the current park in question is “Blue Spring State Park,” in which “spring” is singular. Contrast this with Gilchrist Blue Springs State Park, with plural “springs.” This is more than a subtle way of differentiating each park’s respective name; it also reflects reality in that Blue Spring has one main spring boil, whereas Gilchrist Blue Springs has multiple spring heads spread out across several acres of the property.

Nearly every day we made made the short hike down to the spring, and though we did not have the raccoon or armadillo activity we have enjoyed during past stays, the manatees were out and easily spotted along the entire half mile spring run. I mentioned earlier that Rainbow Springs reminds me of Silver Springs in part because of how long the water remains crystal clear downstream from the main heads. I contrast this with out current location, Blue Spring, which runs into the murky St Johns River in less than a mile, and Gilchrist Blue Springs, which runs into the equally dark Sante Fe River even sooner.

While in the region we had plenty of time to do a bit of geocaching. While we have stayed at Blue Springs many times, we have not done much caching in the area, something we remedied this visit. During the course of which we found bike paths, hiking trails, and local parks about which I was completely ignorant until we went out caching. Such is the nature of the hobby, always pushing you into new and unexpected areas.

I drew an imaginary triangle with sides defined as the St Johns River, Lake Monroe, and I-4, and then set about finding all the caches within it. Future visits are clearly called for.

So there it is, a full week in Central Florida split between an old favorite and a new park. This left us with nearly a full week until our reservation start at Sanibel Island, during which we explored a completely new campground and region. In other words, next up: South Bay RV Park on Lake Okeechobee.

5 thoughts on “A Week in Central Florida: Rainbow and Blue Spring State Parks

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