01/03/19 Dunnellon-Ocala, FL

DAY #75

It’s the last day at Ross Prairie State Park and the time here has been a good one. The park itself has provided a very quiet, comfortable, and convenient accommodation. Weather wise, it’s been the kind that people come down in winter to enjoy, its been great. I’ve enjoyed the area, even as it transitions from rural to exurban. I’ve enjoyed and appreciate the time given to explore around the area. Would I come back? Oh Yea.

The plan was to spend the day in and around Dunnellon, FL. First up was a cruise down the Withlacoochee & Rainbow River. Those two rivers come together in town and have the distinction of being very different bodies of water. The cruise was 1 1/2 hours and for $15.00, how could I go wrong? The scene was low key, and the vibe mello as we drifted away from the dock and into the flow of the river.

It wasn’t more than ten minutes up river when we came across this big ole’ Alligator just hangin out.

As we continued down the river, we were entertained by numerous bird and turtle sightings.

Pretty cool having these kids as neighbours.
The bald cypress are dormant this time of year giving the blah look to the trees.

We meandered along until the river split up ahead. On the left was the waters of the Rainbow River and veering off to the right, continued the waters of the Withlacoochee (say that fast three times). Why no photo of the split? I’m thinking, I had a goof ball moment.

It was cool to see. The waters of the Rainbow River comes from a magnitude one spring (Rainbow Springs) located approx. 6 miles upstream. This spring pumps out of the aquifer over 600 million gallons a day. This meant the water was crystal clear and a constant 72 degrees. Looking into the water, you could easily see the bottom.

It’s actually more impressive in person.

In contrast was the Withlacoochee River. Its origins and source of water feeding into it is the swamps along its path. the water tends to be warmer and because of the organics (tannic acid), the water is a dark tea color.

The turtles checking us out.

On a good day, when the two rivers come together (sunshine & no wind), you can see dramatically the difference between the two. It reminded me of the Amazon where there are two rivers coming together in much the same way. Unfortunately, this wasn’t that day, and seeing them come together wasn’t very pronounced. Alas, we still saw a hint of it and that was enough to elicit a few ohs and ahs out of us, even if not good enough to take a photo.

The pontoon drifted into shore while the guide sang us three songs that really tied in with the cruise. He also gave a very detailed and informative presentation which made a good time even better.

After the cruise it was time for lunch. I had noticed a restaurant by the river on my way into town and decided to stop there. Swampy’s Bar & Grill was the name, and you sat right on the bank of the Rainbow River (further upstream from the cruise), watching the kayaks going by. The food was good, the ambiance really cool, and I had a good time.

Now that’s a big gator!

Next it was off to Rainbow Springs State Park. After going down the Rainbow River, I wanted to see the springs where it all starts. It was only ten minutes out of Dunnellon and I still had some daylight left, so off I went.

Dunnellon at one time was the ‘center of the earth’ as far as mining for the mineral phosphate. Hard to see but even after a hundred years, you can see remains of that time.

Trust me, the old pits are there..

I think the spring at Gilchrist Blue Springs was superior to this one even though these springs dwarf the one at Blue Springs. Plus, I don’t get why they allow swimming right at the spring. If you want to see the spring, there’s all these people swimming and splashing around, I don’t get it.

Did some walking around the park (I hate walking uphill) and while it’s a nice park, it’s too developed and busy for my taste (call me a natural snob).

Drove back to the campground, took a shower, and began breaking things down for tomorrows departure.

Need to empty the black/grey water tanks before leaving and I haven’t down that before. It’s only water (this time), but I’ll need to give myself some time. Then, I need to be at Camping World by 9:00 am. so hopefully, can get out of there early. All this translate into a early start.

Hope I don’t oversleep.