Thursday February 17th 2022
It was another great weather day. The only thing keeping it from perfection was a strong breeze out of the southwest. That is one of the hot weather wind directions. Today’s high temperature was in the mid eighties.
The headwaters area of the Rainbow Springs State Parks used to be one of Florida’s big springs attractions. It opened in the 1930s and closed in 1974 when the Interstate Highways and Walt Disney World took its visitors away. During its life as a theme park it had glass bottom boats, man made waterfalls, aerial gondola rides, extensive gardens, a zoo and a rodeo area. The former attraction became a state park in 1990 after years of neglect.
I drove the seven miles from the campground to the springs area of the park. The entrance from US Highway 41 is a tree lined approach with an occasional azalea bush in bloom. The two dollar per person fee is included in the camping fee. The first thing I noticed was that the manicured gardens visible in the pictures of the old attraction were now much more natural and slightly wild in appearance. The main feature of the state park in this area is swimming in the springs. There are also kayak and canoe rentals. I was interested in the beautiful azaleas, waterfalls and trails.
The azaleas are not in full bloom. Some of the plants have heavy blooms and others are very sparse. They are all big plants that could use more pruning surrounded by lots of other vegetation that should/could be removed. The areas that were probably wide open grass lawns in the days of the original theme park were filled with brush and medium size trees. Only one of the man made waterfalls had water running today. The others were filled with leaves and grass. I understand that is a winter condition.
It was a nice few hours wandering around the grounds. If the intent was to allow the natural elements of the area and the springs to stand out, they have succeeded. The area is not a manicured green space. It is a natural setting. Even the banks of the river around the springs are filled with grass and other water plants.
I took many pictures of azalea blossoms, turtles and the springs. If my internet connection allows I will include many here. They may be at a lower resolution.