Rainbow Springs State Park is a state park located in Volusia County, Florida. It is at 8700 Estero Blvd., Fort Myers Beach, between Big Carlos Pass and New Pass and 10 miles (16km) west of Interstate 75 on exit 116. The park has two separate areas for camping with full hookup RV sites and tent campsites as well as screened shelters that can be reserved up to 11 months in advance. There are also three picnic pavilions, a playground, swimming beach, fishing pier, boat ramp, and nature trail.
A primitive equestrian campground is open from April 1 through October 15. Camping facilities include water, electric, sewer and cable TV hookups. All campsites share the sames amenitie including a bathhouse/restrooms facility, picnic area, and nature trails. No pets are allowed.
In 2015, an agreement was made to allow horseback riding within the park beginning 2016. Prior to this, horses were only allowed in the designated horse campground which closed in late 2017. As of March 20, 2020, there is no horse campground; however, there is a “permanent non-reservation” equestrian campground available by reservation starting May 18, 2020.
This new site allows for RVs up to 40 feet (12m), with 30 feet (9.1m) of space between them. It has its own entrance, parking lot, and restroom facilities. Horses may not exceed 45 miles per hour (72km/h) during posted speed limits. Riders must have current Negative Coggins papers for each horse brought into the park (per Florida State Parks). If you fall behind schedule, it’s easy to miss your turn around time, especially if you stop for snacks or coffee.
Be advised, Rainbow Springs’ visitor center and most other public access points are closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. However, the park remains open and visitors can still enter the park via the Newpass Entrance. Rainbow Springs offers many activities for all ages. Visitors can also enjoy boating, shelling, sunbathing, swimming, paddleboarding, kayaking, snorkeling, diving, fishing, and scuba diving when they visit Rainbow Springs.
The park is unique among Florida State Parks in that it features a natural spring fed pool that varies in depth from about 4 feet 6 inches (1.4m) to over 7 feet (2.3m). The spring averages 100 million gallons (380,000 m3) of daily flow. The average yearly rainfall is 52 inches (132cm), evenly distributed throughout the year with occasional severe thunderstorms. These storms usually occur in summer and autumn. On occasion, large hailstones will be found embedded in tree trunks along the roadway. Because of the high volume of rain falling, flash flooding is common after heavy rains.
The park is crossed by the Caladesi Island Parkway, a half-mile extension of the Tamiami Trail, south of Exit 116. This section of the parkway is known locally as the Hurricane Highway because of frequent severe weather conditions. Severe thunderstorm activity continues beyond the park boundaries, but these come less frequently than those within the park itself. Although there is some lightning outside the park, there have been no confirmed reports of any significant damage resulting from lightning strikes outside the park. Within the park, trees often shed their leaves in autumn, creating hazards for traffic and pedestrians. During dry summers, trees become dehydrated and sometimes die, leaving extensive bare tree stumps scattered across the park.
One particularly destructive hurricane, Camille, devastated portions of the park in 1969. After the storm had passed, volunteers discovered that nearly 200 trees had been downed, and another 400 were damaged. Many of the trees were simply snapped in half. Others were completely uprooted from the ground. The extent of the destruction left crews digging out tree stumps in order to remove them from the park. An oak tree that stood in the middle of the main road leading into the park was partially buried under several tons of mud and debris.
Volunteers and workers spent five days removing debris and cleaning up debris left by Camille. Damage assessments revealed that approximately one third of the park had been destroyed. To make matters worse, a six-month drought occurred soon after the hurricane, reducing the amount of foliage growing in the park, further exposing the forest to fire danger. Only after years of clearing dead vegetation did the park fully recover. Today, much of the original habitat has returned, and secondary forests of pecan, palmetto, and oysterwood grow where oaks once grew.
Florida state parks are open between dawn and sundown every day of the year (including holidays). The cost is $8 per vehicle per day. Annual passes can also be purchased. Dogs and bikes are not permitted. Amenities include beaches, bicycling, canoeing, fishing, hiking, picnicking areas, swimming, wildlife viewing, and full hookup RV and tent camping. Boats with unlimited horsepower are prohibited. Campsites are available with full hookup RV service, including water, electricity, and cable TV hookups. Each site has picnic table and grill facilities and a nearby dumping station.
The park includes four short trails, offering opportunities for hikers to view the native plants, animals and habitats of the park. The 0.5-mile (0.80km) Wild Persimmon Hiking Trail leads past live oak trees, saw palmettos, cabbage palm, ferns, lichens, mosses, and mushroom species. The .75-mile (1.21km) Nature Center Loop Trail begins near the entrance gate, passing by the picnic area, before climbing a small hill, then circling back down below the dam to end near the observation tower. The 1.25-mile (2.40km) Old Spanish Coquina Quarries Trail leads past coquina rock formations used during the coquina quarry era. The 2.5-mile (4.0km) Sesqui Circle Trail is a paved route taking visitors on a loop of moderate difficulty, passing through hardwood hammock, cypress swamp and old agricultural fields.
The park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail, a partnership between federal agencies, state governments, counties, cities, conservation organizations, and educational institutions to increase awareness of birds and their role in our environment.
Activities such as:
- wildlife viewing
Animals that inhabit the park include:
- gray foxes
Among the birds observed at the park were:
- blue heron
- American white pelican
- black vulture
- bald eagle
- red-tailed hawk
- red-shouldered hawk
- mocking bird
- wading bird
- least tern
- black skimmer
- loggerhead shrike
- eastern bluebird
- northern oriole
- peregrine falcon
- bald eaglet
Fish present in the park included:
Reptiles observed at the park included: