Diving the Rainbow River
To Dive the Rainbow one should know how they plan to get to the best dive spots.
You can drift down river for four hours and get out in Dunnellon or you can be smart and go up river a couple of different ways. Up river has the clearer water than down river. There is also more springs and caverns to wards the headwaters (up river). You can rent a kayak, a canoe or try to swim, although I do not recommend it. You very well might be out of air before you can drift dive. There are numerous dive shops that have boats and captains to take you up river for a shuttle-n- drop off or you can get one to stay with you all the way back down to the KP. Hole. You can find them on Our Friends Page.
When you get to the park, earlier the better, first go get your arm band and put it on. It can go on your wrist and put your wet suit over it. That way when you drift back, you won't have any problem getting out of your wet suit and still have the band for the rest of your stay in the park. It's good for the whole day even if you go into town for lunch (see Our Friends Page). If you are going on a dive boat remember not to bring any disposable containers aboard like water bottles or quarter pounder with cheese wrappers. These can get you and the captain a fine! If you are going to get on just a shuttle and drift back, don't bring anything on the boat that you are not getting in the water with as you may not see the boat again. If the ride is for 9:00 then that means most dive boats are pulling away from the docks at 9:00. Don't be late!
You can offload in the parking lot or more conveniently at the staging area outside the fence. Follow the boat ramp signs and stop right next to the approach to the boat ramp. This is for offloading dive gear and hand launch boats. That puts you within a few feet from the boat docks and launching area. Parking is for only 15 minutes while unloading then you will need to move on to the parking lot. Keep your eyes open for the many informative signs to guide you and avoid a staff member pointing it out to you. Most of the Park rules are based on a long history of past experience. Some rules sound dumb on the surface but usually have a sound foundation!
You will need a dive flag for diving and snorkeling. You can rent them from the park, bring your own or most dive boats will furnish them. The sheriff does patrol the divers and likes to see all divers within 50ft. of a flag, yours or somebody else's. Don't get careless and get a ticket. It can ruin your day!
There's tons of stuff to see. You might see a Florida Gar, a River Cooter, a Musk Turtle, an under water bird such as an Anhinga or a Cormorant, an Otter, a Catfish, a Huge Spring, a Little Sand Boil, a Cavern, a Large Mouth Bass, a Giant Snapping Turtle, a Tiny Shrimp, a Needle Fish or just about anything! You might even see an alligator.
Make sure you have made preparations for the dive. The closest air and gear rentals is about 17 miles away in Crystal River. You can go there and rent gear and set up a boat ride ahead of time. Be sure to call ahead for availability. Again see Our Friends Page for shops in the area. You do not want to get out of the water and onto dry land. The land on one side of the river is all private and the other is part of the State Park Preserve. Neither side is legal to trespass. Because of rude divers doing un-thinkable things in the past, the property owners can have a low tolerance for trespassers. Be a good neighbor and stay in the state owned water. A good rule to follow is "if it ain't wet--don't touch it!!!" This could be said for many situations in life.