We rented aluminum canoes at K.P. Hole county park and paddled upstream, towards the head springs (Rainbow Springs, where there's a much bigger state park apparently). We didn't make it all the way to the head springs, mainly because you have to return the canoes by 4 p.m.
Having grown up around the Atlantic Ocean and St. Johns River, I am still amazed and thrilled at how clear the spring-fed waters of Florida are. You could see all the way to the bottom, which in some places was very shallow and covered with aquatic grass (Strap-leaf sagittaria), but in others went so deep that there were divers and snorkelers - this is all limestone and sand, making the water appear a gorgeous turquoise. Throughout the sandy bottom you'd see little boils bubbling - water from the springs pushing up through the limestone.
My only other clear-water river experience has been in the Santa Fe, near Ginnie Springs. Sadly, the first thing I noticed at the Rainbow river was how clean it was. I never saw a can or bottle at the bottom of the river (although we did find one beer can floating in some marshgrass).
This is in stark contrast to the Santa Fe around Ginnie, where we never return from a "float" with less than five or six rusty cans and slimy bottles that Kyle picked up along the way. Because Ginnie Springs is privately owned, they can allow people to bring alcohol, and the majority of these park-goers are young and stupid, getting wasted and tossing their trash wherever they are, including the river.
The county and state parks prohibit alcohol, in fact, K.P. Hole prohibited any food or drink in disposable containers. Seems you've got to make rules just to keep the water clean, and that's heartbreaking.
The Rainbow river was so beautiful, and due to the time of year, it wasn't very busy. It was warm enough for Kyle and his friends Adam and Cori to snorkel (with wetsuit-like tops), but not this Florida girl. I don't get wet until June - at the earliest. I was still wearing a sweatshirt, after all.
Cori, who is the best fisherman I've ever met, caught a nice bass - we released him after the photo.
We saw a ton of birds, including a king fisher, bald eagles, cormorants, cranes and anahingas (snake birds, called so for their long, slinky necks - they're fantastic swimmers and fishermen).
The day was wonderful, and reminded me just how lucky am I to live in such a beautiful state.