Rainbow River Freshwater Drift Dive, Florida

  • Updated: December 27, 2018
  • Post By: Matthew Hengst

December 27th, 2018

Next up on the Florida News Years 2019 Dive-cation of Amazing Awesomeness was a freshwater drift dive in Rainbow River!

Freshwater diving was briefly mentioned during my Open Water dive certification but 99% of the focus there was on diving saltwater. So when we were looking for diving options around Crystal River and came across this I wasn't quite sure what to expect. The dive shops bill it as something anyone can do since you can have people tag along with snorkels, kayaks, or just ride along on the boat.

After looking up some trusty YouTube videos I started getting exciting and sure enough it was amazing!
We'd been out already that morning snorkeling with and providing consensual belly rubs to manatees in King Bay so we already had the lay of the land and knew Mike who would be driving the boat. After a quick brief outside the dive shop it was go time!.

We all drove separately about 30 minutes away to KP Hole County Park where we loaded up the boat and got everything sorted.

The park seemed to be a happening place when it came to water sports.

Testing your gear: always important! Doofy looks optional.

After getting everything loaded the boat brought us upstream a short distance explaining various landmarks both above and below water giving us tips on where to go at what point and what we might see.

Then it was finally time to get to diving!

The water felt perfectly warm seeing as how we were now wearing our 7 mm wetsuits. The first thing that struck me when I put my mask down in the water was just the visibility. During my California dives the best we ever had was 30 ft of visibility and that day conditions had degraded fairly quickly. Here however we could see what felt like a massive distance. (And little did we know we'd be getting something even better the next day!)

The guide strongly suggested that we all try to stay together but that didn't really happen was the current took a bit of getting used to and I saw several people do a summersault or two until they got the hang of it.

The current carried us down the river at a moderate clip so you really only had to kick if you wanted to go against the flow which we did off and on to investigate something we'd already passed by.

Some of the neatest spots where were it became really shallow and we ended up supermaning along in a few feet of water with our chest just brushing the tips of the eel grass only to fly out over a deeper section where we could drop down and explore.

Jen's favorite part was when we came across three baby turtles roughhousing in the grass which I fortunately managed to both record and call her attention to.

We also saw a variety of fish though they tended to spook anytime we got nearby likely due to the deafening sound of bubbles erupting from our regs.

Even cooler was the birds we could see diving under the water after fish. (Sadly I didn't manage to get that on film.)

The river is fed by a number of springs and they enter the river in a variety of ways.

The bubbling type occurred in sandy spots and we were encouraged to stick our hand inside and see if we could find any sharks teeth. No one on our boat did as far as I know.

There were also some of these spitting springs which threw out a constant stream of little bits of rock or shell.

Then there were the slightly more serious business springs that came out of cave openings. These were generally so strong you could barely force your way into the opening.

We amused ourselves a few times trying and then letting the flow blow us back out the hole.

For more not so great video see here.

By the time we reached the boat about an hour had passed and we were basically through our air. We let others get on board first until we were down to fumes and then reluctantly emerged from the water.

We came out of the dive with huge grins on our faces both saying we'd happily do this again if we could. American Pro also offered a night version of this same dive which might have been interesting.

One word of warning is that there is a whole lot of up and down since your following the bottom of the river. That meant we were clearing our ears constantly.

After a short ride back to the dock Jen took the opportunity for a quick dip in the water without the cumbersome wetsuit.

Several of the others were doing other dives with American Pro but sadly we had plans further afield so we said goodbye to everyone and headed off on our own.

Conveniently they didn't make us head back to the dive shop to return Jen's rental gear so we were able to run into town and grab a quick dinner of mexican food before driving back to Cody's RV Park where we had an epic struggle to copious but slightly damp firewood to burn. Eventually we won the battle and enjoyed a roaring campfire for a bit before grabbing a few hours of sleep.

Next up freshwater cavern diving at Devil's Den!

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