Rainbow Springs feeds the Rainbow River and is a beautiful waterway in Dunnellon, Florida. I recently visited the spring after an afternoon on the river with friends. When Takoda and I got there, the park was clearing out and soon we had it all to ourselves. The vegetation on the banks is gorgeous and so is the water near the headspring, but flow is diminishing as it is in all Florida Springs. Earlier I had witnessed the reduced clarity in the river and I was concerned when Takoda lapped at the water. Each time he did, I told him to stop. It dawned on me that all the fish we saw were imbibing whatever is in the water every minute and that it is unfortunate when we have to be concerned so concerned about the quality of spring-fed waterways. Robert Knight told the Gainesville Sun the river's diminishing quanity and quality is apparent to anyone who wants to look. I've been on testing trips with him, and science backs up any empirical observations. He says the flow of the river declined by 20 percent, but that the water management district is using a model that is a mathematical lie. Pumping for urban and agricultural growth are the culprits, not reductions in rainfall according to Knight. (http://www.gainesville.com/news/20170328/lower-flow-for-rainbow). Nevertheless, the Southwest Florida Water Management District unanimously voted to reduce flow levels by 5 percent back in March and claimed that it wouldn't affect the water body or ecosystems that depend on it. Science once again was ignored.
How we can continue to allow are springs to be at such risk for agriculture, business, and development is beyond me. The health of our rivers and springs directly affects the quality of water in our aquifer and that affects our health and all the ecosystems in the riparian landscape. When I looked down the river in the late afternoon light, I wondered what it would like like here the next time I visit and the time after that. Soon will it be unsafe to bring Takoda on the river, like it is in so many waterways. And if it is not safe for dogs, isn't that clearly an indicator that it isn't safe for humans too? Continuing to keep our heads in the sand about this is only going to lead to serious trouble for all life in Florida, whether people visits the springs or not.
Below are some other photos of the spring, the beauty of which is so tenuous. Peering through the vines, I felt I was witnessing some primeval beauty. Archeologists believe this spring, the fourth largest in Florida, was in fact used by humans thousands of years before Christ. The area was a prime area for Native American hunters, and Seminoles hunkered down at the Cove of the Withlacoochee, only three miles away, during the Second Seminole War. Indigenous people understood then and understand now the importance of healthy waterways. (http://www.exploresouthernhistory.com/rainbowsprings.html)
In the 1930's the park was a privately owned amusement park. Now a state park, the area around the headspring has been returned to its natural state, but some vestiges of the amusement park remain such as the waterfalls. I was more interested in documenting the native vegetation. This view made me feel as if I was back in time.
To be able to witness such a beautiful, watery Eden is a gift I hope future generations will be able to enjoy. When you can stand in front of such a scene, the web of life becomes palpable and our place in it evident. Nature has more value than being a mere tool, and it deserves respect for its own sake. Yet, somehow that philosophy is understood less and less these days. The fact of the matter is that our cities are at risk too, if we don't have this anymore. Natural vegetation helps filter toxins and runoff. When development destroys natural riparian landscapes, springs aren't protected and rivers run too quickly. Pollution increases and without enough clean, drinkable water, people will not be able to live here.
This park and river are too significant to the past and present of Florida and all Floridians not to protect. The big natural vistas are becoming increasingly rare in this state, subject to constant development despite encroaching ocean waters.
There are still native grasses that provide structure for fish and other creatures, though the water has become cloudier. It is not too late if we change our approach to managing our waterways.
Takoda loved his time on the river. He and other creatures need to escape the heat too and deserve to be able to enjoy our waterways as much as we do. I am sure if Takoda could speak English, he'd ask you to help save this waterway.