One book I read not too long ago was "Glass Bottom Boats & Mermaid Tails, Florida's Tourist Springs" by Tim Hollis.
Before Disney built a monopoly on tourist attractions, there were dozens of roadside attractions all over Florida. Some were centered around the beautiful first magnitude freshwater springs in Florida.
This book covers the top five spring attractions, which are now all state parks with the exception of Silver Springs, and the land is owned by the state and leased to the company that operates the attraction.
I had a great road trip to Rainbow Springs State Park a couple weeks ago. I applied for a position there; competition was tough, and I am not holding my breath. It has a new campground being built and the tubing run was opened last year. I remember the park as a theme park attraction, but it closed in 1974 and remained a ghost town for about 20 years until the state opened it as a state park.
Rainbow Springs opened as a theme park in 1937. Over the years it added glass underwater boats, gardens, a paddle wheel boat, monorail carts shaped like a giant leaf that went through cages of bird aviaries and around the park, and stone lodges and rental cottages.
Little is left of the tourist attraction that closed in 1974. One thing that remains is the scenic waterfall. The waterfall is not natural. Dirt fill from the local phosphate pits in Dunnellon was used to build this mountain that became a waterfall. The park still operates the pumps that bring water up to the falls. I wonder if they turn it off at night?
Walking into the park, you still get a beautiful overlook of the spring and river that runs out of it.
And a photo of an anhinga (also called a water turkey) along the river.
Rainbow Springs was once a large operation that had it's own water and sewer facilities built for the theme park. You can still see manhole covers for Rainbow Springs; a remnant of the theme park.
The attraction was considered very ahead of its time, and some say that even Walt Disney got his idea for a theme park when he visited here in the 1940s and signed his name in the guestbook in the lodge. Ironically, it was Walt Disney who killed Rainbow Springs. Walt died in the 1960s, a few years before Walt Disney World opened, and Rainbow Springs died a few years after Disney World opened, and victim of the mega-mouse.
On January 20th, 2009 05:25 pm (UTC), (Anonymous) commented:
I once went to a Scout district camporee at Rainbow Springs. It was in the early 1970's in the last years of the private theme park when the company management was being creative at finding ways for people to use the place. The monorail with the leaf cars was still running. I understand that they had several camporees there, usually with Scouts fom Gulf Riidge Council. - Rick Obermeyer