July 3, 2020
Dunnellon, Florida has a population of about 2,000 people and is located 25 miles southwest of Ocala.
The town is at the junction of the Rainbow River and Withlacoochee River. The latter river flows to the Gulf of Mexico through Lake Rousseau on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.
Dunnellon is believed by many to be the location where the Spanish explorer Panfilo de Narvaez crossed the Withlacoochee River in the early 1500s.
The town was founded in 1887 and is named for a pioneer railroad man, J. F. Dunn.
Soon after that, in 1889, hard rock phosphate was discovered in the area by Albertus Vogt. This led to many mines being established and Dunnellon became a "boom town."
The mines were near the Rainbow River, and phosphate was shipped down the river to the Withlacoochee and on to the Gulf of Mexico near Inglis.
The largest and most prosperous mines were the Tiger Rag, Early Bird and Eagle.
Dunnellon became an important trade center and many buildings and homes were built in the town.
The town's fortunes began to decline in the 1920s when the phosphate mines began to run out of rock.
Although Dunnellon is a very small town, it is in the center of an area that includes several major subdivisions. These include Rainbow Springs to the north and Citrus Springs to the south.
The downtown area is small and quiet with several antique and gift shops, restaurants, cafes, and various other local businesses.
There is a restaurant with outside seating on the Rainbow River, and the town has several kayak and outdoor outfitting businesses because of the many recreational opportunities in the area.
The citizens of Dunnellon have done a good job of preserving many of their old homes and businesses from the boom days.
These can be seen in the "DunnellonBoomtown Historic District", which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Perhaps the most popular attraction in Dunnellon is Rainbow Springs State Park. It is on the Rainbow River and was at one time a privately owned attraction.
The park offers camp sites, hiking trails, kayaking sites and many other recreational opportunities. Visitors love the waterfall that was retained from the original tourist attraction.