Free-flowing water sources called springs may flow from elevated aquifers or be forced to the surface of the ground by volcanic heat. Some springs actually continue from above ground streams that temporarily course through caves. Leaching minerals from bedrock color some springs with poisonous or medicinal elements. In many parts of the world, miraculous healings have been reported in connection with springs and the water they yield. America's beautiful springs often form the centerpieces of parks, and make a pleasant side trip or a welcome place to take a break from a long drive.
Our largest springs flow at over 100 cubic feet per second. These landmark springs discharge more than 60 million gallons of water in a single day. In Florida, 33 springs meet that standard --- more than in any other state. Florida's largest complex of springs, and possibly the largest freshwater spring in the world, is Edward Ball Wakulla Springs at Wakulla Springs State Park.
Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park
550 Wakulla Park Dr.
Wakulla Springs, Florida 32327
Heated by subterranean volcanic energy, hot springs may be pleasantly warm or hot enough to boil meat. Our most famous hot springs today form a chain of points of interest in Yellowstone National Park. Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone's Midway Geyser Basin contrasts strikingly blue water with bright mineral colors on its shores. At its widest point measuring 380 feet across, Grand Prismatic's temperature reaches 188 degrees F.
For a pleasant constant 87 degrees F and the third highest mineral content in the world, visit Warm Mineral Springs, which is now advertised as the inspiration for Ponce de Leone's story of the Fountain of Youth. Proponents claim many healing properties for the complex blend of mineral salts and fresh water, but individuals must test this for themselves. Swimming is allowed, and over 65,000 visit annually. Visit the springs and surrounding 100-acre complex at North Port, Florida.
Water collected by distant aquifers may be capped by layers of stone and transported downslope for long distances before emerging under pressure as an artesian spring. America's largest artesian spring --- Comal Springs in New Braunfels, Texas --- also creates the nation's shortest river. The Comal River, fed solely by the springs, flows 15 feet deep and cold over the two miles between its source and the Guadalupe River.
Many consider spring water the most pure potable water available, but not all springs emerge from filtering aquifers and bedrock. Losing streams tumble into underground caverns, emerging great distances away as seemingly pristine flows. In Missouri's Grand Gulf State Park, an entire creek plunges below ground, emerging again in Arkansas nine miles away as Mammoth Springs near the town of Thayer.
James Young began writing in 1969 as a military journalist combat correspondent in Vietnam. Young's articles have been published in "Tai Chi Magazine," "Seattle Post-Intelligencer," Sonar 4 ezine, "Stars & Stripes" and "Fine Woodworking." He has worked as a foundryman, woodturner, electronics technician, herb farmer and woodcarver. Young graduated from North Seattle Community College with an associate degree in applied science and electronic technology.