|Summary of Features
Scenery—blighted urban area, near dog track and housing projects
How Pristine?—dangerously polluted, pool encircled in concrete with spillway, adjacent to municipal pool and developed areas
Swimming—not allowed because of pollution
Protection—restoration efforts being considered
Crowds—none at spring, can be heavy at adjacent pool
The spring is located about 1/8 mile east of Interstate 75 where it crosses the Hillsborough River. From I-75, exit onto Bird Street and go one block east (in front of dog track) to U.S. 41 (Nebraska Avenue). Go right or south on U.S. 41 just past dog track to the spring on the right just before the Hillsborough River.
For maps, latitude/longitude data, driving directions, satellite imagery, and topographic representations as well as weather conditions at this spring, go to Greg Johnson's informative "Florida Springs Database" web site at the following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
The spring is encircled in concrete and about 50 feet in diameter. The pool was fenced off when visited in 2000, but previously was fairly clear and about 30 feet deep. Flow from the limestone openings creates large slicks on the surface of the pool. Water in the spring has a sulfurous odor. Water exits the concrete enclosure over two spillways and into a shallow and sandy run of about 200 yards to the Hillsborough River. Large fish may be seen in the run. There is a concrete retaining wall along part of the run outside the pool and a sidewalk around the pool. A pumphouse is next to the pool. About 100 yards west of the spring is a domed structure that for years pumped water from the spring into a small drinking fountain.
The spring is in a densely developed area of homes, businesses, and highways. An historic domed structure is just north of the spring. Water from the spring was pumped to a fountain in the building, and people could drink and collect water from the fountain. It is current closed, and water is no longer pumped to this structure.
According to Dumeyer (in Abstracts of . . . 2003), the spring's
tributary area contains numerous sinkholes, many of which are used as urban stormwater drains because the area has no natural surface drainage to the [Hillsborough] river. The only natural surface channel is Curiosity Creek which drains 3.5 miles of the NW part of the area and originally flowed into Blue Sink, a swallet, where the surface flow entered the solution channels to Sulphur Springs. Blue Sink became plugged in 1974 and the surface waters now have to be pumped to the river. In addition to the creek, Blue Sink was also fed by Ewanowski Spring, a third magniude spring located 300 feet to the NW of Blue Sink. The plugging raised local water levels by 7-8 feet and blocked the flow from the spring. Initial pump testing showed that Ewanowski Spring could yield about 6 cfs if the Blue Sink water level was lowered to the original level. The Sulphur Springs flow recored show a subsequent decline after Blue Sink was plugged (p. 13).An investigation is being made to see if Blue Spring can be unplugged to help restore the historic flow of Sulphur Springs. The partners in this research are the Tampa Water Departemnt, the Hillsborough River Basin Board, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (Abstracts of . . . 2003).
Florida’s Springs: Strategies for Protection and Restoration (Hartnett, 2000), records that Sulphur Spring suffers from high levels of coliform bacteria (perhaps from septic and local sewage system intrusion), nitrate levels as high as 0.89 mg per liter from stormwater runoff, reduced flow due to the filling of sinkholes that fed the spring, and increased levels of sodium in the springflow (p. 19).
- The City of Tampa pumps some of the water from the spring for its drinking water supply.
- Manatees often congregate in the spring run in the winter.
- Development, pollution, sewage, runoff, filling of sinkholes connected to the spring, led to contaminated water and reduced flow, and the spring was closed to the public in 1986 (Hartnett, 2000).
- The City of Tampa has constructed a large swimming pool adjacent to the spring, restored the nearby domed water building, and created a park area.
- The spring has been a popular recreation site as well as a source of water for Tampans since the early days of the community in the 1880s. The spring was a popular "cure" site, and people traveled from great distances to soak in and drink from the pool's sulphurous waters.
- Efforts to restore the spring include plans for a more effective stormwater plan for the spring’s watershed, stronger regulations on the amount of water that can be pumped from the spring, and the re-opening of one of the sinkholes that formerly fed the spring (Hartnett, 2000, p. 19). Restoration efforts were complicated from the late 1990s through the date of publication of this document due to an ongoing drought in the Tampa area and increased demands for water for the city. Above-average rainfalls in 2002 and 2003 eased water concerns.
- In an 1873 book about mineral springs in North America, John Jennings Moorman described this spring as follows: "It arises from a bed of limestone. The water is remarkably clear and transparent, and forms a basin at its source eighteen feet deep" (p. 217). Mr. Moorman would not likely recognize the spring today.
- The efforts to help restore the spring are laudable. The site will never again be anything like pristine given its location, the development of its watershed, and demands for water. However, any efforts to help cleanse and fix this spring—once a jewel and now one of the most degraded and polluted in the state—are welcome and a source of hope.
- JF, who grew up in Tampa, was a sometime visitor to Sulphur Spring as a boy and nearly drowned there when he was about 9 years old. Not knowing what a spring was, and assuming the bottom was only 12 feet like all the other (concrete) pools in which he had swum, he attempted to dive to the bottom. As depth and pressure increased and the water darkened, he ran out of air and struggled vainly to return to the surface. At about 6 feet below the surface, he began to experience shallow-water blackout. However, the upwelling flow from the spring lifted him to the surface and safety. A few years later, JF also witnessed the drowning of a small boy in the same pool.
- As late as the 1970s, people continued to collect water from the spring fountain house for its reputed curative powers.
Espiritu Santo Springs
Other Nearby Natural Features
Hillsborough River State Park
Little Manatee State Recreation Area
Fort DeSoto Park
Egmont Key State Park
Caladesi Island State Park
Honeymoon Island State Park