White (or White Sulfur) Spring
Summary of Features
- Scale - 2nd magnitude
- Scenery - very good
- How Pristine? - large concrete/wood structure around spring; land cleared
- Swimming - no
- Protection - excellent
- Wildlife - poor
- Crowds - can be crowded on warm weekends
- Access - excellent
- Facilities - excellent
- Safety - very good
- Scuba -
- Cost - free
The spring is 0.1 mile west of the intersection of U.S. 41 and StateRoad 136 on the Suwannee River in White Springs. Look for signs to theStephen Foster State Folk Culture Center. As you approach the Culture Center,you will see the old spring house on the left. You can pay to enter thepark, or park at the spring for no charge.
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 atthe following address: http://www.ThisWaytothe.Net/springs/floridasprings.htm#Florida
The spring flows from a limestone cavity and into the adjacent SuwanneeRiver. It is enclosed by the remnants of a large "spring house," a four-story structure with beveled corners on the inside that provided access and accompanying health treatments. Multi-level ports—a tall sluice gate—in the spring house were designed to limit intrusion of the river when water levels were high.Stairs lead to the top, which is covered with a white wooden structure with cedar shingles. The gate is gone now from the sluice but water still flows out through it into the river. The flow was strong when the authors visited in 1998 and 1999.
The pool is circular and 12-15 in diameter. Most of the pool is only about three feet or deep or less. The water has a sulphurous smell and is lightly tannin-colored. The depth of the pool varies with the level of the river. The park ranger told RB that the spring hadn't flowed in years, but is now flowing again. Either the water table was too low (due to industrial draw downs?) or part of the cave had collapsed. During the floods of winter, 1998, the water rose above the railing around the topof the spring house—approximately 35 feet.
- The spring has no current use, but is frequented by visitors to the CultureCenter. It is one of the most complete ruins of the types of structures that were built around a number of Florida springs in the late 19thand early 20th centuries.
- Doctors offices, changing rooms, and concessions were once located inside the wings. Wooden balcony-walkways led around each floor looking down intothe pool, giving a gallery effect. You can still see the niches in thewall where the galleries were attached. An elevator on one side carried patients from pool level to the top and from there they could get to the wings – no door was cut in the thick concrete walls surrounding the spring.In the middle you can look down on the spring itself, but don't jump –it's quite a drop, and besides, wooden grill work bars you from the side over the deepest part, the side most distant from the river.
- The adjacent Culture Center costs $3.25 per car. It features the StephenFoster Museum in what looks like an antebellum plantation house. On closer inspection, the walls are revealed to be made of concrete block. Inside are furniture that Foster owned and a continuously running video aboutWhite Springs. One learns that Foster never saw the Suwannee River–he just needed a two-syllable southern river name that sounded melodic and exotic.The Philadelphia native poured over an atlas, and after rejecting various names (including "Peedee), his finger happened to pass over the Suwannee. He changed the spelling to Swanee in his famous song.
- Four times a day–10 a.m., noon, 2 and 4—the bell tower plays Stephen Foster songs on its giant carillon. Inside the tower are old manuscripts and otherFoster memorabilia. Near the tower is a store selling crafts, many of which are made locally.
- Various cultural events are held here, the most famous being the FloridaFolk Festival each spring, a big musical event.
- The Culture Center includes picnic areas, grills, and a section of theFlorida Trail that runs along the Suwannee River in the park.
- The Center also includes a "Craft Square" where visitors may observe craft makers create old-timey crafts.
- White Sulfur Springs was once the site of a health spa and 14 hotels. Trains and steamboats brought visitors to the site by the thousands eachyear. In 1895, according to the park video, the town had 2,000 inhabitants,making it one of the larger towns in Florida. Now this picturesque littletown has less than half that population. Take time to read the whitesign in the parking lot by the gate. It has an old photograph of the springhouse,built in 1906, and a floor plan. You could stay here for $3.50 anight, including "excellent meals." People flocked her to let thehealing waters cure them of "rheumatism, indigestion, dandruff, insomnia." Treatments ranged from the Violet Ray (75 cents) to $3 for the "specialtreatment for high blood pressure." Among the visitors were TheodoreRoosevelt and Ernest Hemingway. Unfortunately, a fire swept throughtown in 1911, and the resort went downhill from that point.
- Native Americans also used the site.
Go down by the river when the water is low and stand on the big flatlimestone shelf next to where the water comes out the spring. The Suwanneeis narrow here–nothing like the wide river it becomes father south. Thewooded banks on the other side are steep and sandy. From this angle, thespringhouse looks sort of like a castle tower. Upriver RB could see theinevitable rope attached to a high tree limb nearby, kids swinging offinto the water.
- Mattair Spring
- Bell Spring
- Louisa Spring
- Iron (or Wesson's Iron) Spring
- Suwannee Springs
Other Nearby Natural Features
- Big Shoals
- Little Shoals
- Swift Creek
Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center
P.O. Drawer G
White Springs, FL 32096
904-397-2733 or -4331