Saturday, January 30, 2016

Suwannee Springs

In 2013, I spent my summer in the country of Kyrgyzstan. I spent one month in the tiny village of Bar Bulak, known mainly within Kyrgyzstan for its hot springs. People come to Bar Bulak from around the country to soak in the water and thereby achieve a myriad of health benefits. According to the sign (pictured below), “The Hot Springs is helpful for the following illnesses: arthritis and other afflictions of the joints, stomach acid (heartburn and ulcers), intestinal ailments, liver and gall bladder problems, nervous disorders, and chronic female ailments.”
The hot springs at Bar Bulak, Kyrgyzstan in 2013

While the quaint, old-fashioned notion that soaking in mineral waters helps alleviate various illnesses is still a commonly held belief in Kyrgyzstan, it hasn’t been an accepted therapy in the United States for nearly a century. However, at one point in time the belief in the therapeutic properties of basking in mineral waters was popular in the United States. Tourists flocked to Florida to take the waters of the state’s numerous springs in hopes of enhancing their health. At the time, one of the most popular restorative springs destinations was Suwannee Springs (also known as Suwannee Sulphur Springs, for the sulphur-content of its water).

Beginning in the 1880s development of the springs for tourism purposes began. Over the years, three different hotels, a springhouse, and numerous cabins were erected, as well as a train station located a mile from the springs, connected to the facility by a horse-drawn trolley line. The first hotel, with 125 rooms, was built in 1883, but it burned to the ground the following year. The second hotel was built concurrently with the approximately 15 cabins shortly thereafter, although the second hotel, too, succumbed to fire in the early 1900s. The cabins and the much smaller hotel annex (third hotel) remained open for business for several subsequent decades. Visitors were urged not just to swim in the springs in order cure their ailments, but to drink the restorative waters as well.

Second Hotel from 1885; horse-drawn trolley in front. (Source)

Suwannee Station, about a mile from the springs. Passengers would disembark and travel to the springs and hotels via horse-drawn trolley. (Source)

Suwannee Springs in the 1890s (Source)

Suwannee Springs with adjacent railroad and horse/cart bridge, 1890s (Source)

Cottages, 1885 (Source)

Same cottages, 1974 (Source)

What remains of two cabins, the springhouse, and the third hotel (which was later converted into a store), can still be seen today, in addition to the pilings from the old railroad bridge and former automotive bridge, abandoned in 1971 when highway 129 was routed onto a new bridge a quarter of a mile to the north. The following pictures were taken by me in 2014 and 2015.



Water flowing from the springhouse into the Suwannee River

External wall of the springhouse

View from inside the springhouse, facing upriver.

All that remains of the old railroad bridge.

The old road from the springhouse to the cottages.

One of the two remaining cottages.

The other remaining cottage.

Remains of the third hotel's kitchen annex, which operated as a local store for many years.

The automotive bridge over the Suwannee River, closed to cars since 1971.

Bridge Closed sign north of the bridge is barely legible - and unnecessary as there is no possibility of vehicular access from the north.

The remains of Old 129 dead end at Sugar Creek, a short walk north of the bridge.

More information is available at the following links:


  1. thank you for the information as i live in suwannee station.

  2. Prior to moving here three years ago, I had been camping up here with my horses at 7 Bar L Ranch. We did a lot of riding at both Lynville Tract and Mattair Springs. I enjoyed so much riding around this long forgotten land, seeing all the things you showed in your pictures. And what I called the "graffiti bridge" was so much fun to walk out on and look down to the River flowing freely. The last time I was there, I am sad to say, the River is at its lowest level I've ever seen. (Born and raised in West Palm Beach, camping here is why my husband and I moved here - it's very much like Palm Beach County was back in the 40's, 50's and 60's.)

    1. We will have a post about Mattair Springs at some point... I had an interesting misadventure out there last year trying to find it (the SRWMD map had the springs mislabeled). We have an accurate map now!

    2. As a child growing up at Suwannee Springs it breaks my heart to see it let go like it is now- It was a wonderful place even in the 50's-as for SRWM they haven't a clue what is what on the river- Mattair Springs is up river from where I live now and was large enough to swim in when I was a child- most people cannot even find it now- where I live is a small spring flowing out of the river bank (most of the time) into a small pool and was named Hog Heaven Springs (had Hog Heaven Fish Camp) above it on the riverbank (owned by my grandfather at the time) and run by Mr Hawkins, Wooley and some others- now SRWM has it listed in their books as a number -had not a clue as I said what the name was and not interested in correcting it when they were told so next book that comes out will most likely have the same wrong information. When I was a little girl everybody knew where Hog Heaven was- just plain sad.