The original Fountain of Youth is located in North Port, Florida. These mineral springs are the reason Florida was “discovered” on Easter Sunday in 1513. De Leon was governor of Puerto Rico when he first heard the rumors of the fountain of youth. He sailed to Charlotte harbor and began trekking inland, he was mortally wounded by some unfriendly Indians and died before ever finding it. Or so the story goes, Frank has his doubts, since DeLeon was a politician, it seems likely his own people may have taken him out and blamed it on the Indians. But who are we to re-write history?
We first heard rumors of this spring a few years ago from Franks good buddy Ralph, who has since passed on after a 20+ year battle with cancer. Thank you Ralph! After questioning some locals we heard it was a ramshackle, run down, closed down looking place–not worth the visit. Undeterred we did our research and found out the County of Sarasota was running the place and it was open every day from 10-5. So off we went.
The front desk assured my mother that there were no alligators allowed, and snakes where few and far between so we trooped in for the first time last year. We have been there two times now, and the town is doing what it can to make the place nicer and nicer. This year they have added some spa services and a waiting room, a new coat of paint and a small gift shop. Cost was still only $20 for non residents.
This is the only warm springs in Florida, with a year round temperature of 87 degrees. The spring releases 17,000 gallons of hot water every three minutes. The Mineral springs is basically a giant sinkhole that was formed 30,000 years ago when the cavern ceiling fell in. The sinkhole is 230 feet deep and 236 feet across. It is shaped like a giant hour glass and has been found to have prehistoric remains of animals and human in its depths.
The spring releases 20,000,000 gallons of mineralized water per day, and about 5,000,000 gallons over flow it every day. The water is high in dissolved sulfur, chloride, and virtually no dissolved oxygen. The source of the water is unknown, beyond its appearance at the farthest underwater cavern.
So is this really a fountain of youth? Who’s to say. I firmly believe in the placebo effect, so it doesn’t matter to me if it is scientifically the fountain of youth or not. What I do know from personal experience….after soaking for a few hours in the water, my skin was soft as a babies bottom and all known cuts where completely healed.
The water is super bouyant, so all you need is a noodle, a hat, some sunglasses and a bathing suit to enjoy the springs at length. Our first visit we were instructed to move continuously while in the spring. So floating around in the middle we swam, around the edges we walked. for hours.
I tried to practice my tai chi in the water, but my brain was not cooperating and I could not remember a single form, Something about floating in 250 feet of warm water, surrounded by the babbling of international languages, sun, trees, birds, and the endless supply of bathing fashions….just didn’t allow for the type of focus necessary for some serious tai chi practice. So I just laid back and floated while lazily allowing my mind to drift along with the sensations of moving slowly thru the heavy warm water. Chi enough for me.
Its a very ethnic place, with many Eastern Europeans (mostly Russians) all patrons are friendly and devotees of the health benefits of the springs. Bring flip flops for the restrooms and changing area and your own towels. It is a nice place to bring a picnic, there is a kids section with a life guard and many lawn chairs for your sun bathing comfort ., but they fill up quickly, and you may want to bring your own to ensure you have a seat. You can bring in food and drink (no alcohol for obvious reasons) and a sign says no coolers, but we saw rolling suitcases and we brought in a small cooler for water and some granola bars.
Swimming around for hours is hungry work tho, so feel free to bring something more substantial. One of the coolest feelings ever occurs when you finally drag yourself out of the water…you can actually feel gravity pulling you down as you struggle to emerge. A pervasive sensation of total heaviness, weighing your entire body down. The force of gravity is 14.7 lbs/sq inch, after bouyantly floating in a sea of minerals for hours, you feel that effect as you exit the water…a very cool if somewhat disconcerting sensation.
In short, I love the Fountain of Youth, a day spent lazily paddling around in the warm springs, under the bright blue sky, is really pretty close to the ideal vacation day–totally rejuvenating mind, body and spirit. That’s enough of a health benefit for me to seek out any and all hot springs in this great country…so if you ever get the chance to experience a warm mineral soak…do not delay get yourself into that water and enjoy the sensations of being cradled by mother natures womb like waters for the day.