This summer has been a scorcher, but luckily the South offers just as many picturesque springs in which to cool off as we do expressions for the asphalt-melting heat. So whether it’s hotter than Satan’s house cat, or it’s so dry the trees are bribing the dogs, these five Southern springs will help you soak up the end of summer.
San Solomon Springs
The world’s largest spring-fed swimming pool also happens to be in the last place you would expect: the arid mountains of West Texas. Nestled in the foothills of the Davis Mountains, in Toyahvale, Texas’s Balmorhea State Park, San Solomon Springs pumps out more than 15 million gallons of crystal clear water a day into a natural pool roughly the size of a football field. With water between 72 and 76 degrees, it’s refreshing enough to offer relief from the oppressive heat without making your fingers turn blue.
Devil’s Den Spring
Don’t let the name fool you—the steps leading down to this spring are actually more like a stairway to heaven. Despite being located underground inside a dry cave, the fifty-four-foot pool receives enough filtered sunlight to make it possible to spot the wildlife that call the spring home (including Nelson, the spring’s lone turtle). While snorkeling or scuba diving, keep an eye out for the prehistoric fossils that lie beneath the glassy water’s surface, some of which date back to the Pleistocene. Curious how Devil’s Den got its name? On chilly winter mornings, plumes of steam rise from the opening.
Stone County, Arkansas
Surrounded by miles of dogwood and cedar deep in the Ozark-St. Francis National Forest, Blanchard Springs cascades out of the mountainside and feeds a series of breathtaking lakes and waterfalls. If hiking the trails that snake through the recreation area has you cursing the humidity, slip into the spring-fed North Sylamore Creek. Or, if you’d rather escape the heat entirely, retreat underground to explore miles of trails in the caverns of Blanchard Springs, which stay a crisp 58 degrees all year long.
Chickasaw National Recreation Area
Formerly known as the “Peaceful Valley of Rippling Waters,” the mineral and freshwater springs of Chickasaw National Recreation Area have drawn visitors for centuries. The Chickasaw and Choctaw people cherished the mineral waters for their purported healing powers, and people still flock to the falls, creeks, and swimming holes there for rejuvenation. In the recreation area’s Flower Park, lounging and wading opportunities abound in the shallow depths of the Vendome Stream. In the 1900s, it wasn’t uncommon to find bathers coating themselves in black mud from the spring waters in the hopes that the minerals would heal their ailments. Today, you might still see some of these “mud puppies” having their own personal spa day.
Rock Springs Run
For those who prefer to float in a tube and let nature do the rest, Rock Springs Run is a must. The epitome of easy livin’, this free-flowing spring forms a natural lazy river that meanders through Kelly Park just outside of Orlando. Crystalline waters make it easy to observe turtles and fish coasting the river alongside you, while a grassy peninsula in the middle of the park provides the perfect place for sunbathing and snickering at the tubers who get snagged on the rocks. Bring your own float, a towel, and a cooler of sweet tea and you might find yourself wishing summer lasted just a smidge longer.