Heal­ing at North Port’s his­toric spa, waters dat­ing to Ice Age

RSWLiving - - Departments - BY KLAU­DIA BALOGH Klau­dia Balogh is an Ed­i­to­rial As­sis­tant for TOTI Me­dia.

ody scars can cause some self-con­scious­ness. But Robert Bond en­joys show­ing what’s left of a chest scar from open-heart surgery. The heal­ing power of a spring-fed sink­hole in Sara­sota County helped erase traces of the sur­geon’s work, he says. “I was bathing here a few days af­ter my surgery,” Bond says, point­ing to the dark green waters of Warm Min­eral Springs in North Port, which is 50 miles north of Fort My­ers. “We come here four to five times a week.”

Vis­i­tors such as Bond have en­joyed Warm Min­eral Springs for gen­er­a­tions, bathing in the 1.4-acre, geother­mally heated sink­hole that pro­duces a mod­er­ate to strong sul­fur scent. The story is that Florida’s warm springs are what Juan Ponce de Leon be­lieved would re­verse time. Early na­tives used North Port’s fresh­wa­ter springs cen­turies ago. Tourists started show­ing up in the 1950s. The build­ings at Warm Min­eral Springs were in­flu­enced by the Sara­sota School of Ar­chi­tec­ture, which would in­clude the Cy­clo­rama to com­mem­o­rate the Florida Quadri­cen­ten­nial in 1959.

Ju­lia and Rafael Viteb­sky to­day visit Warm Min­eral Springs from New York, for in­stance. They are na­tive Rus­sians, where min­eral waters are part of the East­ern Euro­pean cul­ture. “I see it help­ing with my arthri­tis,” Ju­lia Viteb­sky says.

Bill Goetz, a Sara­sota County His­tor­i­cal Com­mis­sioner liv­ing in North Port who has stud­ied the long his­tory of Warm Min­eral Springs, doesn’t buy the mythol­ogy of de Leon’s Foun­tain of

Youth, but he has heard tes­ti­mo­ni­als at­trib­uted to the heal­ing waters. “It is a his­tor­i­cal sig­nif­i­cant site,” he says.

Waters of the 250-foot deep Warm Min­eral Springs av­er­age 87 de­grees. Un­der­ground wa­ter trapped since the last Ice Age is heated to 97 de­grees. The source of the heat is up to one mile below. When un­der­ground caves opened about 15,000 years ago cre­at­ing a sink­hole, the heated wa­ter mixed with cool­ing vents, drop­ping the sur­face to a re­lax­ing tem­per­a­ture.

North Port pur­chased Warm Min­eral Springs with Sara­sota County in 2012. The city to­day owns the reg­is­tered land­mark. Goetz and oth­ers sug­gest it could be parceled off to developers, not­ing 1950s sig­nage was re­moved this year, he says.

The his­toric sig­nif­i­cance of Warm Min­eral Springs was dis­cov- ered in the 1950s by Bill Royal. Div­ing the sink­hole, Royal re­cov­ered a hu­man skull with in­tact tis­sue, which scientists linked to hu­man ac­tiv­ity in the east­ern United States dat­ing back more than 10,000 years, or 4,000 years more than older es­ti­mates. The story is that oth­ers quickly cleaned out re­main­ing ar­ti­facts. There are still sub­merged caves be­neath the sur­face at Warm Min­eral Springs with more trapped his­tory. Goetz says only 30 per­cent of it has been fully ex­plored, which leaves lots of ques­tions and mys­tery sur­round­ing the so-called Foun­tain of Youth. “Warm Min­eral Springs,” Goetz says, “tells us about hu­man­ity in a way that’s un­avail­able any­where else.”

Warm Min­eral Springs wa­ter is heated by the earth’s fur­nace and cooled to an av­er­age 87 de­grees at the sur­face. There are still sub­merged caves be­neath the sur­face at Warm Min­eral Springs with more trapped his­tory.

A non-res­i­dent day pass is $20 for adults, $15 for stu­dents 6-17. The min­eral-rich sink­hole is nearly 250 feet deep and cov­ers 1.4 acres.

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