Splash­ing at Salem’s fresh­wa­ter spring

The Covington News - - N0, - Gabriel Khouli gkhouli@cov­news.com

The fresh­wa­ter spring at the in­ter­sec­tion of Salem and, the ap­pro­pri­ately named, Spring roads was a source of drink­ing wa­ter for trav­el­ers for more than a hun­dred years, and is one of the main rea­sons the an­nual Salem Campmeeting oc­curs where it does.

To­day, it’s more com­monly a place for adults to en­joy a scenic pic­nic, chil­dren to splash around and young couples to “court,” said Sam Ram­sey, sixth gen­er­a­tion campmeeting-goer. He promised those couples were only go­ing there to talk and, pos­si­bly, hold hands.

Ram­sey met his wife, Becky, at the camp, but never courted her at the spring; he bought her a 5-cent Coke at the lo­cal stand in­stead.

“I thought she was a pretty cheap date,” he said. Don’t tell her he said that.

There’s a se­cu­rity light at the spring now, and some have ac­cused Ram­sey of try­ing to do away with court­ing. He de­nies any such mo­tives.

“It just pro­vides a lit­tle bit of light, so peo­ple don’t cause mis­chief,” said Sam,

al­lud­ing to van­dals as op­posed to teenagers.

The truth is, though, Ram­sey was once an un­in­ten­tional van­dal him­self. Just five years old at the time, Ram­sey was rid­ing his bike down the path to the spring when he tried to stop and his tires slipped on the sand. Though he man­aged to jump off and re­main un­harmed, his bike kept go­ing and ended up break­ing one of the three small con­crete col­umns at the park’s en­trance.

Last year, he was able to make amends dur­ing the restora­tion of the spring’s park, plac­ing a plaque where that col­umn used to stand.

The spring’s wa­ter flows at a con­stant 65de­grees, which doesn’t sound all that cold un­til one jumps in. A small, shal­low pool was built to pro­vide a play area for chil­dren, who take turns dunk­ing their heads in the deep­est part of the pool where the wa­ter streams in.

The spring flows at a con­stant rate of 30 gal­lons per minute, said Ram­sey, and when the state tested the spring’s wa­ter qual­ity sev­eral years ago, of­fi­cials said it was some of the clean­est wa­ter they’d ever seen.

“ Peo­ple still come down to the spring to get wa­ter be­cause they think it’s good for them,” Ram­sey said. How­ever, he didn’t know of any mys­ti­cal le­gends sur­round­ing the wa­ter, though he didn’t doubt it could be good for some ail­ments. No lep­ers were seen at the pool Satur­day.

The camp hasn’t used the spring for drink­ing wa­ter in about 30 years when the county ex­tended wa­ter ser­vice to the grounds. The old pumphouse and tank still stand and Ram­sey can re­mem­ber when the campers would leave the pump work­ing, so that the tank would ac­tu­ally over­flow, en­sur­ing plenty of wa­ter for the next day.

From the days when the spring hy­drated wag­ons full of campers, as well as the horses and mules that pulled them, to to­day’s ver­sion when it sim­ply en­ter­tains chil­dren, Salem’s gur­gling fresh­wa­ter re­mains an in­te­gral part of the campmeeting ex­pe­ri­ence.

Gabriel Khouli / The Cov­ing­ton News

Chil­dren from five fam­i­lies gather to play at a pool of nat­u­rally oc­cur­ing spring wa­ter at Salem Cam­ground. Some peo­ple still drink the spring's 65 de­gree wa­ter.

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