The Fountain of Youth
Feels Great, Smells Bad, Come On In

water hole

Posted 03.23.06

PORT CHARLOTTE, FL | " Don't even think of leaving Florida without going to the Fountain of Youth, Warm Mineral Springs," Luda the Russian lady at the mobile home park advised in a thick accent.

"Was that the one Ponce de Leon was looking for?" I asked

"Yaas, he vas close but he didn't find it " she said "Just valking around the spring will make you feel mah-velos" she exclaimed excitedly "There are mostly Europeans there... but you Americans either don't know about it or don't care."

I really didn't come down to Florida to get young, just to take a break from cold weather and take some photos but I thought Ponce's Fountain of Youth deserved a look and if I came away looking a little like Brad Pitt, hey! that would be a bonus.

Most people in Port Charlotte I talked to had never heard about it.

Luda the Russian lady didn't know where it was either but remembered going with some of her friends. After some Internet exploring I found the website. It was in neighboring North Port. a few miles away from Port Charlotte

According to local authentic documents this Warm Mineral Salt Spring is" the" Fountain of youth vainly sought by Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon ( 1460-1521).

He sailed with Christopher Columbus' second expedition but stayed over in what is now the Dominican Republic. According to historical accounts he brutally conquered inhabitants of the Island which is now called Puerto Rico. From the natives, he heard tales of a fountain of youth with a spring whose waters had the power to restore youth,

Believing these stories, he went off to search for this fountain and, in doing so ,discovered Florida, which he thought was an island.

Ironically and irrespective of the benefits of such a fountain, Ponce might have lived past the age of 62, if he had not left a trail of brutalized American Indians in the region.

These same Native Americans, or their relatives, gave him the ultimate attitude adjustment, killing him when he and his party entered what is now Port Charlotte, on the west coast of Florida -- a few miles from the fountain he was so anxious to reach.

Warm mineral Springs is believed to be the fountain that sits at the end of a dead-end road just off the teaming, bumper-to bumper high-speed traffic of the Tamiami Trail. The Springs are privately owned and the bather must go into a building and buy a ticket -- $18 General admission, $14 for seniors and AAA members.

Beside the ticket counter is a gift shop with the usual souvenir t-shirts, hats, and bags and commercial memorabilia. Down the corridor that opens up onto the famous springs-fountain are ladies and gentleman's bathrooms and changing rooms for the bathers.

Finally -- the Fountain of Youth that Ponce de Leon died trying to find. This is really no fountain but a 1.4 acre, 230 ft deep aquifer lake that daily produces over 9 million gallons of waters infused with the richest density of minerals known to any spring in the world.

Analysis of the year-round constant 87-degree Fahrenheit waters reveals total minerals of 17,439 parts per million, many times greater that the mineral content of such international spas as Vichy and Aix Les Bains in France, Hot Springs in Arkansas, and Baden Baden in Germany.

This site has been written up by the Smithsonian institute as one of the most important underwater archeological sites in America listed on the National Register.

The underwater depths of this 230 ft deep lake have yielded remains of prehistoric hunters, saber tooth tigers, sloths, and even a camel or two, Scientists anticipate that future excavations may reveal findings dated as far back as 30,000 years ago to the time when the spring was a dry cave.

In 1958 underwater archeologists discovered the entrance to an enormous cave at the depth of 9-12 feet. In this cave were found human remains including an human skull containing fragments of brain matter. Carbon dating the remains revealed that the find was from 9-11 thousand years old. It was determined that the properties of the water were responsible for preserving the skull this long. Based on this find it was assumed that the properties of the water would contribute to the healing and well being of bathers.

Most Americans appear to be skeptical of the lake's healing benefits. Europeans, however , who make up the majority of the visitors to the lake, take a different view of the spring's possibilities with regard to wellness and healing.

The entire lake, practically a perfect circle, has a roped -off circular area in the center, indicating the deep spot that plunges to a depth of 230 ft.


At the corner just outside the deep area, a group of people are involved in waist deep water aerobics, Around and inside and outside the designated deep area , straw-hat wearing bathers parade clockwise in a circle enjoying the extreme buoyancy of the bathtub-warm salt water,

Upon entering the water for the first time the bather's nostrils will be assaulted by a strong "rotten-egg" smell of sulphur. Soon the bather will become accustomed to the smell and jump into line with the bathers circling the pool creating a captivating clockwise current. This slow-moving circle of heads looks like a production line.

You would expect the elderly and ill to enter at the left and exit at the right young, healthy and invigorated. That didn't seem to happen although everybody looked happy.

There are few birds around the pool with the exception of a small blue heron that seems to ignore the bathers as it fished for one of the strange little prehistoric-looking fish that dart around in the warm sulfur mix.

After a half-hour in the pool the bather will probably feel strangely invigorated. That feeling could very well be one's imagination at being lucky enough to be bathing in Ponce De Leon"s Fountain of Youth. Of course you feel better... are you nuts?.... you have just been bathing in the fountain of youth.

Listening to "pool talk" from the bathers you get the feeling that you are in a spa somewhere near the Baltic sea as people are gibbering in either Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, or German, with hardly any English heard.

A speaker near the European Restaurant is projecting drifty new age piano music, alternating with modern jazz. Inside the restaurant a thin man with a handle bar mustache wearing a strange hat is ordering a Pirogue. If you don't know what that is and want to play safe you can get a hot dog ,a kielbasa, or a pork schnitzel.


On the grass around the pool people are sunbathing or sleeping under a huge shady tree.

While there, if just bathing in the mineral water is not enough , you can get a therapeutic massage, acupuncture treatments for whatever, an esoteric touch-healing Reiki treatment, anti-aging facials, a detoxifying body wrap, hot paraffin dips, which I guess is beneficial in spite of the fact it sounds painful, body waxing and "Intuitive Services" (fortune telling)

Upon leaving you can take some of the spring products away with you in the form of natural mineral water, mineralized facial clay, mineral-x facial touch-up pads, and spray-on concentrated mineral solutions,

A sign on the fence invites you back. "Relax, float, soak, swim. Walk in the water around the rim."

Ponce was really onto something. Today he could get on line to find the fountain, He could then round up the little de Leon's , grab his AAA card and hope he wouldn't get run over by a SUV trying to get to the pool.


If in April, dear reader, you see a photographer hanging around Vermont and Quebec who looks strangely like Brad Pitt but smells of rotten egg cologne, don 't tell Angelina.

Copyright © 2006 Gordon Alexander/Log Cabin Chronicles/03.06