Warm Mineral Springs is a natural hot spring, set inside an ancient sinkhole.
The sinkhole is filled with warm, mineral-rich, geothermally heated water. The water is the main attraction for most visitors because it’s said to have numerous health benefits.
My favorite thing is the absolutely fascinating history and adventure story behind the place. This site, along with other archeological sites in Florida, helped rewrite the entire human history of North America.
Check out the guide and videos below for a good overview of the place, and read on for more details.
Warning! Before going to Warm Mineral Springs, do some research and know what to expect.
The spring is a beautiful and fascinating place. But, it’s not for everybody. If your expectations are misaligned, you may not enjoy your visit.
I also highly recommend this guide, Touring the Springs of Florida. It includes almost all of the best springs in Florida, including their features and individual pros and cons. The guide is really well organized and is very easy to use.
I find it useful and refer to it often.
For more videos and a greater emphasis on the fascinating history, check the “Ancient History” section below.
Other educational videos are included, too. They share excellent information on the geothermal vent, which makes Warm Mineral a hot spring.
|Hours of Operation||Open daily
9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Warm Mineral Springs is open every day except Christmas Day, December 25.
|Location||Warm Mineral Springs Park
12200 San Servando Ave
North Port, FL 34287
|Contact||Telephone: (941) 426-1692
We recommend that you always call ahead before you go, especially because of any possible Covid-19 related scheduling changes.
Warm Mineral Springs has a two-tier price system. There are lower prices for residents and slightly higher prices for non-residents.
If you’ll visit frequently, there are multi-visit discount options, including an annual pass.
There are additional spa services available with their own prices. For the complete, most up-to-date pricing, check out the official site.
Many folks recommend the all-day pass if you want to leave for lunch, and come back later in the day.
What to Bring
Some items are available for purchase on-site. That said, on-site inventory and selection may be limited, and prices may be higher than what you’d find elsewhere.
- Sun protection, including:
- Good water shoes for traction. Many people suggest this style for their excellent grip and fast drying.
- Water Noodle
- There are lawn chairs on-site, but some visitors bring their own.
- A good reusable water bottle. I love these, they have been my favorite for many years.
- Book or Kindle. I’ve had this one for many years and still love it!
- If you prefer to stay warmer, you may consider wearing a wetsuit
When to Go
Warm Mineral Springs is open every day except for Christmas Day, and people love to visit year-round.
The best time to visit is on a warm, calm day during Florida’s cooler months; spring, fall or winter.
Avoid going on extremely cold days. Even though the water is warm, it’s really not hot enough to be comfortable in cold air. Florida’s coldest weather is in the winter, from November up until March or April.
If you visit during cold weather it may be a good idea to wear a wetsuit.
Wetsuits keep you warm because they trap a layer of water close to your skin, where your body’s heat can warm the water layer and keep you warmer. Wetsuits used to be expensive but today they can be be surprisingly affordable.
A two or three millimeter wetsuit would be a good choice for the water temperature in Warm Mineral Springs.
On cold days a steamy mist can be seen rising off of the spring’s warm surface, similar to Devil’s Den Spring, which is also amazing and worth visiting!
Note: It’s important to check the local weather conditions before you visit, especially if you visit during the stormy summer season.
If there is any lightning in the area everyone will be forced to exit the pool. You may be forced to leave without a refund. There is a lightning detector function on the city’s website, but I’d also call and ask if there is any question, or a possibility of severe weather!
If you go during early in the morning the water is likely to be more clear. The spring’s bottom is all natural, so mud and silt get disturbed from footsteps, which causes cloudy water.
Warm Mineral Spring Rules
There are some of the rules, which are enforced by staff and lifeguards.
- Children under 10 years old must remain in the children’s area.
- Visitors under age 17 are confined to the shallow perimeter, and not allowed in the deep center area.
- Pool noodles are allowed in the water, and are available for purchase on-site. You can also bring your own.
- Besides water noodles, toys are allowed. If you want to bring anything which may be questionable, please call to ask first.
- Nobody is allowed to collect or remove water from the spring.
- Coolers are prohibited.
- Outside food and drinks are allowed, but cannot be taken into the water.
- Scuba diving is not allowed in the Warm Mineral Springs.
What to Expect
Check out this video to see different views of the springs and facilities.
Warm Mineral Springs is a fascinating site, and is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
Warm Mineral Springs is one of the most popular things to do in the region, and deservedly so!
The City of Northport website claims that more than 100,000 people visit the spring annually. Most of Warm Mineral Springs’ visitors are elderly. It’s especially popular with eastern europeans, including Russian and Ukrainian guests.
The photo below is a 360 degree panoramic shot. You can click and drag to see different views.
Common Visitor Complaints
Important notice: Warm Mineral Springs is not “hot” like most hot springs springs!
The water temperature at the surface is only “warm”, at approximately 84-87 degrees. This is because of the unique nature of the geothermal heating in this area.
Most hot springs around the world are heated by volcanic activity and heating from magma chambers. Volcanic hot springs produce much hotter water.
By contrast, the water in Warm Mineral Springs is hot only because the water travels up from extreme depths, where the Earth’s natural heat and pressure warm the water up.
At its hottest point, at the spring vent, the water in Warm Mineral springs is only approximately 97 degrees. But, that’s at the hot spring vent, which is hundreds of feet deep inside the spring. The water then mixes with cooler spring water, which remains a constant 72 degrees year-round.
Many people dislike certain parts of their visit to Warm Mineral Springs. These are some common complaints:
- Algae and floating debris in the water. This is an outdoor natural spring, this should be expected.
- Outdated facilities and poor condition. This is a fair complaint. The locker rooms are pretty outdated, and aren’t very nice. My recommendation is to remember that the main attraction is the Spring itself, not necessarily the changing rooms.
- Bad smell. Warm Mineral Springs has a high mineral content, including sulphuric minerals. This, of course, is one of the main draws! That said, some people find the smell of the water unpleasant. The smell may remain on your skin even after showing, unless you use soap or body wash.
- Smelly Swimsuit. Some people complain that the spring’s smell lingers in swimsuit fabric even after washing several times.
- Other visitors. Some other visitors may have different perspectives on proper behaviour, modesty and bathing suit attire.
- Annoying music. There may be cheesy music from exercise or water aerobics classes.
Most visitors come to soak in the water’s high concentration of natural minerals.
The water is said to contain more than 50 minerals, depending on the source. The minerals are said to help alleviate age-related ailments, including arthritis, muscle pain and other problems.
Many devotees visit the springs daily, and soak for several hours at a time, or even multiple times daily.
It has the highest mineral content of any natural spring in the U.S., and one of the highest in the world. Many believe the water and minerals have beneficial, healing powers.
Among others, these minerals have been found in high concentrations:
- Free carbon dioxide
Is the Water in Warm Mineral Springs Clean?
The water in Warm Mineral Springs is constantly refreshed and replenished by new spring water, which flows up from the Florida Aquifer. The new water displaces the old, which flows downstream into a spring run, and then into the Myakka River.
Warm Mineral Springs is a third-magnitude spring, meaning that the spring produces an enormous amount of water each day. The water inside Warm Mineral Spring is constantly being refreshed.
The exact rate of replenishment depends on several factors, especially the flow of the underlying aquifer. But, the water turnover can occur in as little as a few hours.
There are other factors to be concerned with related to water cleanliness, especially pollution from nearby pollution sources.
Spring Water Pollution
All springs in Florida, and our drinking water from the Florida Aquifer, are threatened by pollution from several sources.
The main sources of spring and aquifer pollution include:
- Industrial pollution, including phosphate mining and others
- Industrial agriculture pollution, including animal waste and fertilizer
- Sewage contamination from leaking septic tanks and overloaded sewer treatment facilities
- Pollution from untreated groundwater, including fertilizer, automotive pollution, and others
Fountain of Youth
If you visit, you’ll hear many references to Ponce De Leon and his search for Florida’s Fountain of Youth. Many are convinced that Warm Mineral Springs is the site he was searching for when he was fatally wounded by a poisoned arrow, shot by a native American.
If Juan Ponce De Leon did search for a Fountain of Youth, it’s possible that he may have heard about Warm Mineral Springs, and tried to find it. Archeologists are dubious of this idea, but the legend lives on.
There are many other supposed sites of the Fountain of Youth around Florida.
However, it is widely accepted that ancient humans used Warm Mineral Springs for thousands of years, and they may have associated the water with medicinal properties, as many people do today.
Warm Mineral Springs is more developed than other natural springs in Florida.
The facilities are older, and have a reputation for sometimes being dirty and unkept. As with all public facilities, your experience will depend on an element of random luck and the actual condition on day you happen to visit.
The outdoor environment at Warm Mineral Springs is very nice. There is a large surrounding lawn which is well manicured, and the grass is kept short.
There are beautiful flowering plants and a handful of large, beautiful shade trees. It gets crowded under the trees; many people suggest bringing a nice sun shade.
There are some palm trees and Australian Pine, but they don’t offer very good shade. I suggest bringing a good umbrella and using good sun protection.
Remember that this is a natural body of water, it’s a good idea to bring a good pair of water shoes.
It’s nice to stand in shallow areas without squishing your feed into mud, which many people find unpleasant. It’s also nice to have good traction because some hard surfaces, including the entrance ramps, can become slimy and slippery due to algae growth.
How Deep is Warm Mineral Springs?
The deepest point in Warm Mineral Springs is approximately 205 feet deep, but most areas are more shallow. Adults can usually stand in places along the spring’s perimeter, which is marked by a floating rope.
There’s a shallow area for children, which is also separated by floating ropes.
- Children under 10 years old must stay in the shallow children’s area.
- Children aged 11-16 must stay in the outer perimeter
- Visitors must be 17 years old or older to swim in the deepest middle section.
Note: Again, the bottom is a natural surface. It’s either sandy, or squishy mud. Many people find it unpleasant to put their feet in the mud. I suggest bringing a good pair of water shoes.
Water shoes or shower flip flops should also be worn in the locker areas.
There’s lawn furniture sprinkled around the property. Plastic lounge chairs are available for free use, and are first-come, first-served.
There are lockers, restrooms and showers on-site.
In the past there was food service on-site, but there is not food service now. Check the website for the most up-to-date information.
You’re allowed to bring in outside food and drink, but not in coolers, and it can’t be in the water. Alcohol is not permitted inside the park.
Regular attendees recommend getting a day pass so you can leave for lunch and come back for a second soak later.
Many folks recommend soaking for several hours to get the full benefits. Hard-core aficionados recommend against showering after your soak, so the mineral water has the best chance of being absorbed into your body.
The buildings are said to have been designed by Jack West, a prominent local architect who created the “Sarasota Modern” school of architecture. Other artistic touches include mosaics, murals and other art work.
There are exhibits which show the legend of Ponce De Leon, who was allegedly shot by a Native American’s arrow while searching for Warm Mineral Springs. Read more about the story in this New York Times feature story.
In 2019 several of the site buildings were inducted into the National Registry of Historic Places. The spring itself was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977, in recognition of its vital archeological and anthropological significance.
The induction into the Historic Register is especially significant because it will unlock additional funding for renovation, maintenance and the site’s future, which is vital for the site’s master plan.
Are there alligators in Warm Mineral Springs?
Alligators have been found in in Warm Mineral Springs. But, except for very rare exceptions, they are not found in Warm Mineral Springs so it’s considered very safe for swimming. When an alligator is seen, which is extremely uncommon, the springs are closed until the alligator is removed. Source
Alligators can potentially live in any body of freshwater in Florida. They can also live in brackish and are occasionally seen in saltwater.
Geothermal Hot Spring
Warm Mineral Springs is one of only three major hot springs in Florida, and is the only one which is accessible to the public.
The two other hot springs are Little Salt Spring and Mud Hole Spring, but neither are accessible.
Little Salt Spring is an important archeological site, managed by the University of Miami. It’s only a few miles away from Warm Mineral Springs, and shares the same geothermal and mineral-rich properties.
Little Salt Spring is not open to the public. Even if it was, it’s unlikely it would be a popular destination because the visibility is poor, and there are alligators.
Mud Hole Spring is technically open to the public, but it’s almost impossible to visit. It’s a submarine spring located 15 km offshore in the Gulf of Mexico, on the bottom of the sea floor.
Mud Hole Spring is an important gathering place for sea life. Large fish, sharks, sea turtles and other marine life congregate around the warm, nutrient-dense spring vent mouth.
Learn more about submarine springs and blue holes in Florida
There are an additional number of submarine, geothermal hot springs offshore Florida’s coast, on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico.
These geothermal submarine springs are mysterious because they haven’t been extensively studied. They may be part of Florida’s offshore network of submarine Blue Holes, which may be part of the larger Florida Aquifer and spring system.
Geothermal Heat Source
Hydrogeologists aren’t entirely certain how Warm Mineral Springs’ water is heated. Details of the complex and interconnected Florida Aquifer system are still a mystery. Hydrogeologists are sure that this heating is not related to volcanic activity, or magma, which is the source of most hot spring activity around the world.
The most prominent theory is that the seawater from the Gulf of Mexico may seep under the Florida Platform, deep beneath the earth’s surface. There, the Earth’s unimaginable pressure and heat cause geothermal heating to occur. The geothermal forces heat water which is trapped within the vast Florida Aquifer. Source: U.S. Geological Survey
Much of the water in the Aquifer is truly ancient. It’s been trapped underground in porous rock passages for thousands of years, before bubbling up to the surface via spring vents.
How Hot is the Water?
At its surface, Warm Mineral Springs’ water temperature averages a warm 85 degrees fahrenheit. It fluctuates steadily between 84-87 degrees. Hundreds of feet down, deep inside the spring’s vent, geothermally heated spring water measures a hot, steamy 97 degrees fahrenheit. After leaving the spring vent, the hot geothermal water mixes with cool water from the Florida aquifer, lowering the temperature to approx. 85 degrees.
Like all of Florida’s natural springs, the exact water temperature varies due to rain conditions and the water flow rate of the underlying aquifer. The temperature may be slightly lower if the aquifer is flowing rapidly due to high rain levels.
Warm Mineral Springs is an important source of warm water for manatees. In winter months, usually beginning around November, warm water discharge from Warm Mineral Spring attracts manatees into the downstream spring run, Warm Mineral Springs Creek.
Manatees need warm water to survive because they can’t regulate their internal body temperature. Unlike whales and other blubbery mammals, they don’t have natural fat to stay warm in cold water.
Please note that manatees do not enter Warm Mineral Spring itself, and cannot be viewed there.
Source: US Geological Survey
Warm Mineral Springs has been used as a day spa since the 1946, and gained popularity in the 1950’s. Nearby, the Warm Mineral Springs Motel opened in 1958. Source
Around that time, in the 1950’s, citizen-scientist scuba divers first began discovering archeological artifacts, especially Col. Bill Royal, an amazing explorer. This period is when the first human remains were recovered, which included naturally preserved brain matter. Source
These discoveries of human remains were an important part in understanding human anthropology, and helped shape scientists’ theories on how North America was populated by its first inhabitants, Paleo-Americans.
The exploration of Warm Mineral Spring in 1992 was also significant for marine archeology in other ways. It was one of the first scientific uses of mixed-gas diving technology, due to the extreme depths (62 meters).
Source: Florida Gulf Coast University
The City of North Port annexed Warm Mineral Springs in 2000.
At the time, the springs were owned privately by a group of investors. Those owners eventually defaulted on their loan, and the Springs were foreclosed on by the lender, Cypress Lending Group Ltd.
In 2010 the city partnered with Sarasota County to purchase the site from Cypress Lending Group Ltd. The springs were run by the old operator until a contract expired in 2013.
Bizarrely, the city and county could not agree on management details. The springs closed down for a period of time. Many of Warm Mineral Spring’s elderly devotees were devastated during the closure.
Later, the City of North Port acquired Sarasota County’s share, and is now the full owner and operator.
Warm Mineral Springs is a water-filled sinkhole. Although it’s a unique site, it shares many characteristics with other prehistoric springs found around Florida.
The spring pool’s shape is round and circular, which is common among sinkholes. Like all other natural springs and karst features throughout Florida, this site is was formed over a period by natural forces over a span of millions of years.
Formation of the Spring
Over millions of years, a steady flow of acidic groundwater ate away at limestone rock, which is the base of Florida’s geologic foundation. As acid groundwater slowly dissolved the rock, it created a large underground cavern.
Eventually the cavern roof collapsed. Scientists aren’t sure exactly what caused it to fall. It could have crumbled from its own weight, or it might have been damaged in an earthquake. Whatever the reason, the cavern’s roof collapsed into a large pile of rubble, which is still at the bottom of the spring today.
Without its roof, the sinkhole was exposed to the outside world. Over time, the large, circular sinkhole filled with water from the underlying aquifer and water table, due to the melting of the polar ice caps, rising sea levels and water table.
Below the water’s surface, the spring looks like an hourglass shape. It’s broad at the top, and then narrows approximately half-way down. Beneath the narrow point, it widens again, into a broad, wide base.
Humans and Animals
30,000 years ago, the Earth experienced an ice age, and Florida’s climate was different than it is today. The climate and environment was more like a dry African serengeti than the warm, wet, subtropical climate we have now.
Sea levels were lower, and Florida’s coastline was hundreds of miles further toward sea. The underground water table was lower, and Warm Mineral Spring would have been a dry cave.
For ancient animals and Paleo-Americans, reliable sources of fresh water would have been much harder to find than it is today. Warm Mineral Springs would have been like an oasis, and a very important site for survival. Thanks to fossil evidence, we know that ancient animals and Paleo-American humans used this spring, and others in Florida, as a fresh-water source.
Occasionally, prehistoric animals would fall inside the hole. And, occasionally, the ancient humans would bury their dead inside the cave system. All of these remains were preserved in the unique oxygen-free water, which serves as an amazing preservative.
The water in Warm Mineral is unique. It has very low levels of dissolved oxygen, which means that destructive bacteria cannot survive, or degrade the ancient fossils. When something enters Warm Mineral Springs, it’s like being preserved in a time capsule. Amazingly some human remains even contained skulls with intact hair and brain matter.
Warm Mineral Springs is the final resting place for many ancient remains; both human and animal. It’s a fascinating look back into ancient history.
The fossils found in and around Florida’s springs have helped modern scientists learn more about the earliest humans, and how North America was first populated. The fossil evidence is truly unique, and holds answers to human mysteries which cannot be found anywhere else. Warm Mineral Springs, Little Salt Springs, Devil’s Den, Ichetucknee, and others are truly priceless treasures, and must be protected.
As in other prehistoric springs, archeologists have recovered numerous ancient and extinct animal fossils from the Pleistocene era. Among others, fossils of these ancient and extinct species have all been recovered from Warm Mineral Springs:
- Ancient llama
- Giant ground sloth
- Reptiles and amphibians
- Paleo-Indian (Paleo-American) human
One of my favorite examples is the fossil of a giant ancient tortoise. It had been hunted with a wooden spear, and then overturned and cooked inside its own shell over a campfire. Source
For a great collection of well-produced documentaries, films and movies about exploring Warm Mineral Spring, check out Curt Bowen’s site here.
Lodging and Campgrounds near Warm Mineral Springs
There are hotels in the area. If you’re interested in architecture, or want to experience the full nostalgia of a vintage Florida experience, check out the Florida Springs Motel. It’s very close to the springs and has served spring visitors since the 1950’s.
There are modern hotel choices nearby in Venice and Port Charlotte.
Or, you can check out the numerous, affordable AirBnB options close by the Springs. I checked the offerings and there’s a great variety, from quaint and low-cost, to luxurious waterfront.
There are some options for camping nearby.
- Myakka River State Park
- Myakka River RV Resort
- Rambler’s Rest RV Resort
For more information on Warm Mineral Springs, check out the incredible work Curt Bowen, an amazing underwater explorer and filmmaker.