Last updated on November 13th, 2020.
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.
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 this video for a good overview of the place, and read on for more details.
For more videos and a greater emphasis on the fascinating history, check the “Ancient History” section below. Other videos 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 scheme for residents and non-residents.
If you’ll visit frequently, there are multi-visit discount options. 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 day pass if you want to leave for lunch, and come back later in the day.
When to Go
Warm Mineral Springs is open every day except for Christmas Day, and people love to visit year-round.
But, most people agree that 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 coolest weather is in the winter, from November up until March or April.
On cold days a steamy mist can be seen rising off of the spring’s warm surface, similar to Devil’s Den Spring.
Especially if you visit during the stormy summer season, be sure to check the weather before going. 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!
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.
What to Expect
Florida’s natural springs are abundant throughout the state, but there aren’t many in Southwest Florida. Check out this video to see different views of the springs and facilities.
Warm Mineral Springs is one of the most popular in the region, and deservedly so. It’s a fascinating site, and is well worth a visit if you’re in the area.
The photo below is a 360 degree panoramic shot. Click and drag to see different views.
The City of Northport’s official 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 Ukranian guests.
Common Visitor Complaints
If you’re not familiar with European culture, be prepared that some other visitors may have differnet perspectives on modesty and bathing suit attire. There may be exercise or water aerobics classes, so be prepared to hear some cheesy music.
If you listen to common complaints, many people dislike elements of their visit to Warm Mineral Springs. These are common complaints:
- The water temperature at the surface is only “warm”, at approximately 84-87 degrees. It’s not “hot” like many hot springs springs. This is because of the non-volcanic nature of the geothermal heating. The water is much hotter — approximately 97 degrees — hundreds of feet deep inside the spring, at the spring vent.
- Algae and floating debris in the water. This is an outdoor natural spring, this should be expected.
- Outdated facilities and poor condition. Since the City of North Port took over, things seem to have improved some. My recommendation is to remember that the main attraction is the Spring itself, not necessarily the changing rooms.
- Foul smell. The springs’ high mineral content contians 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 effective soap or body wash.
- Smelly Swimsuit. Some people complain that the spring’s smell lingers in swimsuit fabric even after washing several times.
Most visitors come to soak in the water’s high concentration of natural minerals. Many devotees visit the springs daily, and soak for several hours at a time.
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.
Warm Mineral Springs is a third-magnitude spring. 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
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.
Although there is much folklore mixed in with the story, elements of the story are disputed. 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. They have assumed that the spring conveys youthful, healing benefits.
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.
Warm Mineral Springs is more developed than other natural springs in Florida.
The facilities are older, and have a reputation for being dirty and unkept. As with all public facilities, your experience will depend on random luck and the day you happen to visit.
The surrounding lawn is well manicured, and the grass is kept short.
There are a few big, beautiful shade trees, but there aren’t many. It gets crowded under the few that are there. There are some palm trees and Australian Pine, but they don’t offer very good shade. I suggest bringing a good umbrella and using sun protection.
Remember that this is a natural body of water, bring a good pair of watershoes. 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 can become slimy and slippery due to algae growth.
How Deep is Warm Mineral Springs?
The water’s depth depends on where you measure. The deepest point is approximately 205 feet deep, but most areas are more shallow. Adults can usually stand in places along the spring’s perimeter. The shallow areas are visible in this aerial satelite image.
There’s a shallow area for children, which is separated by floating ropes. Children under 10 years old must stay in the shallow children’s area. There’s a medium-depth area along the perimeter of the spring where most adults can stand.
Individuals must age 17 or over to swim in the deepest middle section.
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. You may want to bring a good pair of water shoes.
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.
For more information on Warm Mineral Springs, check out the incredible work of underwater explorer, videographer and scientist, Curt Bowen. His site and excellent videos can be viewed at www.warmmineral.com/wms/wmsvideo.html
What to Bring
Many of these items are available for purchase on-site. That said, inventory and selection may be limited, and prices may be higher than what you’d find elsewhere.
- Water shoes
- Lawn chair
- Water Noodle
Warm Mineral Spring Rules
There are rules, which are enforced by staff and lifeguards. For the full, official rules, check out the City of North Port’s site.
- 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 in the water.
- Even though it’s very deep, scuba diving is not allowed in the spring.
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?
Yes, there are occasionally alligators in Warm Mineral Springs. There can be alligators in any body of water in Florida. But, except for very rare exceptions, they are not found in Warm Mineral Springs so it’s safe for swimming. When an alligator is seen, the springs are closed until the alligator is removed. Source
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 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 and fascinating gathering place for sea life. Large fish, sharks, sea turtles and other marine life congregate around the warm, nutrient-dense spring vent mouth.
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.
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 down-stream 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
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.
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.
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.
At its deepest, Warm Mineral Spring is approximately 205 feet deep. At the bottom, a spring vent gushes millions of gallons of geothermal, anaerobic, mineral-rich water every hour. Source
Below the water’s surface, the spring looks like an hour-glass 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 experiened 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.
Occassionally, prehistoric animals would fall inside the hole. And, occasionally, the ancient humans would bury thier 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 in-tact 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 mysteris 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 excinct 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 nostalga 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