It has been said that Salt Springs is the legendary "Fountain of Youth". . . Scientists have discovered that aging can be slowed by certain minerals and trace elements that are available only in unrefined groundwater, and the abundance and variety of helpful minerals in the water at Salt Springs can be found nowhere else in the United States.
In the 1800's
The King of Spain originally granted ownership of the property surrounding the Springs along with the five-mile run to Lake George to his supporters, the Hernandez family, who were not particularly attracted to the gift. Subsequently, the property remained undeveloped until the late 1800's when brothers, Walter and Columbus Townsend, who were prominent gentlemen in the turpentine business, saw an opportunity for shipping turpentine down Salt Springs Run and up the St. Johns River to the Naval Station in Jacksonville.
In the 1900's
In 1900, Daniel Morgan, a prominent Marion County resident and County Commissioner who also owned a timber and turpentine business, constructed a large framed home on the south side of Lake Kerr. This grand lakeside home contained ten rooms, with the kitchen and dining room separated from the main house, all constructed of heart of pine and trimmed cypress. When Mr. Morgan died accidentally, Columbus Townsend purchased the spacious house as a summer residence for his family, and proceeded to have it moved from the bank of Lake Kerr across the landscape to its present location, adjacent to the Springs.
According to Henry Sprinkle, a life-long resident of Salt Springs and grandson of Columbus Townsend, moving the house was quite a feat which took almost a year to complete. It was said that to move the house, they felled large pine trees laying them in front of the house as rollers and, like the Egyptians, pulled the house with teams of oxen and cattle.
In 1908, President Roosevelt set asaide the vast scrubland surrounding the Springs as the Ocala National Forest and only the stouthearted braved the hazards of traveling the long deep sand roads to enjoy the waters of this remote jewel.
In the 1920's, after having bought his brother's interest in the property and having laid claim to the Hernandez grant, Columbus sold all of the property to the Ray family of Ocala. With the coming of hard-top roads, many of Florida's natural treasures were popularized, but not Salt Springs; this remained a remote jewel but word had gotten out. Some came to be cured, believing through folklore that the waters had medicinal value, while others simply wanted to enjoy the bath of crystal clear waters. Regardless of the reason, all manner of homemade shelters sparng up among the oaks to accommodate the special breed of explorer who flocked to the Springs.
In the early 1960's, Highway S-19 opened exposing the Springs to the world. Portions of the scarce provate land nearby was soon subdivided and sold as campsites to those individuals wanting their own slice of the Forest. Over the years, most of those campsites have become permanent home sites, for both full-time residents and weekenders alike.
In 1979, the U.S. Government bought the Springs from the Ray family, along with the approximately ten acres of the Hernandez grant, for over $12 million. Development of the Salt Springs Recreation Area is still ongoing, with the most recent renovations completed in 2009. The old home still stands on the south side of the Springs, and one day may be renovated as a bed & breakfast.
CREDITS: Historical information furnished by Salt Springs Visitors Center. Photos courtesy of (camping photo) Special Collections Department, University of South Florida; (trees photo) Office of War Information, Overseas Pitcure Division; and (old house photo) K. Clifford, local resident.