Saline Springs

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Published on: Jan. 2, 2001

Last revision: Nov. 8, 2010

left salt deposits far from the oceans of today."

Schweitzer was writing during a time when mineral waters were believed to be highly medicinal, and people expressed the same interest in them then as they now do about medicinal plants.

"It is not the purpose of this publication to advocate one or the other of these waters," Schweitzer explained. "The tabulation is such as is calculated to enable the physician to select easily, for any given purpose, the proper water."

The "proper water" was bottled and shipped far and wide, but many people visited the springs. Some areas were developed with baths, cottages saunas and hotels and still contain the ruins of these health resorts. Old newspaper articles and photographs at county historical societies often contain clues their former splendor. The following paragraph about McAllister Springs is from "The Mineral Waters of Missouri," which was written in 1892:

"The property is owned by private parties but managed and under the direction of a resident physician. It contains a commodious hotel with thirty rooms, ball-room, billiard and bowling alley, and some private summer residences, valued at $25,000.00. The Black Sulphur water is shipped in barrels and jugs. It has been used for twenty years and longer, the management claiming it to be beneficial in dyspepsia, skin diseases, blood poisoning, rheumatism, liver diseases and stomach troubles, of which proof is offered in a number of letters received from parties who have been benefitted by its use."

Little remains of the facility today, or of any other Saline County health resorts dedicated to muriatic waters.

Only two saline springs have been protected on public land. Relatives of Daniel Boone tamed one of the saline springs in Howard County, developing a salt production business that functioned for many years. You can visit Boonslick State Historic Site in Howard County, across the Missouri River from Arrow Rock. Interpretive displays explain salt production at the nearby Arrow Rock Visitors Center.

A second group of a saline springs is protected at Blue Lick Conservation Area in Saline County, south of Marshall. Here is an 1892 description of Blue Lick:

"At least four or five of the springs here used as beverages could be classified as "black sulphur" or better , as sulpho-saline springs. The water itself issues from a large gum and a great quantity of gas is continually escaping (probably carbonic acid gas). The water is used for bathing purposes entirely. The springs are much frequented during the summer months, and the waters of `Blue Lick' and Black Sulphur springs are also shipped to Marshall in small quantities.

"Salt was made from the various springs here several years ago and the lines of ditches where the kettles were placed and water evaporated can still be seen.

"The water of all the springs is used for drinking purposes excepting that of Gum Spring, which is used for bathing.

"...waters are claimed to be beneficial in kidney and bladder disease, dyspepsia, diseases of the bowels, cholera infantum, chronic diarrhea, general debility, and for other troubles."

There are no obvious remnants of the resort at Blue Lick. The Conservation Department intends to replant the area with saline tolerant plants. As they are now, neither site is a showplace for salt springs. Both are little more than pools of salty water in an otherwise typical north Missouri landscape. The story of Saline County and the former glory of its saline springs is mostly forgotten.

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