Big Spring

Useful Information

Location: Huntsville, Alabama. Big Spring Park.
Open: no restrictions.
Fee: free.
Classification: KarstKarst Spring
Light: n/a
Guided tours:
Address: Big Spring
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
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1805 discovered by John Hunt.
1810 town known as Twickingham after the English home of the poet Alexander Pope.
1811 town named Huntsville after John Hunt.
1898 park and picnic ground developed around the Spring.


Big Spring is a huge karst spring located in Big Spring Park in downtown Huntsville. The reason why this spring is right in the middle of a city is simple: Huntsville was founded around the spring. John Hunt heard Indian tales about a big spring of clear fresh water. In 1805 he searched the foothills of the Smoky Mountains for this spring until he found it and built a cabin right next to this big spring. He was one of the first settlers in the area and the town that had sprung up around the spring was named after him in 1811.

This spring was of enormous importance for the city. It was an inexhaustible source of pure water. Around 1900 great crowds attended religious baptisms held below the small dam at the spring. For decades during the early 20th century, the sale of this water was the largest single source of income for the city's general fund.

However, karst water is a fragile resource as it is normally not subjected to a great degree of ground filtering. So karst springs are very vulnerable to groundwater pollution. Unfortunately the growing city used dolines and caves as natural sewer lines and garbage dumps. So the spring had to be abandoned and drinking water is now produced from other sources.