there’s still a gusher in Sulphur, Oklahoma


I loves me a well that squirts water from the ground! We’ll let the Freudists debate precisely what that means psychologically, but for me, it’s hydrogeology come alive in a magical display of hydraulic head higher–sometimes substantially higher–than the land surface. Water! Flowing “uphill”!!!

Sadly, many of the early gushers have long dried up due to overflowing/overpumping; however, Sulphur, Oklahoma, still sports an impressive, flowing well a la the good ‘ole days.  Since I was in Ada for a conference a couple of years ago, I was able to steal away for a few hours to gawk and gander at the well.

Back in the early 1900s, Sulphur, like many towns in the US that had saline springs or wells was a resort destination where people could partake of the waters in the hopes of curing various ailments. Mineral water was a booming business up until the 1940s (or so) when the Feds required science to back the various medical claims as to the curative powers of the waters. Since there was no supporting science, many resorts, no longer able to make ludicrous claims, faded away. The Vendome Well and Sulphur, in general, were no different.


Fortunately, the well is still there as part of the Chickasaw National Recreational Area (formerly the Platt National Park). There’s a slight scent of sulphur when you approach the well; nothing offensive, but you know it’s there. I sipped from a squirting water fountain at the well site; just a hint of salinity (the water is probably just north of fresh at 1,000 ppm of total dissolved solids [postnote: I have a good tongue! After originally writing this in 2016 I read today that total dissolved solids in this well was about 1,200 ppm]). The Vendome well was drilled in 1922 to a depth of 325 feet. The well casing is 6 inches in diameter (the pipe through which the water flows is of a smaller diameter to generate more drama for the flow, something commonly done with flowing artesian wells back in the day. The water gushes from the Arbuckle and Simpson aquifers

As you can see from the photos above, there used to be a pool next door with a water slide and diving board. These days, the flow gurgles down a small drainage to a nearby creek. According to my travelling pardner, Dr Todd Hallihan, the flow has slowly declined over the years. At his advice, the city shuts the well down at night these days to preserve pressure.

Nearby in the park are various springs, including Bromide Springs:

Sulphur-loving bacterial strands!

Which has also been around awhile:

Befitting a resort town, Sulphur has a large resort hotel called The Artesian.

Neat card showing the front and backside of the hotel. Note the flowing artesian well in the courtyard.

This card fuses the front and backside into one large building #falseadvertising

The original hotel was razed and replaced with a low-slung mid-century modern affair which in turn was recently razed and replaced with a new hotel and casino inspired by the original joint:

On the one hand, I’m sad to have missed the original Artesian; on the other hand, it’s nice that a new Artesian moves forward into a new century.


The USGS has a pub on the hydrogeology of the locale.

This post, in substantially the form I’ve presented it here, originally appeared on an architecture (and misc.) blog I have.


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