With Memorial Day here, it's time to start thinking about the 3 H's of summer: Heat, Haze, and Humidity. When it comes to beating the heat, it's hard to top an artesian well.
Bollinger County has two artesian wells accessible to the public. Thanks to a generous water table, these two sites -- originally drilled as test pits for oil and mineral exploration -- provide a permanent source of cold water.
An artesian well, according to Wikipedia, takes advantage of underground pressure to cause water to gush to the surface through a man-made tap. The name is derived from the Artois region of France.
The most well-known of Bollinger County's artesian wells sits next to Woodland School, just west of Marble Hill.
It generates a steady stream of water that flows into Crooked Creek.
Look for the gravel pullout along Highway 34 and the peculiar "No Parking (within) 8 Feet of Pavement" sign. A wooden footbridge leads south to the wellhead.
Not as well known, but just as impressive, is the "Sycamore Valley" artesian well on National Forest land near the Madison County line.
It sits just off County Road 872, gushing water down the hillside and across the road.
When I visited during last summer's drought, the artesian well was still pumping plenty of water. The surrounding area had a spongy, muddy feel, almost like the ground was sweating. According to one source, the Sycamore Valley well, with a depth of 1,300 feet, produces an average of 50 gallons per minute.
Both sites are an excellent place to visit on a sweltering day. It's hard not to get wet.
Woodland School Artesian Well: From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 34 west through Jackson and Marble Hill. Outside of Marble Hill, drive just past Woodland School and look for the gravel pullout on the right as the highway starts to curve. The well is on the left. [Google map]
Sycamore Valley Artesian Well: From Cape Girardeau, take Highway 72 west through Jackson and Millersville to Patton Junction. Turn left on Highway 51, drive through Patton, and then veer right at the intersection with Route A. Then turn right on Route O at the intersection known as Yount's Store. After one mile, turn left on County Road 872. The well is just shy of two miles down this road, on the left. [Google map]