Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dr. Diehl's Folly

One very interesting spot that we hit was while we were on our favorite part of the Current River (upper section). We both wanted to see the ruins of the old Welch Hospital, a sanitarium built for TB sufferers. The hospital ended up being a financial disaster for its owner and it closed for good in 1945, 32 years after its construction.

When we got to the put-in spot we had a number of canoes to choose from. As we'd had a good experience with an aluminum canoe on our first float on the Current, we picked one of those. It turned out to be a moderately bad choice. After we'd left the launch area and were about a half-mile down the river I noticed that the canoe was taking on water. I quickly saw that the bottom had a very small puncture that was allowing water to come in. We had to stop a couple of times on the float to dump the water out. The leak wasn't severe, but it was a minor pain to have to clear out the water.

We stopped at this gravel bar to have lunch, go swimming, and to empty the water we had taken on. This was a really nice place to stop. We watched the fish, took a fair amount of time to swim in the clear water, and generally just took it easy and soaked up some sun.

After a couple of hours we came to Welch Spring, which produces over 105 million gallons of water a day, making it a first magnitude spring. There's an extensive cave system just inside the spring opening, although it's closed to anyone who doesn't have a research permit to explore it.

Built right on the shore of the spring run is the old Welch Hospital. I'm always amused at the impermanence of Mankind's buildings. There were several cabins adjacent to the hospital and I couldn't find any trace of them at all. Anything that was wood that was associated with the old sanitarium is long since gone. All that remains are the stone walls and the poured concrete.

Dr. Diehl went to a lot of expense and trouble to construct this place. The walls still seem to be in relatively good shape, although it's only a matter of a few more decades before the trees start to topple them over.

This plaque has a representation of what the hospital looked like when it was still intact.

I climbed up on a rocky bluff to take this photo of the building. You can just see Carole on the far right behind a small tree.

This was the staircase leading up to what was once the main door. You wonder about the patients who made the long journey to this place to seek treatment for their tuberculosis. I tried to imagine them walking up these stairs to what they hoped would be relief from suffering.

There is the constant sound of rushing water as the spring flow makes its brief way downslope to the Current River. Beyond the spring run, the Current River becomes even more clear than above, and noticeably colder.

When we paddled past this spot, this was our last view of Welch Spring as we moved on down the Current River.


dogboy443 said...

Great shots Bob and well a documented tour through the Ingalls property.

HemlockMan said...


The Wilder home was actually a highlight of our trip. I enjoyed it a lot more than I figured I would, despite the unwashed goon (you just had to keep your distance).