On the early maps (1900) of the village of Sulphur Springs, I. T. is a stream called Sulphur Creek. It is not known if the creek was named for the town or there was some thought that the creek was fed by sulphur springs. Regardless, Sulphur Creek was the name of the stream from the founding of the tiny community around 1890 until 1906.
When Professor Gould made his survey of the springs in 1906, he suggested a name change in his report to the Secretary of Interior. He proposed that the name of Sulphur Creek be changed to Travertine Creek.
It turned out that none of the sulphur springs of the Seven Sisters (Pavilion Springs) flowed into Sulphur Creek. Also, all the springs located along Sulphur Creek were fresh water. There was not a single sulphur spring flowing into Sulphur Creek.
There was, however, in Sulphur Creek, a great deal of travertine rock and formations. Travertine is defined as "a light colored, usually concretionary limestone deposited around limy springs or creeks."
Superintendent Joseph Swords agreed with the findings of Gould's report and recommended to the Secretary the implementation of the report's suggestions. And so, in 1906, the name of Sulphur Creek was changed to Travertine Creek.
Although Travertine Creek is the drainage for a large area of hills and valleys east of the Park limits, the primary source of water for the creek is Antelope and Buffalo Springs. The combined flow of these two springs was 5,000,000 gallons per day.
Travertine Creek winds about 1-½ miles from its source at the above-mentioned springs to its confluence with Rock Creek. Also, a point of interest is that Travertine Creek drops 135 feet in elevation from Buffalo Springs to Rock Creek.
The names of the points of interest along Travertine Creek are now legendary in Park history. From the main springs, the stream flows through Lake Placid, Grand Rapids, Little Niagara, Cave Island, the crossing at Sycamore Falls, Bear Falls, Lost Falls, Ole Swimming Hole, Pebble Falls, Sylvan Cove, Panther Falls, Lover's Tryst, Travertine Falls, Ripple Lake, the Punch Bowl, and finally Council Rocks where it flows into Rock Creek.
A thousand different picture post cards must have been made of these picturesque locations. Often, on these cards, one will see the same falls or lake with different names. We can only surmise that the photographer used his own imagination to name some of the sites.
In the Gould Report, there were several springs mentioned that flowed into Travertine Creek. The name and number of these were: Antelope, #1; Buffalo, #2; Cunningham, #3; and Buse Spring, #4. There is some conjecture that the names of Buffalo and Antelope Springs were switched in the days prior to the establishment of the U. S. Reservation. This may or may not be true but early photographs of Antelope Spring shows that there was very little vegetation or tree growth around the spring.
The spring comes out from under a large conglomerate ledge. One photograph clearly shows a large rock in the middle of the formation that strongly resembles a buffalo lying down with a calf lying nearby. Myth, legend, who knows for sure?
Gould described Antelope Spring in 1906 in its present location issuing from under the rock ledge. It was decided very early not to improve this spring but rather leave it in its natural condition. We agree with that decision, as it would have been difficult to improve on perfection.
Antelope Spring was at the end of a small ravine just a few dozen yards from Travertine Creek, 150 yards northwest of Buffalo Springs, and had an issue of 2,000 gallons per minute.
Buffalo Spring was located in the bed of Travertine Creek. The water boiled up from the sand and had an issue of 1,500 gallons per minute. This spring was developed early on and later the CCC built a beautiful stone enclosure in the 1930's, which will be discussed in another story.
Cunningham Spring was named for a family who lived near the Antelope Spring and ran a dairy in the 1890's. They built a shed over spring #3 and used it to cool their milk. Gould recommended that the spring be cleaned out and tiled. Several years later the spring could not be found and its exact location is now unknown.
Buse Spring was named for F. A. Buse of Sulphur who was a retired architect and contractor. The honor of having a spring named after him may have been Mr. Buse's reward for volunteer service in some consulting capacity. Gould also recommended that this spring be developed but within a few years it also went dry and its location was lost.
About the best reference for the location of springs #3 and #4 comes from the Gould report. He referred to them as the Chalybeate Group. He noted that Cunningham Spring was at the crossing near the old Cunningham place and Buse Spring was ¼ mile west of Cunningham Spring. The character of the water of both these springs was noted as being iron.
When the houses of the old town were sold and moved from the Reservation, the Park kept several for its use. One of the small houses was moved southeast of Panther Falls and used as the residence of the watchman for Antelope and Buffalo Springs. Willis Townsley was the first watchman and made regular trips up Travertine Creek to the springs to make sure that cattle were not grazing in the Park or using the springs.
There was a crossing below Panther Falls on Travertine creek near today's Central Campground. It was in the area of the current bridge location. The crossing was known as Townsley Ford.
Lincoln Bridge was built across Travertine Creek in 1908/09 and dedicated on Lincoln's birthday in 1909. It was the first permanent bridge to cross the creek.
When the town was forced to move, there was no fresh water for the citizens. There were no springs or wells in the new town. People had to carry water from the Park springs for domestic use.
The Park Superintendent finally allowed the City to pipe water from Travertine Creek. The water was pumped from the area of Little Niagara by steam engine and stored in water towers. The City was allowed to pump water only at night and never on the weekends so as not to diminish the flow of the creek for the Park visitors. This practice continued for nearly twenty years.
When the CCC came in the 1930's, many changes were made to the course of the creek as well as the various falls. The original Little Niagara was actually several hundred yards below today's Little Niagara.
In March of 1934, The Isaak Walton League headed by local president Brian Lattimore was instrumental in stocking 300 rainbow trout in Travertine Creek. Twenty-six of the trout were placed in the newly constructed circular bowl at Buffalo Springs. The trout, raised in a government hatchery, were trucked in from Neosho, Missouri. Screens were placed in the streambed to prevent the trout swimming downstream.
Travertine Island had a picnic area constructed of stone by the CCC. This area was known as Wildcat Bend on the early maps. The work of the CCC will be discussed in detail in other stories.
In 1906, Gould noted in his report that there were four artesian wells drilled in the new town of Sulphur north of the Park. He reported that the flow from each well ranged from 200,000 to 500,000 gallons per day. He studied the drilling logs of each of these wells. Each well was at a depth of 450 to 500 feet. It was his belief that the Park's springs were from the Simpson sandstone aquifer.
He also believed that the new artesian wells were tapping into the same aquifer. It was his belief that the unrestricted flow of these artesian wells would someday be detrimental to the natural springs of the Park.
The Antelope and Buffalo Springs have gone dry eleven times since 1902. During the "dirty thirties" dust bowl days; the springs were dry for nearly two years.
In a story written by local oil driller Tom Jack in the book Murray County, Oklahoma II, he notes that in 1955, Travertine Creek had gone dry. It was decided to provide water to the creek by means of a well. The well was drilled and issued about 20,000 gallons per minute with the use of pumps. He further noted that on Labor Day the creek was full and enjoyed by the visitors. The well is now used by the City of Sulphur as an auxiliary well for domestic water supply.
Conservation and preservation of the precious waters are the only ways to keep the springs and Travertine Creek flowing in the future.
© by Dennis Muncrief - 2006