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Last updated: Fri. Jul. 25, 2014 - 07:37 am EDT

Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve's natural assets include a fascinating history

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Hike at Blue Cast Springs

WHAT: The Maumee Valley Heritage Corridor and ACRES Land Trust will host a Nature and History Hike in the historic Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve.

WHEN: 10 a.m. Saturday

WHERE: Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve, 21412 Bluecast Road near Woodburn. From Woodburn, take Indiana 101 (Fahlsing Road.) north 2 miles to old U.S. 24 and turn left (west). Travel .7 mile to the curved intersection of old U.S. 24 and Bluecast Road. Continue west on Bluecast Road to the preserve on the right.

COST: Free, but donations to the host organizations are welcomed. Reservations are requested but not required; email

INFORMATION: 450-2057. For more about ACRES, call 637-2273 or go to


"Step right up and be healed by the amazing Blue Cast Springs mineral water, folks! To further establish the legitimacy of this claim, the miraculous tonic, marketed internationally, received the 'Highest Award' at St. Louis Exposition! Come one, come all!"

That's the type of announcement one might have heard, when the new, highly-touted carbonated water with a blue-and-yellow label was sold from 1902-1955 from a Woodburn spring now known as the Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve.

In November, ACRES Land Trust dedicated the historic grounds and opened them to the public. The membership-based organization founded in 1960 works to preserve natural areas in northeast Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan.

ACRES and previously published news reports provided this information about the preserve:

Blue Cast Springs Nature Preserve, which is located near the Maumee River, features an 87-acre nature preserve and wildlife. Blue and green herons and other scenic flora and fauna call the site their home. Back in time, Native Americans also are thought to have used the 30-feet high rocky bluffs to oversee canoes as they made their way down the river.

The preserve, which coincidentally includes ACRES' 5,000th preserved acre, has long boasted a natural spring from which the park takes its name.

In about 1900, one of the most well-known names in New Haven history was Henry Schnelker, who came to the site with a vision for the masses and made a fortune while at it. Schnelker, whose descendants still live in New Haven, purchased the 84-acre plot in 1901 and in 1902 installed a pump in the deep chasm to bring forth the water that was thought to have healing properties.

The bluish-tinted water was also thought to have the influence of an unusual magnetic energy, and its drinkers reveled in the refreshing taste brought forth by the daily production of 100-plus cases at the bottling plant.

The tonic enjoyed immense popularity, not only at home but soon globally. Schnelker then built a huge reservoir to collect the spring-fed water, and the company used the reservoir for more than a decade.

Not long after Schnelker started his operation, another spring was found, this one spewing sulphur water and mud. Schnelker wanted to build a sanitarium to offer “therapeutic baths,” which were becoming popular.

However, another buyer purchased the property, built the sanitarium and ran both that and the bottling company until 1926, when it was sold to a group of investors who ended the business in 1955.

Interestingly, the buyer who built the sanitarium built it of cement and steel, using the very sand and gravel on the property. The following years produced several buyers and an off-again, on-again sanitarium occupancy, including during and after the Great Depression in the late 1920s and the 1930s.

The empty building, vandalized several times, was rumored to be haunted and possibly patronized by Al Capone at one time.

Heather Barth, Director of Fund Development at ACRES, was enthusiastic about the property.

"The opening of this nature preserve was my first as an ACRES staff member, so it will always hold a special place in my heart," Barth said. "I've had the pleasure of hiking Blue Cast Springs several times throughout the seasons, and the property is stunning, and very different, each time I visit."

Partners and funding for the acquisition of Blue Cast Springs include the Bicentennial Nature Trust, Indiana Heritage Trust, Indiana Department of Natural Resources' Division of Nature Preserves, the Mary C. and Perry F. Spencer Foundation, the Suedhoff Memorial Trust, and various private individuals.

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