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The river that turns On and Off: the spring that breaths!

2 min read

Just east of Afton town, at the foot of a rocky mountain in Wyoming, lies one of the world’s most mysterious natural wonders: an Intermittent Spring (otherwise known as the Periodic Spring) that intermittently stops and starts flowing again around every 15 minutes.
Only a few rhythmic springs exist in the world (another being the famed Gihon Spring in Jerusalem), and Intermittent Spring in Swift Creek canyon is the largest of them all.
As its name suggests, this peculiar spring flows intermittently. Here you’ll see a large quantity of water using out of a hole in the mountain and then flowing down forming a large creek for about 15 minutes, and then dry up for another 15 before the cycle starts all over again.

The reasons for this intermittent flow are not entirely understood, but scientists have a pretty sound theory about this miraculous natural phenomenon also known as “the spring that breathes”.
Researchers have not pinned down exactly what causes the surprisingly regular ebb and flow of the spring, but they believe it has to do with a siphon effect that occurs underground.
Basically, water runs continuously into an underground cavern but must pass through a narrow tube with a high point located above the spring’s surface exit. When the water level reaches that high point, it creates a “siphon effect”, sucking water out of the cavern and allowing the spring to flow.
However, the water level eventually drops to the point where air rushes into the exit tube, cutting off the flow until the water level rises in the cavern again.

We can’t think of another explanation at the moment,” Professor Kip Solomon, a hydrologist at the University of Utah, said. “The spring water’s gas content has now been tested at the University of Utah. The data strongly suggests the water was exposed to air underground; strong support for the siphon theory.”

It seems that the Afton spring was discovered randomly by the great great grandfather of the Greco-Roman Olympic Gold Medalist wrestler Rulon Gardner who says, “He was up there logging. He went up and found a nice little place to get some fresh water. It was intermittent. It went, and stopped. So it was pretty amazing“.

Images from web – Google Research

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