by Greg Brick,
DNR research analyst
Anyone who enjoys the outdoors can help with important groundwater research by reporting springs to the Department of Natural Resources. A spring is any natural flow of water from an aquifer—an underground layer of rock– to the Earth’s surface. I’ve been hunting for springs for years, and I think you would also find it worthwhile and enjoyable. A new app makes it easy to report springs for this needed research.
Spring location and reporting is important because springs create and sustain vital ecosystems. Springs can indicate groundwater health and help protect against invasive species. Land stability and building integrity depend on knowing where springs are located. Trout streams and other coldwater fisheries, calcareous fens, and many streams and lakes all require springs.
I began hunting for springs during my undergraduate years at the University of Minnesota, while studying for a degree in geology. I was the first to systematically map the springs of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, finding seven belts of springs based on the layer-cake geology exposed in the Mississippi River gorge. The published project (1997) became mandatory reading in the introductory groundwater geology course at the University of Minnesota.
Technology had changed by the time I came to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to hunt for springs professionally, as part of a project funded by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. In 1993, I mapped the springs by penciling dots on paper USGS quadrangles. Now GPS satellites and LiDAR coverage are far superior for getting accurate locations and planning forays in the field.
The currently known springs are largely confined to southeastern Minnesota. Within these limits, we are now aware of only about 3,000 of an estimated 22,000 springs statewide. We are gathering information from various agency records and searching public lands, but we need the help of private citizens to make the inventory more comprehensive.
Become a spring hunter
You can help. A new citizen app makes everyone a potential spring hunter. You can add to the inventory using the Minnesota Spring Inventory Reporting App from your home computer or mobile device in the field, using map location or aerial imagery. You’ll find it on the spring inventory page.
Spring locations will appear on the Spring Inventory Map after DNR verification. Now is a good time to hunt. Winter is the best season for mapping springs, as they leave telltale melt spots in the snow and there are no leaves to obstruct the view.
Springs have their own aesthetic and historical value that creates a special “sense of place” for local residents and visitors. Preserving springs contributes to a love of the land and an environmental ethic that enhances our quality of life in Minnesota. You can’t protect something if there is no public or government awareness of its existence.
Spring inventory project
Springs have been surveyed through the years, but Minnesota has never had a formal, statewide spring inventory until now.
Spring information from various efforts and agency records is being collected for inclusion in the statewide spring database. The database will contain both reported and verified spring location information and physical, chemical and historical data for spring sites as available. We hope these efforts will keep springs and the things that depend on them thriving.
Thanks for considering spring hunting and using the spring inventory reporting app as part of your outdoor activities.