Hidden Spring: Flowing Strong During Extreme Drought!

I visited Huntsville, Alabama’s Goldsmith-Schiffman Wildlife Sanctuary on November 14, 2023, with Dr. Marian Moore Lewis, author of Southern Sanctuary. We sauntered through the western side of the Sanctuary, observing and reflecting upon all manner of seasonal life we encountered from Hidden Spring to Jobala Pond to the wetland mitigation project underway in the mid-property meadows and fields. This Post focuses on Hidden Spring, still flowing strongly after an extended drought!

The Spring emerges from a dispersed upwelling near the Taylor Road entrance to the Sanctuary, at the foot of a 20-30 foot rise beyond which the highway runs. A wooden observation deck looks out over the thick vegetation blanketing the wetland head and obscuring a clear view of a clear point of emergence. The hillside is visible and then gradually the upland transitions to a wetland with marshy vegetation.


I was not expecting a full flow. I had measured just an inch and one-half of rain since mid-August. Already, the wetland vegetation is dormant, in spite of persistent late summer weather.

I recorded this 32-second video of Hidden Spring, capturing the lush dry-season saturation and the sounds of abundant bird activity:


Two sets of three mallards, both with two drakes and a hen, entertained us.


I keep hoping to spot a wood duck at the Sanctuary. Although I have visited repeatedly over the past five years, I have seen just one. Hidden Springs slowly reshapes with distance, shifting from an ill-defined wetland to marsh and then to a stream channel and eventually to open water at Jobala Pond.


We could not have wished for a better sky to accent the spring-head, marsh, stream, and pond images.


There are times when I feel compelled to offer observation and reflection narrative to these photo essays. I am content with this one to say little. My theme is simple. Nature is anything but static…across time and space. The Spring emerges, gains definition and volume, attracts vegetation and critters, creates a defined stream channel, occupies the Jobala Pond basin, and eventually finds its way to the Sanctuary-adjacent Flint River.


I am impressed that the Spring seems oblivious to a sustained drought, one the National Weather Service characterizes as Extreme. Drought or not, the emergent stream is perfectly capable of its own reflecting, working Nature-magic with the firmament above.


I recorded this 32-second video where the Spring occupies the old borrow pit basin, excavated when road engineers found rich deposits of clay, sand, and gravel suitable for mid-20th Century road construction nearby.


Jobala Pond has naturalized from its origin as a borrow pit, a raw dirt-sided basin filled with runoff and the year-round spring. I’ve seen photographs of the property’s 2007 donor in the pond as a three-year-old, surrounded by the vegetation-bare pit. Nature is, if nothing else, resilient.


Perhaps there were those who observed 70 years ago that the borrow pit was a blight on the landscape, a permanent scar from which no redemption could be found. Look at the marsh today. John Muir so eloquently captured Nature’s resilience…her insistence upon healing wounds, of the land and her creatures:

Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts.

I recorded this 36-second video of Jobala Pond, viewing north, swinging to the east along the trail, and then back to north.


I’ve learned that while I enjoy providing narrative (and have some pride in my own words), the brief videos express far more with only the accompanying gentle sounds of Nature.

Hidden Spring, and its gradual transition to marshland, pond, and stream, is a Sanctuary gift steeped in mystery, rich with ecosystem wonder, and blessed with a soul-soothing aura of life and living.

The mystery begs pondering and resolution. Where do the raindrops fall that the aquifer retains? How can this underground store enable the Spring to yield apparent full flow after three months of extreme drought?

The ecosystem wonder draws from Nature transforming a surface mine (the term is a bit more truthful than referring to the depression as a borrow pit, a softer, less permanent term). Nature’s healing has naturalized the landscape blemish.

I feel blessed every time I visit the Sanctuary, my mind schooled in reading the landscape…my spirit elevated by the gentle hand of Nature. As a young Nature enthusiast, I would have rejected the notion that a city-operated “sanctuary” could scratch my Nature wildness itch. I would have seen the term city wildlife sanctuary as a paradox, an anomaly, a self-contradiction. Today, I embrace the idea, accept the term, and celebrate that the City of Huntsville, Alabama manages these 400 acres as a prized wildlife sanctuary!

Thoughts and Reflections


I offer these observations:

  • Nature is always lovely, invincible, glad, whatever is done and suffered by her creatures. All scars she heals, whether in rocks or water or sky or hearts. (John Muir)
  • I feel blessed every time I visit the Sanctuary, my mind schooled in reading the landscape…my spirit elevated by the gentle hand of Nature.
  • Nature is anything but static…across time and space.

Inhale and absorb Nature’s elixir. May Nature Inspire, Inform, and Reward you!


Note: Unless otherwise noted, all blog post images are created & photographed by Stephen B. Jones. Please circulate images with photo credit: “©2024 Steve Jones, Great Blue Heron LLC. All Rights Reserved.”

Another Note: If you came to this post via a Facebook posting or by another route, please sign up now (no cost… no obligation) to receive my Blog Post email alerts: http://eepurl.com/cKLJdL

And Third: I am available for Nature-Inspired Speaking, Writing, and Consulting — contact me at steve.jones.0524@gmail.com


A reminder of my Personal and Professional Purpose, Passion, and Cause

If only more of us viewed our precious environment through the filters I employ. If only my mission and vision could be multiplied by untold orders of magnitude:

Mission: Employ writing and speaking to educate, inspire, and enable readers and listeners to understand, appreciate, and enjoy Nature… and accept and practice Earth Stewardship.


  • People of all ages will pay greater attention to and engage more regularly with Nature… and will accept and practice informed and responsible Earth Stewardship.
  • They will see their relationship to our natural world with new eyes… and understand their Earth home more clearly.

Tagline/Motto: Steve (Great Blue Heron) encourages and seeks a better tomorrow through Nature-Inspired Living!


Steve’s Three Books

I wrote my books Nature Based Leadership (2016), Nature-Inspired Learning and Leading (2017), and Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits: Stories of Passion for Place and Everyday Nature (2019; co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Wilhoit) to encourage all citizens to recognize and appreciate that every lesson for living, learning, serving, and leading is either written indelibly in or is powerfully inspired by Nature.

I began writing books and Posts for several reasons:

  • I love hiking and exploring Nature
  • I see images I want to (and do) capture with my trusty iPhone camera
  • I enjoy explaining those images — an educator at heart
  • I don’t play golf!
  • I do love writing — it’s the hobby I never needed when my career consumed me
  • Judy suggested my writing is in large measure my legacy to our two kids, our five grandkids, and all the unborn generations beyond
  • And finally, perhaps my books and Blogs could reach beyond family and touch a few other lives… sow some seeds for the future

Steve's Books


All three of my books (Nature Based LeadershipNature-Inspired Learning and LeadingWeaned Seals and Snowy Summits) present compilations of personal experiences expressing my (and co-author Dr. Wilhoit for Weaned Seals and Snowy Summits) deep passion for Nature. All three books offer observations and reflections on my relationship with the natural world… and the broader implications for society. Order any from your local indie bookstore, or find them on IndieBound or other online sources such as Amazon and LifeRich.

I now have a fourth book, published by Dutton Land and Cattle Company, Dutton Land & Cattle: A Land Legacy Story. Available for purchase directly from me. Watch for details in a future Post.