Prospectors drilling for oil in San Carlos Park back in the 1960s didn’t hit black gold. But some people see the warm sulphur springs they discovered as even more valuable because of its reported health benefits.
Boring 1,000 feet straight down from the earth’s surface, the drillers tapped into an 82-degree Fahrenheit pool of artesian mineral water, which has been piped into two pools at the newly renovated Days Inn Spring Resort, located along U.S. 41 in San Carlos Park, between Naples and Fort Myers. Previously the pools were undeveloped and known primarily by locals, says resort manager Laurie Brown, 45.
“The water stinks at first,” she warns. “It smells like rotten eggs from the sulphur, but you get used to it really quickly. We are going to have the water professionally tested to find out the levels of sulphur, magnesium, zinc, and other minerals.”
The two sulphur pools now take center stage at the resort, where a grand opening celebration was held last weekend to kick off the season. Bathers can choose a domed pool enhanced by classical archways and columns or an adjoining open pool overlooking a spread of water lilies serving as launch pads for chubby frogs and graceful blue herons .
The open pool features a gently sloping ramp with handrails to make the water accessible to individuals with mobility challenges. A third pool is the standard chlorinated variety.
The freshly landscaped grounds also feature a tiki bar and several shaded picnic areas.
Traci Wagner of Deltona has been staying here since early May with her husband, who is managing the construction of the U.S. Postal Service renovation at Page Field, and their beagle-mix Bella.
“I’m in the sulphur pools every day I’m here,” says Wagner, a certified holistic health care practitioner. “The sulphur actually draws out the toxins. It’s been a big help with my fibromyalgia. I’ve also heard it’s helpful for treating wounds and scars, stings, and boils.”
Other pool visitors last week included William Smith of Naples, 75, who was sent to the pools by his daughter, a Naples chiropracter. He reports that his frequent soaks in the sulphur water have helped heal a to-the-bone cut on his shin, the result of a recent fall in his shed.
“I came here after I got no results from a wound care specialist,” Smith says. “That doctor said ‘Don’t get your leg wet,’ but I came here anyway. It’s really healing fast now.”
Dorothy and Roger Watts of Cape Coral were visiting the Days Inn Spring sulphur pool for the first time to seek relief for his chronic pain. Watts takes multiple medications including morphine and hopes the pool will eventually help wean him off his pain pills.
While the therapeutic benefits of sulphur and mineral water have been promoted in Europe for centuries as a therapy for arthritis and psoriasis, American physicians are less enthusiastic, citing a lack of scientific studies proving long-term benefits for the treatment of arthritis or psoriasis, an itchy, scaly skin condition affecting approximately two percent of the U.S. population.
Fort Myers dermatologist and plastic surgeon Dr. Charles Eby, M.D., 75, pulls up his sleeve to expose a ragged patch of psoriasis on his right arm, commenting, “Nothing’s worked on mine. You’ll find lots of anecdotal reports, but very few clinical trials” on sulphur water’s effect on psoriasis, he adds.
In an isolated 2002 study, researchers at the University of Siena (Italy) Institute of Dermatological Sciences followed 20 subjects with psoriasis covering at least 40 percent of their body mass. For four weeks, the volunteers took two 30-minute arm baths daily. Their left arms were immersed in double-distilled water, and their right arms were submerged in mineral water from Italy’s Leopoldine spa. The temperature was the same for both baths, about 81 degrees Fahrenheit, and both arms were exposed to one hour of sunlight after each soaking.
One month later, improvement measured using a standard evaluation scale was documented to be 50.5 percent in test subjects exposed to double-distilled water and 85.9 percent for patients who had taken daily baths in the mineral-rich spa water.
Medical assistant Kathy Eby recalls driving back behind the Days Inn Spring Resort, the former Best Western motel, “to see houses built in the shape of pyramids by an Austrian man who believed in the power of pyramids.”
Now, years later, resort manager Brown loves walking the property and getting acquainted with guests who have heard about the therapeutic benefits of warm sulphur baths. “I feel like Julie from ‘The Love Boat!’” she says. “I love making people happy here.”
Brown convinced resort owner Constandina Venetis of Chicago to allow local visitors to use the grounds all day for a $5, without checking into one of the resort’s rooms, which can be reserved for modest fees beginning at $64 for a standard double room and $75 for a king. Discounts such as AAA lower the rates even further, to $54.70 standard and $66.60 king, adds Brown.
“Bring a book and your swimsuit. Or bring your laptop and spend the day. We have excellent WI-FI on the property.”
If you go
Where: Days Inn Spring Resort, 18051 U.S. 41 S., San Carlos Park
Pool hours: Sun up to sundown
Admission: $5 day, $40 monthly pass