ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Radium SPrings in Albany, Georgia
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Radium Springs in Albany, Georgia
The remains of the historic 1920s casino have been
converted into an attractive garden entrance
to the spring area.
The spring gained its name
when traces of naturally
occurring radium were found
in its water.
Casino at Radium Springs
The base of the historic
casino still survives, along
with many of its decorative
Radium Springs Gardens & Historic Site - Albany, Georgia
Georgia's Largest Natural Spring
|Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
All rights reserved.
Historic View of the Casino
The base of the casino seen
in the photo above can be
seen here in the top of this
historic image of the springs.
Georgia's Largest Spring
The spring run that flows from
Radium Spring carries
70,000 gallons of water per
minute into the Flint River.
Pouring out 70,000 gallons of clear, fresh
water per minute, Radium Springs is one of
the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia.
Located on the east side of the Flint River at
Albany, the spring is now preserved as an
ecological and environmental park. Although
swimming is no longer allowed in the spring,
it served that purpose for many years and
once was one of Georgia's most popular
Radium Springs was well known to both
prehistoric and later Creek Indians, who lived
and hunted in the surrounding area while
fishing in the crystal clear water. The men of
Hernando de Soto's expedition mentioned
passing a similar South Georgia spring in
1540 and other early accounts described
how Indians paddled their canoes on such
By the time English settlers arrived in South
Carolina and Georgia, the area around
Albany was controlled by the Lower Creeks
and early accounts mention the magnificent
spring. Explorers and later settlers marveled
at the depth, constant 68 degree temperature
and clarity of the water. Large fish could be
seen swimming far below the surface and a
large population of wild animals lived in the
area around the spring.
A popular swimming hole and fishing spot
for generations, the spring was initially
known as Blue Spring. Blue hole springs, so
named because they appear deep and
marvelously blue in color, are major sources
of the Flint River. The Flint RiverQuarium on
the nearby Albany riverfront includes an
outstanding display of the more than 120
varieties of fish and reptiles that live in such
springs. Please click here to learn more.
Despite its long history as a local spot for
fishing and swimming, it was an unexpected
discovery in the early 20th century that made
it a prominent resort. Testing revealed that
the water flowing from the spring contained
traces of radium.
A chemical element discovered in 1898 in
France by Marie and Pierre Curie, radium is
1,000 more times radioactive than uranium. It
occurs naturally in certain types of earth and
is extremely rare. Uniquely, it is luminescent
and glows in a faint blue color.
Bathing in mineral waters was believed in
the 19th and early 20th centuries to be a way
of improving the health of people suffering a
variety of illnesses. Warm Springs, located
100 miles or so to the north on the slopes of
Pine Mountain, was already a popular health
resort by the early 1900s. Blue Springs was
renamed Radium Springs as the first step in
its development as a major resort.
The discovery of radium traces in the water
was made by analysts working for Barron G.
Collier, a noted developer and national figure
of the early 20th century. Collier County in
Florida is named in his honor. In 1925 he
purchased the springs and began work on a
major development there.
Collier's plans for Radium Springs were
magnificent and it is was reported at the time
that he spent nearly $1,000,000 on the
project there. It was an amazing sum for the
The development included a casino and
bathhouses overlooking the spring, a hotel
named the Skywater (after the supposed
Creek Indian name for the spring), cottages,
riding and walking trails and one of the finest
golf courses in the South.
The resort opened to the public in 1927 and
was an instant success. Guests came by
train to Albany from across the country to
soak in the waters and enjoy the other
On June 23, 1927, one of the greatest games
of golf in the history of Georgia took place on
the new course at Radium Springs. Famed
amateur and British Open champion Bobby
Jones played an exhibition with Australian
golfer and "trick shot" artist Joe Kirkwood.
Kirkwood beat Bobby Jones in the Radium
Springs exhibition, coming in 6 under par
while Jones finished five strokes back. The
victory inspired Kirkwood to challenge Jones
in the 1927 British Open. Jones won the
open by 6 strokes, with Kirkwood finishing
The Great Depression led to the closure of
Radium Springs in 1939. The golf course
reopened under lease in 1941 and the entire
complex was acquired by a group of local
investors in 1944. Over the years it opened
and closed several times.
The spring was still a popular swimming
place for Albany area residents until 1994
when the casino and other historic structures
suffered heavy damage in the Tropical Storm
Alberto flooding. A second flood inflicted even
more damage in 1998. Sadly, the casino was
too severely damaged to save. The property
and remains of the spring area of the resort,
however, were acquired by state and local
Radium Springs Gardens, a beautiful historic
site and botanical garden, opened in 2010.
The park is located on Radium Springs Road
in Albany, Georgia, and is open to the public
Tuesday - Saturday from 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. and
on Sundays from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
There are gardens, walkways, interpretive
panels, spectacular natural beauty and the
ruins of the historic resort. Swimming is no
longer allowed. The park is free to visit.
The gardens are closed on Mondays.