Rocket City’s Geographic Source.


The Rocket City. This is a positive nod to the space industry that has made this northern Alabama city famous. NASA has a presence in the city of Huntsville, AL. Florida isn’t the only place where NASA has a large presence. However, there is more to Huntsville than just the space industry.

To understand Huntsville and why it exists, let’s go to the source. Where does this city spring from? Well, a spring. A karst spring at that.


Photo: The beginning of Huntsville’s Big Spring.

That photo above is part of the Big Spring. And it is the source for which Huntsville’s geographic location springs up from. The Big Spring is an underwater karst spring. Many cities are built around coastal inlets, lakes, and large rivers. While Huntsville does touch the Tennessee River (and it’s the largest city in the Tennessee River Valley), this city was built around a karst spring. This is the largest karst spring in the state of Alabama. It is fitting that it was here where Twickenham (now known as Huntsville) was founded. The flow of this spring varies throughout the year, between 7 to 20 million gallons daily.

A karst spring is a type of spring that is included within the karst hydrological system. Water flows from underground, and emerges relatively quickly. The reason for relative quickness in water being transported above ground is the system of caverns. That is the conduit for which the water is moved through. A spring is essentially a focus point where water is forced above ground from an aquifer.


(Photo: Three Sisters Spring, Crystal River, Florida).

Huntsville was built around the Big Spring because the spring provided a source of drinking water. In fact, for many years, the Big Spring was Huntsville’s main source of drinking water. The irregular flow rate of karst springs, depending on the time of year, can often hinder a karst spring being a source of drinking water. However, in the case of the Big Spring, it was known for having a large flow.

The Big Spring would also be the site of a canal. The Indian Creek Canal (also called the Fearn Canal) was built to connect the Big Spring to the Tennessee River. With cotton being produced in the region, the canal was used to ship cotton to the Tennesee River. The canal was later made redundant thanks to railroads.


(Photo: Indian Creek Canal, Downtown Huntsville,AL.)

Today the Big Spring is part of a larger park. However, the Rocket City owes its beginning to the Big Spring. Its geographic location is due to the geographic feature formed out of karst topography, a factor in hydrology. NASA helped Huntsville get launched into the 21st century, but the Big Spring is where the source for which Huntsville began.


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