Springs and Seeps
As the surface exit points for water traveling underground, springs and seeps in Vicksburg National Military Park are greatly influenced by the geology of the park’s landscape. Occurring in the rolling or hilly topography of the loess bluffs, they originate from groundwater percolating through the soil and emerging from the ground on the lower slopes, developing into small streams or pooled water.
The major stream drainages in the park are fed by springs which maintain a constant waterflow, even though speed and depth will vary over the year. Springs and seeps provide important habitat for many amphibians and reptiles, including spotted dusky salamanders (Desmognathus conanti) and box turtles (Terrapene carolina), which forage in the shallow waters and often rehydrate themselves in these areas before traveling through drier, upland territory.
Natural springs are important, reliable sources of clean, high-quality groundwater, flowing at relatively constant rates and temperatures, and the vegetation around these water courses is crucial in providing buffers for external impacts. They can be dependable water supplies, particularly during drought periods. Fouling of springs and associated waterways caused severe hardship for the citizens of Vicksburg during the siege, as General Grant made a concerted effort to destroy this vital source of water for the city.
Nowadays, park staff maintain a constant vigil to prevent detrimental surface effects (i.e., pesticide contamination, dumping), which may, in turn, harm springs, seeps, and other downstream features.
Did You Know?
Thomas O. Selfridge, captain of the USS Cairo, commanded three boats which sank during the war. Each began with the letter "C"-Cumberland, Cairo, and Conestoga. The coincidence was noted after the Conestoga sank, and Selfridge was assigned to the USS Osage, which survived to the end of the war.