Springs and Seeps

Cliff face covered with water
Seeps along Old Mine Road near Worthington State Forest in New Jersey.

NPS Photo

Seeps are areas where groundwater continuously surfaces and trickles down the face of a steep slope or rock outcrop. This tiny flow of water can support a surprisingly diverse community of tiny mosses, lichens, ferns and flowering plants that cling to the rough surface of the rock or slope. Seeps are often found along the uphill side of roads that hug the steep ridges bordering each side of the river.

A spring is an area where groundwater discharges onto the ground surface. The flow can be quite spectacular, as in an artesian well, or it can have the appearance of a small, still pool and only when you look closely do you see moving water. Springs can be found in a variety of places but most are associated with a slope of some sort, such as the lower face of a rolling hill, in the middle of an otherwise dry stream channel or in a broad, low-lying valley between two adjacent hills. Springs serve as a water source for almost every kind of wildlife, as well as early human settlements.


Backcountry water can contain microbes which can make humans sick, even if wildlife drink it without serious effects. All backcountry water, including spring water, should be treated before drinking.

Last updated: November 6, 2017

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