Do you ever stumble across something you never knew about before but suddenly become super passionate about? I do that at least twenty times a day, and my latest passion is something you’d probably never guess: Indiana’s free artesian wells.
To be fair, 99% of you are probably asking: WTF is an artesian well?
Artesian wells, very simply, are wells that occur when water reaches the surface due to its own natural pressure. No pumping, no fuss… just a free-flowing well hanging out in the middle of nowhere due to its supreme convenience.
The whole interest in these wells started when I stumbled across Kay Westhues’ beautiful photography project on these natural wells, all located (and widely used!) in Indiana during a time when – frankly – most people wouldn’t even entertain the notion of getting their water from a well.
What can I say? I spend a lot of time researching a ton of offbeat travel ideas for this blog and my own selfish pleasure. Everyone needs hobbies.
As Westhues’ artist statement remarks:
They [the wells] represent a vestige of the public commons, and often mark very early human settlements.
I am fascinated by the local culture that has grown around these wells and am photographing both the wells and the people who gather water there. Some say they make the trip simply because they like the taste of well water, while others tell me they do not have access to good water in their homes.
She spent a year traveling around Indiana, snapping photos and interviewing the people who used these wells. I, obviously, went down the rabbit hole: I spent several days trawling her site, many other sites, and virtually “driving” through random parts of Indiana on Google Maps in order to pinpoint the wells she visited – and more.
Why, exactly? (Aside from my obsessive nature?) The whole concept of artesian wells resonated with me for several reasons.
First, I love the idea of feeling more connected to the land I live on. If we care so much about sourcing goods and food locally/sustainably/naturally, why not water? The idea of finding pure, publicly available water strikes a real chord with me. Not only is the water free of the weird taste that comes with treated water, but it’s an amazing way to feel connected to the history of the land as well as the land itself.
Second, these wells are not in heavily populated regions; obviously, progress long destroyed many of the artesian wells which once existed in Indiana. The big perk of that – for me, at least – is that the wells give me an excellent reason to take a road trip to places most people would never see.
Scenic byways, half-forgotten towns, beautiful countryside… what more could you want when on the hunt for fresh, clean water?
If you’re picking up what I’m putting down, why don’t you toss a couple of bottles in your car, take a leisurely drive into the countryside, and check out a cool facet of rural life you might normally pass by – or never pass at all.
Artesian wells near Indianapolis
Many of the wells are several hours away from Indianapolis, so I’ve included the ones I’ve found which are within an hour-ish of the city in the Google map below:
To see if there’s a well near you, check out this site. Come back and let me know if you’ve ever been to one of Indiana’s free artesian wells or plan to visit one near you!