For centuries, the banks of the Suwannee River at White Springs were considered a sacred ground where people sought refuge in its 'healing waters'. Many believed that the mineral-enriched waters cured illnesses. The U.S. Geological Survey began continuous streamgaging activities at White Springs, Florida, in 1906 after an increase in congressional appropriations and rapid town development due to growing tourism and residential population. In 1906, streamgage data was a once-per-day gage reading that were handwritten in a water-level booklet by a local observer with discharge measurements taken every 6 to 8 weeks by a hydrographer. In 2006, real-time data were recorded at 1-hour increments and transmitted to U.S. Geological Survey computer networks using the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite, thus enabling the general public to access readings within minutes of the actual measurement. Additional data and measurements are taken and made available for high or low flows that occur during significant floods and droughts.
The gage at White Springs has recorded several historic hydrologic events that affected the Suwannee River and surrounding areas. Major droughts include those during 1931-35, 1949-57, and 1998-2002. Severe floods occurred in 1948, 1973, and 2004. On April 10, 1973, the discharge was 38,100 cubic feet per second, which is the highest recorded discharge for the period of record. A flood of this magnitude is expected at a recurrence interval of about once every 200 to 500 years.