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The Pagosa Magazine & Real Estate Guide | 2014-2015 Winter/Spring Edition

The Great Pagosa photo by west davies
Hot Springs:

A Cultural History

Bathe in the Great Hot Springs and punctuated with smaller vents and the The Springs Resort, pictured
join in a tradition perhaps 10,000 years surface was crumbly mineral deposits. above and to the left, provides a
old. There is no way we can know who White men filled much of this area with year-round soaking experience
first found and used the Great Pagosa soil in order to build bath houses and
Hot Spring. We know about the Fulsom walkways. It was reported that some for Resort guests and the
People, who lightly populated the area of the smaller vents emitted vapor, and general public alike. Several
south of Pagosa Country back to 10,000+ others were filled with hot water. other businesses and spas offer
years ago. A spear point and a shelter soaking in geothermally heated
foundation have been found near Pagosa The Native Americans had such a waters, including Healing Waters
that may date to 9,000 years. Surely we high reverence for the spring that when a Resort and Spa at 317 Hot
can surmise that the early people who duel was fought for spring ownership, the Springs Blvd. and The Overlook,
entered this area partook of the pleasures fight was held about four miles to the west on Main Street. Here, the steam
of hot spring bathing. – completely out of sight of the spring. from the hot water builds and
A historic marker on US highway 160
Pre-Columbian Native Americans denotes the site. Native Americans used billows on colder days.
were generally a fastidiously clean people. the waters, the vapors, and mineral mud
They bathed so often that early European for relaxing, spiritual and therapeutic Pagosa natives told the story of what
explorers made fun of them in reports sent purposes. Bathing in the water or pouring a grand occasion local ladies made of
back to Europe. (Sixteenth Century white it over the body from a pottery pot was their bathing time. They wore undies or
Europeans were not frequent bathers.) common. Individual Indians sat near mail-ordered bathing suits. Evidently they
Over the centuries it is likely that many vapor vents with blankets over their heads developed a hot spring fashion with “highly
Indian tribes came to the hot springs in and bodies to trap the vapors for breathing decorative undies.” They also had lavish
summer as they hunted nearby mountains and sweating. They built Hogan-like luncheons and a grand time.
for food and fur. structures over small vents making sweat
rooms. The mud was used by smearing it Over the years many stories have been
The Anasazi lived near the spring a on the body and by packing it around the told of miracle cures of the Great Pagosa
thousand years ago. They settled along body. Hot Spring. People with various maladies
the San Juan River to the south and used carried to the spring on stretchers and in
the hot waters. Worthe Crouse, a local When white men settled the area wagons left walking or riding horse back,
historian, once related a story that during they fashioned a succession of bathing feeling rejuvenated.
the 1950s a hand-dug well in the area had facilities. At first they used the spring
to be dynamited. The resulting explosion much as the Indians did, but soon extra So, go on, take the plunge. Soak
in the underground aquifers caused pools were dug and bathing tubs were in the waters and partake of an age-old
the spring to burp-up Anasazi pottery built. Eventually, these were sheltered, experience.
shards. and it was said that every family in the
area had its own bath house. Soon public
The Anasazi Indians evolved to bath houses developed and Pagosa
become the Pueblo Indians who today became a health and recreation attraction
remain in their homeland in New Mexico for gold miners of the San Juan and for
and Arizona. The evolutionary step lame Civil War soldiers traveling from the
between Anasazi and Pueblo Indians was United States.
the great drought of 1275-1300, which
forced a migration from a vast homeland Pagosa’s Chamber of Commerce
to a smaller area along the Rio Grande building is patterned after a bathhouse
River. Evidently some of the Anasazi built in 1881. Most bath-houses and
who lived in or visited Pagosa Country hotels along Main Street had their own
migrated to the Taos Pueblo area of New hot spring pools fed by hot spring wells or
Mexico. There is a strong reference in directed spring vents. Some had different
Taos legend to Chimney Rock, which was schedules for men and women, and others
an Anasazi settlement. Also, a reporter had different facilities for each gender, a
from the National Geographic Magazine tradition continued today by “The Healing
once brought a Taos Pueblo Indian to the Waters Resort and Spa.”
Pagosa springs. The man sank to his
knees, and when feeling the earth and
water, said that he felt as if he had come

We can guess the prehistoric
Indians used the spring much like the
Indians did when history was first recorded
in 1859 by Captain John Macomb. The
spring was a holy site and a place of
peace, even for tribes otherwise at odds.
Various people from Ute, Navajo, and
Pueblo tribes, and others came on “well
worn paths” to the spring.

They used the spring in a variety
of ways. The topography has changed
over the last century as the white man’s
developments around the spring have
evolved. The major vent is much as it was
before the whites came to the area. The
area surrounding the major vent was once

Jim Smith Realty | 970-264-3200 | | | 445 San Juan Street | PO Box 1680 | Pagosa Springs, Colorado 81147 13
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