Page 20 - PagosaMagazine
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Pagosa Magazine & Real Estate Guide | 2014-2015 Winter/Spring Edition

Local Legends and Tall Tales
A Fight to
Healing Waters the Death

The Ute Legend of how the Great Pahgosa Hot Spring The Battle for the Springs
was formed. (Note: Some spell it PAHGOSA, while others
spell it in PAGOSAH. Today it has evolved to PAGOSA.) Local legend tells the story of the
Local Utes believed that the gods were mad at them fight for the springs.
for some transgression or neglect. This brought on a great The Utes and Navajos had long been
sickness which the Medicine Men had no power to cure, battling each other for control of the
although each of them gathered their most potent plants. Great Pagosa Hot Springs. The Utes
When this did no good they exchanged plants with each finally decided that in order to resolve
other, hoping someone might effect a cure. They exhausted the conflict once and for all, a one-on-
their varieties and uses of plants but still the tribe died in one battle was to take place.
great numbers. Gathering a group of warriors, the
As a last resort they gathered the whole tribe together, Utes marched out to meet the Navajos a
from the furthest canons, and when they assembled on the few miles from the springs. A two-man
low ground above the river and below the hills that sur- battle idea was presented to the Nava-
rounded their campground, they selected a spot and built a jos, who agreed to pit their finest warrior
huge fire. against the fighter of the Utes’ choosing.
First the Medicine Men danced, then the tribe and then The Navajo brave was truly a splen-
the Medicine Men again. They kept this up until midnight did specimen, and intimidated the Ute
but when they got up the next morning they found the warriors, who were generally smaller in
ashes washed away and the large depression in which the stature.
fire had been built contained hot water. Upon bathing in A white man, Colonel Pfeiffer, had
this pool, their sickness was cured and from this effect the married into the tribe and was a great
spring was called Pahgosa meaning healing water. friend to the Utes. When the chiefs
According to this legend, the Utes let the tribes of the asked him to fight the Navajo brave,
Navajo and the Apache freely use it without hindrance for Pfeiffer agreed, stipulating that he would
they thought it was a gift of the gods and all were entitled to choose the weapons to be used: Bowie
partake of its healing power. Knives. The Navajo agreed, knowing
that Pfeiffer was even smaller than most
of the Ute braves.
Stripped to loincloths, the two men
circled and parried. The Navajo may
have had the advantage in reach, but
the white man was very quick. With a
sharp, fast movement, his knife left his
hand and was buried in the enemy’s
The many fights for possession of
the springs had ended. The Navajo
never again laid claim to the “Great Pah-
gosa”. When they did come to bathe in
the pools or bury themselves in hot mud,
it was by invitation only.
Colonel Pfeiffer’s grave is in the San
Luis Valley, where many of his descen-
dants still live today.

Buried Treasure

Fact or Fiction?

According to the story about 300 French explorers wandered unintentionally into
Spanish territory -- Pagosa Country.
There they mined and washed gold out of the streams until they had 300 bars but
by the time this was accomplished their numbers had greatly diminished. The altitude,
environmental factors and unfriendly natives reduced their party to only three men.
After talking it over they decided to bury the bars and plainly mark the location
so they could find it again after they returned from their base in Levanworth, Kansas.
Various duties prevented the three soldiers from returning for the gold before they died,
but not too long after their death, maps began to show up which supposedly located the
hiding place.
More than one location was pointed out on different maps, and more than one group
of people hunted for the gold. Many of these insisted that they were on the verge of
locating it, even finding the rocked-over caves of which the maps told.
Many of the early settlers here also embarked on treasure-finding expeditions, and it
has been hinted that at least one found it, but if that was so, he never owned up to it.
This legend is the origin of the names of both Treasure Mountain and Treasure Falls,
located east of Pagosa on Highway 160 and pictured above. Take the trail to the left of
the parking area at Treasure Falls for a great family-friendly hike that’s a little bit educa-
tional too!
So yes, we may have buried treasure in Pagosa Country, but we think the true trea-
sure lies in our great climate, friendly folks and unbeatable views.

treasure falls | photo by daniel ligon

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