The hot springs at Pagosa Springs has a long history of disputed ownership. The Utes and the Navajoes fought over territory for years and had finally come to an agreement that the San Juan River would serve as a dividing line between the two nations. The hot springs near the river was still a point of contention.
Legend tells us that to settle this dispute each tribe chose a warrior to represent them and they would fight to the death and the winner would own the spring. The Navajoe warrior was a huge man widely known for his fighting ability. The Utes chose a white man integrated into the tribe thru marriage and he was given his choice of weapons. He was known for his ability with a Bowie Knife and that was his weapon choice. As the struggle began he quickly threw the knife and it was buried to the hilt into the heart of the Navajoe. This is only legend but the Utes were the main tribe to use the hot spring.
In July of 1859 a group of Topographical Engineers discovered the spring and white men slowly began to discover the area and enjoy the healing warm waters of the springs. The Utes tolerated this intrusion in the summer time but refused to let them use the spring in the winter. The hot springs was the gathering place for the Indians in the winter.
In 1873 the United States acquired the land from the Utes with the Brunot Treaty. With this acquisition, white settlers began moving into the area and soon disputes began over ownership of the spring. In 1877 an Executive Order by the President of the United States designated one square mile with the hot spring in the exact center as a United States of America town site. It was platted in 1883 and in 1885 building lots were appraised and patents sold to individuals. In 1881 Thomas Blair erected the first public bath house on the banks of the San Juan River and ditches were constructed to carry the hot water to the site.
In 1885 Archuleta County was created. Pagosa Springs was incorporated in 1891 and became the county seat. The hot spring was the focal point of the town and the hot spring was looked at as a possible site for a health resort for people with all sorts of ills. In the early days the healing properties of the springs were highly touted and in fact the water coming from the spring is highly mineralized and cannot be discounted as to having medical benefits. Hydrotherapy is the use of warm or hot water for recuperative and healing purposes. This is one of the oldest forms of medical treatment known to man.
Pagosa Hot springs is the deepest hot spring in the world and no one really knows the actual depth. It has been determined it is at least 2500 feet deep but the bottom has never been reached. The water comes out of the ground at between 144 and 150 degrees and flows at approximately 700 gallons a minute. The hot water has been used to heat homes and commercial property alike for years. It has also given birth to an industry all it’s own for this little town. The Resort Industry.
Pagosa Springs has several resorts that use the incredible waters of the hot springs. They range from full hook up RV facilities to luxury beyond your wildness dreams. They are a perfect compliment to the ski hill just up the mountain. Ski all day and relax in the warm waters of the hot springs at night.