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.
Wolf Creek Pass, a name that would strike terror in the hearts of many truckers not so long ago. When this was a narrow two lane road over the snowiest pass in the state it was a nightmare for truckers and passenger cars alike. The Colorado Department of Transportation has worked miracles in the past few years and it is now a pass where caution is necessary in winter time but is safely maintained and very passable most of the time.
When the first pioneers came to Colorado it would take two to three weeks to cross over the pass with covered wagons. The early travelers followed trails that the Indians and wildlife had used for centuries. It took incredible back breaking work to make these trails passable for wagons and the bad news was that the trails would have to be rebuilt every spring after the winter storms would destroy all the earlier work.
Even when automobiles were first used and the trails were vastly improved from the pioneer days it would still take two days to a week for the early automobiles to negotiate the forty two mile journey from South Fork to Pagosa Springs. The pass tops out at 10,850 feet and to this day still receives an annual snow fall of 465 inches, the most snow of any area in Colorado. This range of mountains catches the fronts from southern California and conditions are just right for all of that moisture to be released as snow over southwest Colorado.
Continuous construction work for the past years has resulted in a mostly four lane highway that is one of the most beautiful drives in all of Colorado. The infamous pass is now relatively safe for truckers but still has several run away truck facilities for truckers who lose their brakes on the steep mountain inclines. This pass has all the modern snow removal equipment possible but sometimes Mother Nature’s fury makes it impossible to remove the snow as quickly as she can deposit it and the pass has to be closed for the snow removal.
All of this wonderful snow makes an incredible place for a skier’s paradise and that is exactly what is on the very top of Wolf Creek Pass, the Wolf Creek Ski Area. The 1600 acre ski area with seven lifts is now safely accessible from South Fork or Pagosa Springs thanks to the work of Colorado Department of Transportation.
The first snowfall of winter always takes you by surprise no matter how long you have lived in the mountains. I think it is probably a case of denial. You don’t want summer to end so you just refuse to admit that winter is coming.
It is always beautiful and you really enjoy the first fire in the fireplace. You only wish you didn’t need it. The Aspens are still gold at the lower altitudes and the white snow only accentuates the light shades of green and the golden shimmering leaves. The snow capped mountains behind the deep blue fall color of Lake San Cristobal is the most beautiful time of year for the lake.
It is also the time of year to be most careful when driving. The warm roads melt the snow and the sudden drop in temperature can cause “Black Ice” on the roads. This is a situation where clear ice form on the road and many people do not realize the dangerous conditions.
All of a sudden you realize many of the things you intended to do before the first snow are still undone. The fire wood is not all in, the hoses are not drained and are still in the yard. The timers for the watering system have not been removed. The vehicles you intended to cover have not been covered. The one remaining Hummingbird feeder that you left out for the sick and injured birds is still hanging. In our case much of the haying equipment at the ranch still needs to be cleaned from the late haying season. The ATVs need to be put away for the winter.
The first snowfall of the season is usually Mother Natures way of telling you, ”GET IT DONE”. If you are lucky the weather will warm for a week or two after the first snow and give you the opportunity to do all those things you should have already done.
We have lived in Lake City for 36 years and somehow it always happens. Thank goodness Mother Nature’s first snowfall has in most cases given me the opportunity to “GET IT DONE”.