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Glenwood Springs
by Tara Becker

I recently had the opportunity to visit Glenwood Springs for the first time. And here’s what I learned…

The Ute Indians were the first people to call the Glenwood Springs home. And, the ones to discover the phenomenal therapeutic powers of the hot water surfacing from a spring in Glenwood Canyon and they called these waters Yampah, roughly translated means “Big Medicine”. For them, the springs were not only a source of physical healing, but these early Colorado residents believed it to also provide mental and spiritual nourishment. They would soak in the hot water pools and underground vapor caves to strengthen their spirits and resolve.

Explorer Captain Richard Sopris was the first white man to proclaim Yampah Hot Springs in the mid-1800’s. News quickly spread of the miraculous waters attracting travelers and businessmen equally dreaming of a world-class resort. In 1886 with the purchase of the springs and 10 acres of land, plans were launched to build the largest hot springs pool in the world. By 1888, the first pool, known as the Natatorium, was 615 feet long and 75 feet wide with a large fountain at the deep end. The grand bath house, constructed of peachblow sandstone mined from the neighboring Frying Pan River area was completed in 1890, equipped with private porcelain bathtubs, Roman vapor baths, 44 bath rooms with dressing and lounging rooms, a ladies’ parlor, physician’s office, gymnasium for “Swedish movements”, plus smoking and reading rooms and an exclusive casino that attracted an elite clientele.

With the completion of the Hotel Colorado in 1893, Glenwood Springs rapidly grew into a world-renowned resort destination catching the attention of the affluent. Dubbed “Spa In The Rockies”, Glenwood Springs soon was playing host to presidents, U.S. Senators, movie stars and European dignitaries fulfilling the vision one of the town’s premier founding fathers, Walter Deveraux. Among the many prominent guests was President Theodore Roosevelt who took up summer residence at the Hotel Colorado, referring to it as the “Summer White House”. Other guests included Baby Doe Tabor, President William Taft, the Unsinkable Molly Brown, the Mayo Brothers and gangster Al Capone.

The Glenwood Hot Springs has undergone many changes over the years. During World War II, the Hotel Colorado and bath house served as a U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital and was not open to the public. After the war, the bath house was converted to a private hospital until 1950. After which time, it was then converted to a hotel called The Hot Springs Lodge.

Then in 1956, a group of businessmen purchased the Hot Springs Lodge and Pool and in 1960 the hot springs pools were renovated and a filtration system was installed. In the 1970’s, it received yet another “face lift” involving several physical improvements to the complex.

The pool currently measures over two blocks long with the heated waters of 90°-93°F (32°-34°C) in the large pool and 104°F (40°C) in the smaller, therapy pool. Two water slides, inner tubes, diving boards, and bubble chairs bring out the kid in everyone. The sophisticated, yet comfortable and welcoming, Spa Of The Rockies housed in the historic sandstone bath house focuses on wellness and natural health practices, which have a deep-rooted history at Glenwood Hot Springs.

People have been “taking the waters” at the natural hot springs that supply the Glenwood Hot Springs for centuries. The practice of using natural mineral water for the treatment or cure of disease is known as “balneology”. Soaking in highly concentrated mineral water is thought to have several health benefits such as increasing body temperature thus killing harmful germs and viruses, eliminating toxins, increasing blood flow and circulation, increasing metabolism, and absorption of essential minerals. Many have come to the Glenwood Hot Springs to treat their ailments. One of Glenwood’s infamous guests was Doc Holliday. John Henry Holliday, DDS came to Glenwood Springs with hopes that soaking in the hot springs would cure his advanced stage of tuberculosis. Unfortunately, the rich mineral spring water wasn’t able to restore his health.

Today, heat from the waters continues to have a relaxing, soothing effect on muscles and the mind. The Yampah Spring flows at 3,500,000 gallons per day at a temperature of 122° F (51°C), one of the hottest in the world, and is cooled to 104°F (40°C) before it is piped in to the Glenwood Hot Springs therapy pool.

Since Glenwood Hot Springs is open year-round, you can enjoy the facilities no matter what the temperature outside. Locals delight in basking in the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool in the winter, when the outside temperatures are tepid and steam rolls upward, which is what I enjoyed immensely. So, I canapostrophet recommend enough experiencing Glenwood Springs for yourself.