A Brief History of the Town of Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado by Yvonne Knox, President of the Grand County Historical Association
The Ute Indians discovered the healing waters of the Hot Sulphur Springs even before the first settlers arrived. They spent many summers in and out of the Middle Park area to enjoy the benefits of the water.
Hot Sulphur Springs is the oldest town in Grand County, Colorado. The settlers and pioneers began to arrive in the early 1800s. Some of them were drawn to the Grand Lake area because of the gold and silver in the mountains to the north and west. Old mining towns like Lulu City had several hundred residents at a time. As the mining and timber camps were so hard to survive through the winters, most people spent time going back and forth to the front range cities.
After the territory of Colorado became the state of Colorado and Grand County was mapped the county seat was designated as Grand Lake. This was changed in 1883 when a group of men decided that the county seat should be moved to Hot Sulphur Springs to be more centrally located.They met near the Grand Lake building where the three comissioners were in session. Soon there was a blazing gun battle. The three commisioners were all killed. The group of citizens then took all of the county records and delivered them to Hot Sulphur Springs. The county seat has remained in Hot Sulphur Springs.
The first court house was the small one that is presently located on the grounds of the Grand County Historical Association's Pioneer Village Museum. The county soon out grew the small building, and in 1903, a two-story frame building was built on the west end of the present site. By 1938, this building was too small so the two-story brick building was built. This was used until 1971 when the three-story annex was added. Now there is a separate jail building. In 2008 the Judicial Building was built to the south of the Court House (now called the Administration Building).
The railroad arrived in Hot Sulphur Springs in 1905. Soon the dispatcher in charge of all trains moving to and from Salt Lake City and Chicago was stationed in Hot Sulphur Springs. The railroad owned the property along the west side of the Grand River to the Hot Springs. Large work crews camped beside the long sidings. The area known as chute town at the east end of their property had a large bunkhouse and eating area. This was also where the trains could take on coal and water. The depot was located just east of the Hot Springs along the railroad track. The trains brought work crews, regular passenger service, special excursion trains to the Hot Springs and town, and created many full-time jobs for families of Hot Sulphur Springs. When the steam engines were replaced, the needs of the operation support changed too.
Hot Sulphur Springs is famous in the ski industry as having one of the first ski jumps.
A History of the Hot Sulphur Springs
Thirty-five thousand feet below the surface of the earth, the heat of volcanic rock is released through countless fissures that spread out through the earth's crust. In Hot Sulphur Springs, there are seven natural springs flowing above the largest fissure that have been flowing constantly for hundreds of years, surfacing at about 104-126°F. Over 200,000 gallons of natural hot mineral-rich water flow through our 22 mineral pools and baths every day at controlled temperatures of 95-112°F.
We do not add chemicals, filter or re-circulate our mineral water. Minerals in the water include sodium, sulfate, chloride, silica, potassium, calcium, fluoride, magnesium and trace elements of arsenic and lithium, all of which are good for the inside and outside of the body. There are no abrasive minerals or harmful elements in our water. Our water is drinkable as well.
The first inhabitants of the springs were the Ute Indians who used the hot springs for many years. They believed in the healing qualities of the waters and referred to them as "big medicine" and "magic waters," and bathed themselves, their horses and dogs, children and women in the water, in that order! The Ute Indians often set their winter hunting camps beneath the natural shelter offered by the bluffs enclosing Byers Canyon, which adjoins our property. In 1840 William Byers, for whom the canyon is named, became the first white man to discover the hot water at our little town, which he named Hot Sulphur Springs. Byers recognized the economic potential of the baths and the surrounding area. With the aid of the U.S. Cavalry and the courts, he acquired the land, somewhat deviously, from the Ute Tribe.
The resort has been continually operational for 140 years and in the 1920s to 1950s was one of the most popular hot springs resorts in the Rocky Mountain states. In 1997, after our extensive renovation, the Ute tribal spiritual leader blessed the waters at our opening ceremony that almost 1,000 people attended. The Ute Indians are welcome to use the springs once again. We are blessed by enjoying renewed recognition and attendance and are considered one of the best natural hot mineral springs resorts and spas in the country.
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