The Ute Indians were one of the American Indian tribes that once claimed ownership of the Great Pagosa Hot Springs. They called the springs “Pah gosah,” a term which has been variously translated in recent years as meaning “boiling water” or “healing water.” However, a Ute elder once suggested that a more accurate translation would be “water that has a strong smell.”
The “strong smell”of the Great Pagosa Hot Springs derives from its remarkably high mineral content (click here for chart) which many believe gives the water its naturally therapeutic value.
The Native Americans of the Four Corners area staged numerous wars and skirmishes over the ownership of the Hot Springs, so highly did they regard the importance of its healing powers. It appears, however, that no Indian tribe ever settled in the immediate vicinity of the Springs.
The ownership of the Springs has changed numerous times since the town of Pagosa Springs has been settled. Various bath houses have come and gone along its banks, and numerous entrepreneurs have sought to profit from selling its benefits to the public. Today, three spas make use of water from the same heated underground aquifer which feeds the Great Pagosa Hot Springs: the Springs Resort, with 23 naturally-heated, family-sized outdoor pools of different temperatures, and, just across the street, the Healing Waters Resort and Spa, which has a year-round heated outdoor swimming pool, as well as men’s and women’s indoor hot baths, and the Overlook Mineral Springs Spa has rooftop pools and indoor tubs.
The Great Pagosa Hot Springs itself is – at 145 degrees Fahrenheit – much too warm for safe human use, but it’s a popular visitor attraction nevertheless. It’s located just a short walk from the Pagosa Springs Post Office, behind the Springs Resort, on Hot Springs Blvd. A walking path leads to the Springs, where the town has erected informational signage explaining the brief history of the Springs.
The Town of Pagosa Springs has created three fountains along the San Juan River Walk, which utilize the highly mineralized geothermal water.