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Area History


The Ute tribe would travel to the site of Pagosa Springs to bathe in the waters, to which they attributed vast healing powers, especially for stomach ailments, rheumatism, and skin disorders. They called the spring Pah Gosah, which means Water with a Bad Smell, referring to the strong sulfur content of the water. The spring is now considered to be the deepest and hottest natural spring in the world and is highly mineralized with over 3.600 parts per million of sulfated residues.

A 1790 French expedition first found gold on Treasure Mountain, near the site where the town of Pagosa Springs would one day stand. Captain J. N. McComb led an expedition to the region in 1859 and produced the first map of this area. J. S. Newberry, a geologist accompanying McComb's expedition wrote that the local spring was "well known, even famous, among the Indian tribes. There is scarcely a more beautiful place on the face of the earth."

Fort Lewis was built in 1878 to administer the ongoing hostilities with the Ute tribe. A town site around the springs was established to provide winter habitation for various travelers, settlers, and miners in the area. By 1885, land lots were being auctioned off in Pagosa Springs and the building began on the long block of downtown, which faces the river. By 1891, the incorporated town was thriving with an economy based on lumbering, coal mining, and ranching.

A 31-mile railroad was completed in 1900, but the line was abandoned in 1936. The town suffered through the Depression and barely survived until 1950, when the Giordano family purchased the Spa at Pagosa Springs and began a hearty expansion, drawing hundreds, then thousands, of tourists to enjoy the therapeutic mineral waters. Other area attractions include the Wolf Creek Ski Area, as well as superb golf opportunities. Summer time is truly a wonder as the high mountains to the north and east create a rain shadow effect, so it is blessed with an unusually mild climate for the altitude.

The area's popularity as a tourist haven is marked by the fact that the majority of the residences in the town with a population of 1,600 and the surrounding county of Archuleta of over 12,000 are second homes, owned by people who have primary residences elsewhere.

Piedra Falls 10 Miles North of Pagosa Springs, Colorado.