Mineral Springs of Manitou Springs, Colorado

December 13, 2023

Patti_epod_collage (002)

Photographer: Patti Weeks    

Summary Author: Patti Weeks  

This collage shows the eight artistic fonts for the mineral springs accessible to the public, along and near the National Historic District of Manitou Springs, Colorado. The springs’ long journey begins with rainwater and snowmelt from nearby mountains, including the well known 14,115-foot (4,303 m) Pikes Peak (known by the indigenous people as Tava-kaavi or Sun Mountain.) For millennia, the water has been seeping to great depths through cavernous hydraulic systems called karst aquifers. Dissolved limestone produces carbon dioxide along geologic faults, thus creating the springs’ effervescence. The water rises to the surface under natural pressure through an artesian process, picking up various minerals from the rocks. The white residue on some fonts is travertine from the deep limestone and dolomite millions of years old.

Each spring has a different mineral content, thus a distinct taste. Among some of the springs’ minerals are calcium bicarbonate, iron, manganese, sodium, zinc and even lithium. Click here for a chart with specific mineral content of each spring. After obtaining tasting cups and a map from the Chamber of Commerce, my adventurous friend and I sampled each spring on our self-guided tour along the 1.4-mile (2 km) walk. I can attest to the distinctiveness — and varying intensity  — of each spring!

For thousands of years, Native Americans — the Ute, Cheyenne and Arapaho among others — used the mineral springs for their healing properties, in both drinking and bathing. They viewed the springs as sacred, each with their unique spirit and medicinal benefits. After European settlers discovered the healing benefits of the mineral springs, they relocated the Native tribes and began to establish the community of Manitou Springs. In the 1870s, the town became a hub for treating diseases, such as tuberculosis, and spa resorts, hotels, boarding houses, and bathhouses were quickly established. Despite several economic recessions in the U.S., Manitou Springs boomed, meeting the demands of health seekers and satisfying the curiosity of tourists and celebrities about the “fabled west.”

The Springs shown in the collage, clockwise from the top are Shoshone, Stratton, Navajo, Cheyenne, 7 Minute, Twin, Iron and Wheeler Springs. The Shoshone Spring has the highest mineral content, and the 7 Minute Spring has the lowest. Cheyenne Spring is the oldest, believed to date back 20,000 years, and is sourced from limestone aquifers a mile below the surface. Photos taken October 6, 2023.


Mineral Springs, Colorado Coordinates: 38.1681, -105.9245

Related Links:

More About Manitou Mineral Springs

More About Mineral Springs Walking Tours