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Travel Colorado - Salida and Buena Vista Hot Springs

Hot springs occur when water from rainfall percolates down through watershed areas, deep into the crust of the earth, and becomes heated from contact with volcanic forces. It then expands, rises up through fissures in the earth to become natural hot springs. Temperatures of this naturally-heated water are typical well above that of the surrounding ambient air. Over 30 million years ago, such volcanic forces in the Salida region led to the creation of hot springs throughout the Collegiate Range.

Geothermal Activity in the Upper Arkansas Valley

The presence of geothermal water is a clue to the Arkansas Valley's ancient geologic past. The valley runs between two long faults; water follows some of these faults, the paths placing it in contact with a heat source deep within the earth. The heat flow within the earth's crust in the Arkansas Valley is nearly triple that of normal heat in our planet's crust. These extraordinarily high temperatures when combined with the valley faults can deliver the water to great depths, heat the water and return it to the surface.

Although present day peoples enjoy the warm thermal waters of the region's hot springs, past populations such as the Ute and other Indians took pleasure in the hot springs of the Upper Arkansas Valley as well. The first European to discover the springs on Poncha Pass was Spaniard Juan Bautista de Anza. He recorded an estimate of "nearly 100" springs. Other early sojourners noted that there were about 40 springs. Presently, about 26 or 27 springs on Poncha Pass. Six of those springs feed the Salida Hot Springs Pool through a seven mile system of pipes.

The Poncha Springs have been delighting residents of the valley since the early 1860s. The City of Salida acquired the springs in the early 1930s. In 1936 work began to build the hot water delivery system to Salida and the receptacle pool. The project cost was about $160,000, most of which came from a Reconstruction Finance Corporation Loan.

With the new pool in operation, Salida promoted a swim-ski vacation package. Participants could ride the D&RG Railroad to Marshall Pass for skiing and were transported to the pool where they could refresh themselves with a swim or "sweat bath."

The pool was remodeled and repaired in 1975 after it was destroyed by a gas explosion. It reopened in 1977. In 2001, an extraordinarily wet spring snow storm dumped up to four feet of snow and crushed portions of the roof of the pool building. Again it was remodeled and reopened in August of 2002.

The Heywood springs along Chalk Creek now known as Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort were used by settlers as early as the 1860s. They were developed several decades ago and today have three large pools which are open to the public. The water in these pools comes from the ground at about 133 degrees F and is kept around 95 degrees F in the winter and a little bit cooler in the summer. Other hot springs in the area include the Hortense Hot Springs not far from the Mt. Princeton pools. This pool is purportedly the hottest geothermal spring in the state and leaves the ground at 185 degrees F.

The Cottonwood Hot Springs Resort (once called the Jump Steady Resort) to the west of Buena Vista on County Road 306 provides pools and hot tubs for its guests. These springs hosted a hotel and bathhouse in the 1870s.

Salida and Buena Vista Colorado Hot Springs

Cottonwood Hot Springs Inn & Spa
18999 CR 306
Buena Vista, Colorado
(719) 395-6434 or (719) 395-2102
www.cottonwood-hot-springs.com

Facilities include rock-lined soaking pools, sauna and private spas. The natural gravity- fed hot springs contain no chemicals. The Inn provides lodge rooms and cabins along Cottonwood Creek and it also offers massage--deep tissue to traditional Thai massage. No alcohol.

Joyful Journey Hot Springs
Moffat, CO
(719) 256-4328
www.joyfuljourneyhotsprings.com

Clear geothermal water, immaculate pools and stunning views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains  outside of Moffat, CO on CO 17.

Salida Hot Springs Pool
410 West US Hwy 50
Salida, CO 81201
(719) 539-6738
www.salidarec.com

Indoor Olympic size pool, private hot baths. Colorado's largest indoor hot springs pool provides crystal clear, odor free spring water piped in from Poncha Mountain. Also available for rent are hot baths enclosed in private rooms within the pool facility. The pool program offers aquacize sessions/lap swims, arthritis classes, swim lessons, public swims, senior rates, budget passes, towel and swimsuit rentals. Fall hours are 1 pm to 9 pm seven days a week.

Mt. Princeton Hot Springs Resort
15870 CR 162
Nathrop, CO 81236
(719) 395-2447 or (888) 395-7799
Pool Hours:
www.mtprinceton.com  

Located between the towns of Salida and Buena Vista. Over 30 natural creek side pools, three outdoor swimming pools, 300 foot water slide, spa facilities including massage therapy, hotel facilities, mountain bike rentals.

OLT - Valley View Hot Springs
64393 County Road GG
PO Box 65
Villa Grove, CO 81155
(719) 256-4315 
www.olt.org/vvhs    

Valley View Hot Springs is an interesting mix of old and new. The unspoiled beauty and the freedom of a clothing-optional environment contribute to Valley View's peaceful ambiance. It is a rustic and natural setting for soaking, swimming and camping. 

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All content ©1998-2016 Salida.com and Monty Holmes-monty@salida.com. Content written by Rita Washko (RMW Enterprises), technical and science writer.