The mineral spring tour of Manitou Springs


As a side interest to soaking I am amused by historic mineral springs. (Already I've written about the lithia water fountain in Ashland, Oregon.) In the latter half of the 1800s, bathing and drinking mineral water was a serious national health craze. People were obsessed with the health benefits of mineral water. Following a fad that grew somewhat earlier out of Europe, Americans spent amazing amounts of time and money in the pursuit of health via mineral water.

Recently I was in Manitou Springs, Colorado attending my friend's event, Heinkelfest. Manitou Springs is a wonderfully kitschy historic resort town. It was built around the beautiful surroundings of the Colorado Rockies but a 100 years ago the main attraction were the numerous mineral springs/fountains that flowed throughout the little town. It was said that local Indians were attracted to the waters here for their healing properties. (Isn't this always the story with old mineral and hot springs?) Town boosters caught on to the national obsession with mineral water health and privately developed mineral water fountains to get on the health tourism craze. 

The great thing about Manitou was that the developers displayed a wonderful sense of democratic spirit by developing public mineral water fountains. Wells were drilled and the water that flowed was made accessible to anyone from store fronts and on public sidewalks. The water was free! Business owners figured once people were there they'd spend money on other things. 

Probably by around the 1950s the mineral water craze began to be forgotten for glitzier things, stuff like cars and television I suppose. The Manitou fountains fell into disrepair. Some were sealed off and forgotten.

In the 1987 an organization called the Manitou Springs Foundation was formed. Once again the motivation was town boosterism but the focus was with an historical and artistic bent. The organization set about to redevelop the historic fountains.  The association got the water flowing again where it was closed off or in disrepair. Part of their effort was to redevelop the fountains with newer public art. I find this a little disappointing. As a history buff I would have preferred to have had the old fountains either restored or recreated. The new art is nice but it already seems a little dated. It's sad to have a 1980s feel smeared over a place that still has so much of its 1880s to 1920s history still in place.

But never mind me, the organization did/does good things. They got the water flowing again and there are still some neat original fountains. 

During my brief visit I squeezed in a walking tour of Manitou Springs and spent some time locating some of the fountains and sampling the water. Each one did have different tasting water. A side benefit to using fountain search as a specific activity was that it made for a fun way to really see the town.

Here are some of the fountains I found:





Above are photos of Navajo Springs, I think one of the funner/quaint of the lot. Navajo Springs is located behind this place, Patsy's Candy Shop:

It's on the main street of Manitou Springs and behind it is the great historic arcade which has small shops, a game arcade and skee ball!


This is 7 Minute Springs and is probably the most ambitious project of the Mineral Springs Foundation. Here the non-profit built a loose recreation of an old historic pavilion. There once was a pavilion on the same spot. Today it is a public park. The fountain had an odd characterist of churning out water intermittently. Gas would spew for a few seconds and then water would flow for a few seconds. It was messy, loud and fun. One Manitou local exclaimed that this was his favorite water.


Twin Spring (above) is probably the most popular water according to taste. 


Stratton Spring




 This is Soda Springs. It's located inside an old recently-restored building just off of the historic arcade. For some reason the building owners rebuilt the spring so the water is inaccessible to the public. What gives?  Don't they get it?



The great thing about Wheeler Spring is that it is still in its original condition. It's a nice art nouveau fountain. Why didn't I get a better photo?


I found this one, Ute Chief, by car. It's located on a private residence. Oddly enough the house appears vacant and the water was not flowing.



Just to the right in the next lot over is the old bottling plant for Manitou Springs Mineral Water. I wasn't sure why it wasn't a going concern but I did find an interesting article that explains the situation. There certainly seems to be a lot of mineral water for sale in stores these days.


During my visit I brought a case of 12 22-ounce bottles and a bottle capper. I bottled my own water from Navajo Springs. (I liked the creepy mojo of the vintage arcade. Therefore, I figured, this water would have the most salutary effects.) Once I had the water home it didn't last very long.