Iron Springs / Iron Springs Geyser
~ 515 Ruxton Avenue, Manitou Springs, Colorado ~
Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Techno Tink Research
Way up towards the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad and Dinner Theater is the historic “Iron Springs” or “Iron Springs Geyser”. Originally a natural spring that was drilled deeper making it a active geyser has played a strong role in Manitou’s history. It was a hot spot for medicinal therapy for those who suffered from iron deficiency especially during the 1880s. It was a location that was a daily long up-hill exercise hike of health for numerous patients. In 1900, Joseph G. Heistand purchased the Ute Iron Spring, developed the pavilion, and built the nearby Iron Springs Hotel. When it was drilled in 1910 by Joseph Hiestand for his patients, it became a geyser. He saw the benefit of drinking the foul-tasting high iron waters as a prescription to those suffering iron deficiency. He fitted the geyser and spring with a hand-blown glass font showcasing its effervescent waters housed under a hip-roof style Pavillion.
The waters gained the nickname “chalybeate water” and contains high levels of iron, sulfate, fluoride, silica, sodium, and potassium. Silica from the springs also is known to promote beauty, strengthen nails, hair, and skin. Once a geiser, it erupted every half hour propelling 8 feet above the top of the drill pipe. Many describe the taste of the waters to be very foul, iron-rich as if drinking blood. This spring has been also called the “Only Chalybeate Springs in the West” and the “Strongest of Tonics.” The pavilion enclosing the geyser is said to be the oldest structure sheltering a mineral spring in the state of Colorado. At one time, Joseph G. Heistand had curios and rock shop at this site. Artisan Steve Wood is responsible for the current font, alluding to the Ute Pass fault and the resulting springs and properties of iron, magnetism, rusting, metabolism, and the richness of colors derived from ferrous materials into his artwork. He has it symbolizing the energy and force beneath one’s feet at this geologic intersection of the Ute Pass and Englemann Canyon faults. The area is named after the spring and is called the “Iron Springs” neighborhood of Manitou along Ruxton, in lower Englemann Canyon, along Ruxton Creek. It is here where one can find the Paul Intemann Memorial Nature Trail, the Barr Trail, the Pikes Peak Cog Railroad, the Theater, and formerly a hotel resort.
A pavilion was built over the spring in the 1870s, then in the 1880s the Iron Springs Company purchased the spring and built an Adirondack style wood pavilion over it and bottled the water until it was sold to Joseph G. Hiestand in 1887. In 1880 there was built a candy and cigar store next to the Spring. Hiestand then tore down the pavilion and rebuilt it as a two-story structure, the top floor of which was a photographic gallery. He also collected and stored over 40 tons of items here, including rocks and gems, a massive petrified wood collection, and other mineral specimens he sold in his store established in 1890 here.
When Heistand died in 1916, the spring was capped and the Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama Theater was built over the Spring. The public spring was moved downhill a bit and reopened at a later date. The Iron spring was capped in 1964 upon the construction of the Iron Springs Chateau Melodrama Dinner Theater. Upstream is another spring called the Lower Englemann Canyon spring or Ouray spring that was at the mouth of the canyon and site of the Iron Springs Hotel. There was also the Ute-Iron and Little Chief Springs.
|Total Dissolved Solids
Mineral spring comparison chart
The little touristy village of Manitou Springs is most famous for its mineral springs that well up through eight (previously 10, upwards of 50) fonts peppered throughout the town. These springs are free to visit and each holds its own variation of minerals, magic, folklore, and healing properties that visitors sought throughout the ages. Each has its unique flavor, natural carbonation, and effervescence. This valley was originally heavily frequented by various Native American tribes who visited fountain creek and its natural springs for its healing magic, offering homage and great respect to the spiritual powers that dwell here. They believed these magical springs were the gift of the Great Spirit Manitou, after which the town and valley were named. They brought their sick here for healing. The aboriginal inhabitants and visitors of the area called the “Great Spirit” as “Manitou”, and felt these mineral springs was its breath, as the source of the bubbles in the spring water.
This made the waters and grounds extremely sacred. The Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and many other tribes came here to partake of the great spirit’s breath. They would heal their sick here, collect the waters, stay for winters, and share in the waters as an area of peace where no conflict was allowed. There were believed to have been 10 natural springs in the valley. The Euro-Americans caused conflicts and skirmishes with the Natives, pushing them out, so they could utilize the valley for business, resort, tourism, and commerce. It is said, after the Natives left, they cursed the area for the Whites that no business will ever succeed there. Ever since it has been an ever-changing valley with businesses coming and going, failing and closing, with new ones coming in and replacing those that left.
One of the first white explorers to record the waters was Stephen Harriman Long in 1820. The expedition’s botanist and geologist Edwin James recorded in detail the healing nature of the waters. The explorer George Frederick Ruxton wrote in his travel about these “boiling waters” as well and that “… the basin of the spring was filled with beads and wampum, pieces of red cloth and knives, while the surrounding trees were hung with strips of deerskin, cloth, and moccasins”. This is a common practice to leave such similar objects, items, and cultural artifacts around the world at magical and healing springs, wells, and bodies of water.
Nearly 50 years later, Dr. William Abraham Bell and General William Jackson Palmer made plans to develop a health resort here during the Civil War with “a vision of dreamy summer villas nestled in the mountains with grand hotels and landscaped parks clustered around the springs” that they called “Fountain Colony” and “La Font”. It became Colorado’s first resort town. By 1871 white settlers came in and began developing the area for tourism, health care, and profit. A resort was soon developed here taking advantage of the waters and incorporating them into medicinal and healing water therapies. This brought great prosperity to the region. By 1873, a developer by the name of Henry McAllister who worked for Palmer, spread the news about the medicinal benefits of the Springs and pushed for it to become a spa resort including “incomparable climate and scenery” as its backdrop.
Then came various medicinal practitioners, such as Doctor Edwin Solly who pushed the area as a resort for healing and therapy, preaching the combined waters to drink, soak in, and breath of the pure air mixed with the sunny climate would be the most effective prescription to treat tuberculosis. The commercial businesses began to lay claim to the various springs, enclosing some of them as the village grew.
The first of which was the Cheyenne Spring House was established as a red sandstone bricked conical roofed structure. Over 50 wells and springs were drilled shortly after, many of which were enclosed. Once popularity disappeared and “dried up”, many of these springs were capped, paved over, and closed. However as the fad died, medical centers and hospitals around the United States improved, Manitou became forgotten and suffered abandonment.
The Mineral Springs Foundation was formed in 1987 as an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit to protect, improve, maintain, and manage the springs targeting to restore some of the springs and promote the popularity once again. They host walking tours called “Springabouts” every Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, beginning downtown, and can be arranged by visited the Tourist center or calling 719-685-5089. The visitor center will provide maps, brochures, detailed content charts, and sampling cups upon request. They can also be found on their website at http://www.manitoumineralsprings.org.
The series of springs has been developed as a National Register of Historic Places district and is located in one of the country’s largest districts of its kind. It was originally called the “Saratoga of the West” and established as a resort community within a spectacular setting at the edge of the Rocky Mountains along the base of Pikes Peak. Numerous bottling companies moved into the area making a profit on the waters, the most famous of which was “Manitou Springs water” and was sold globally.
Geology: The waters come from two original sources in the Rampart Range and Ute Pass, these “deep-seated waters” travel through limestone caverns and drainage systems created by karst aquifers. The water dissolves the limestone and absorbs carbonic acid, carbon dioxide, and other minerals that make it “effervescent” or slightly naturally carbonated. It is heated by volcanic and inner core processes. Through time, the waters return to the surface naturally by means of an artesian process rising to the surface, collecting soda, minerals, and sodium bicarbonate upwards. The other source of the waters is from Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon, snowmelt, rainwater, and surface waters. The warm water then flows up into a limestone cavern where it becomes carbonated and springs forth to the surface in natural as well as human drilled locations. Most of these waters take thousands of years to complete their voyage from the mountain snow-capped peaks down to inner earth and back up to the surface – freeing its content and solutions from being affected by industry, development, and atmospheric contamination.
The Springs of Manitou:
- Cheyenne Spring – https://naiads.org/cheyenne-spring-manitou-springs-colorado/
This natural sweet soda spring comes up from limestone aquifers and is believed to be over 20,000 years old.
- Iron Spring – https://naiads.org/iron-spring-manitou-springs-colorado/
The Iron spring is named after its harsh foul iron-tasting flavor and content. It was a man-made spring drilled in the 1800s and prescribed to patients for iron deficiency.
- Lithia / Twin Spring –
This is a combined location of two man-made drilled springs – Twin Springs and Lithia Springs. It is popular for its Lithium content and its sweet taste, calcium, lithium, and potassium content. Its popular to be mixed in lemonade.
- Navajo Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3127
This spring is a natural soda spring over which commercial development was built. It is now within and beneath the popcorn and candy store. This was the most popular that was frequented by Native Americans and early Euro-American settlers and was the founding spring for the village. It originally fed a large bathhouse and bottling plant bringing fame to the town.
- Old Ute Chief Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3169
- Seven Minute Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3147
A man-made spring drilled in 1909 to enhance the neighboring hotel’s tourist attraction. Its unique carbonization caused it to erupt like a geyser every 7 minutes. It became dormant for many years until the 1990’s when it was re-drilled and the surrounding park was established.
- Shoshone Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3151
This was a natural spring that hosted sulfur content and was prescribed by various physicians for curative powers before modern medicine became popular and effective.
- Soda Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3217
- Stratton Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/reviews/?p=4931 or http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3139
This is a man-made drilled spring by the Stratton Foundation as a service to Manitou Springs village where tourists could come and partake of its waters, dedicated to early Native American Trails.
- Wheeler Spring – http://www.technogypsie.net/naiads/?p=3155
This is another man-made drilled spring that was donated to the city by settler Jerome Wheeler of the New York Macy’s who resided and banked in the town during the mining and railroad period. His former home is located where the current post office is today.
- Gazette 2015 “List Manitou Springs”. Website referenced 12/21/16 at http://gazette.com/list-the-springs-of-manitou-springs/article/1565225.
- Harrison, Deborah 2003 “Manitou Springs”. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7385-2856-4.
- Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce 2012 “The History of Manitou Springs”.
- Mineral Springs Foundation 2013 “Mineral Springs”. Website referenced 12/21/16 at http://www.manitoumineralsprings.org
- Mineral Springs Foundation 2013 “Iron Springs Geyser”. Website referenced 12/22/16 at http://manitoumineralsprings.org/iron-spring-geyser.html.
- Manitou Mineral Springs 2015 “7 Minute Spring”. Website referenced 12/21/16 at http://manitoumineralsprings.org/7-minute-spring.html
- National Register 2013 “American Dreams – National Register of Historic Places in El Paso County, Colorado.
- Visit Colorado Springs 2016 “Manitou Mineral Springs”. Website referenced 12/21/16 at http://www.visitcos.com/manitou-mineral-springs.
- Wikipedia 2016 “Iron Springs”. Website referenced 12/22/16 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Springs,_Colorado
- Wikipedia 2016 “Manitou Springs Mineral Springs”. Website referenced 12/21/16 at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manitou_Mineral_Springs