The Orignial Spring
The Ute Indians believed the hot springs were a gift from the Great Spirit as a result of a legendary incident. A plague fell upon the Utes, and all the skills of their medicine men failed to stem the death and devastation. In desperation, a great council was called on the banks of the San Juan River, and a gigantic fire was built to sena a message to their gods for help. They danced and prayed around the fire all night until they collapsed in exhaustion and slept. Upon awakening, they discovered that where the fire had burned, there now appeared a pool of boiling water. The Utes bathed in and drank from the boiling waters and were healed from the plague. Subsequent heavy use of the springs resulted in deeply worn trails in all directions.
Another story, based on fact, tells of a battle for ownership of the hot springs between the Ute and Navajo Indians in 1867. The tribes, both desirous of using the hot springs, met and skirmished all day long with neigher side gaining the upper hand. Finally the two sides agreed to have their best warriors fight each other and have the winning tribe take all. The Navajos chose their biggest, strongest warrior to fight for them. The Utes asked Colonel Albert Pfeiffer, a long-time firend of the Utes and foe of the Navajo, to fight for them. The two men stripped to the waist, faced off armed with Bowie knives and began their fight to the death. Pfeiffer quickly out-maneuvered his larger opponent and buried his knife in the man's chest. The Navajos acknowledged their defeat, and the springs belonged to the Utes until the Brunot Treaty of 1873 forced them to cede all their lands in the San Juan region to the white man. The DAR of Colorado erected an
historical marker to commemorate the occassion of the battle for the hot springs.
In the late 1800s, several bath houses were constructed, and a town grew around the hot springs. Although many people came to take advantage of the remarkable curative powers of the hot springs, Pagosa never became the celebrated place of resort prophesied. The hot mineral water remains today, and continues to hold an aura of mystique to those who attest to its healing and theraputic value.