Starting circa 1860, the first pioneers to settle in the San Juan mountains were prospectors and miners looking and finding gold and silver.
The first communities were close to where the first gold was found. Silverton, Lake City, Ouray and Telluride survive from among those first communities. Many other early settlements survive today only as ghost towns.
A number of communities started during the early day were located along the pathways into the higher mountains. Some of these communities at lower elevations were low enough in elevation to grow crops which were sold in support of the mining towns.
Pagosa Springs was one of those communities located on the way into the mountains, but which had no mineral lodes of their own. Prospectors and miners bound for the high mountain gold and silver towns tromped through Pagosa Springs from the first, 1860 and on. The Pagosa hot springs supplied a welcome and warming winter respite from the deep snows and shivering cold found higher up. And, to be sure, those same prospectors poked in and around and under every rock around Pagosa Springs looking for their personal El Dorado. Nada, nothing did they find.