Hot springs and high hopes

Photo courtesy John M. Motter
Residents gather around the Great Pagosa Hot Spring while a flourishing Pagosa Springs downtown springs up along Pagosa Street across the San Juan River.

Daisy Opdyke Fitzhugh, who as a small girl moved with her family to Pagosa Springs in 1879, years later recalled the bathing routine.
“We would go in the morning and fill the large built-in wooden tub and by afternoon the water would be cool enough to take a bath. Then when we were through bathing, we would empty the tub, lock the door and it would be ready for next time.”
Another visitor during those years, a writer who thought there might be more bath houses than people in Pagosa Springs, gave this report of his experience near the hot springs.
“In our search for knowledge and while rambling around the great springs, we accosted one who we supposed to be a citizen, but who proved to be a stranger. We approached and politely requested to know what was the principle occupation of the people of Pagosa. Quick as thought while casting an eye at the scores of bath houses, came the reply. ‘Bathing, by ———– Sir!’”
John R. Curry, editor of Silverton’s newspaper, The La Plata Miner, published a letter written from Pagosa Springs in March of 1881.
“Pagosa Springs, the largest, hottest and most singularly curious springs of their class in the world, are no longer isolated as they have been in times past, shut off from the great traveling thoroughfares of the country by a formidable range of mountains, a trip across which at any season of the year, by such conveyances as were available, was unpleasant and tedious to the extreme.
“Now those difficulties are overcome by the approach of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, which was extended over the range in question and has a station at Chama only 45 miles distant from the Springs. J. L. Sanderson and Company and Wall and Witter have established lines of coaches between Chama and Durango, the flourishing city of the Animas River Valley … This has given initiative to hotels and building houses … persons coming here now to see these wonderful springs and to bathe in their benefit giving waters, can feel assured that comfortable lodging will be provided and something nice to eat at reasonable prices.”