Founded in 1987, the Mineral Springs Foundation is a non-profit 501 (C) (3) organization whose mission is to restore, protect, and publicize the mineral springs of Manitou Springs and to document their historic origins. This mission remains intact today, and has been expanded to include health and spa culture redevelopment. The Mineral Springs Foundation Endowment Fund was created in 1995 to assure that the springs would be available for the continued enjoyment, benefit and education of future generations. The Endowment Fund’s goal is $250,000 in donations. At present, over $100,000 has been raised toward this goal.
Before Manitou Springs was founded, American Indian tribes from the mountains and plains believed the great healing spirit of “Manitou” dwelled within the mineral springs in the area. Unique geology created a valley of mineral springs once visited and respected by tribes either living in or passing through the area now known as Manitou Springs. It is said that weapons and feelings of hostility toward one another were set aside when visiting these bubbling springs because of the common belief that their great spirit inhabited the waters. Early explorers’ accounts of the springs aroused interest in those eager to capitalize on the magic and mystery of the west.
Historically, the mineral springs played a major role in the location of Manitou Springs. In its resort heyday, Manitou Springs became known as the “Saratoga of the West,” offering relaxing strolls in the fresh mountain air, stylish hotels and bath houses utilizing the water from the mineral springs for soaking and therapy. The health resort character of the town was typified by grand buildings and a pedestrian-oriented park system.
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Manitou Mineral Springs.
The Native Americans who traveled in this region long ago considered the land around the springs sacred. The bubbles, or natural carbonation in the water, represented to them the breath of the Great Spirit “Manitou”. With the westward spread of early settlements and the foresight of individuals like the town’s founder Dr. William A. Bell, Manitou Springs developed around the mineral springs, becoming a destination resort for people desiring a health vacation in the “Saratoga of the West”. Visitors arrived with doctors’ prescriptions to drink specific waters as a cure for their ills.
The 1930’s saw a change in medical treatment. The drinking of mineral waters was replaced with drugs, synthetic vitamins and minerals. The country’s economy was also under severe stress. Priorities changed, and the mineral springs and spas took a back seat to more pressing concerns of the day. Numerous attempts at restoration have been made over the years, but lack of continued upkeep and the natural toll that Mother Nature took on the springs left them in disrepair time and again.
In the mid 1980’s another movement to restore the springs began to take shape. The year of Manitou Springs’ one hundred tenth birthday, 1986 to be exact, saw the establishment of a city fund for mineral springs restoration. In 1987 this effort evolved into the Save The Springs program; predecessor to the Mineral springs Foundation of today.
During the 1990s the resurgence of the health and spa culture has been strong. It is believed that mineral rich waters provide a natural link to healing ailments of the body and soul. Many local organizations and individuals utilize the waters for the mineral springs in their health regimens.
To date, the Mineral Springs Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Manitou Springs, private individuals and numerous organizations have restored many of the springs to their original splendor. The waters are available free to the public. People fill cups or jugs from their favorite spring. Walking tours called “Springsabouts” are held a brochure with a map is available for those who prefer to tour the springs at their own pace.
Heated mineral water bathhouses were common at the height of the spa culture in Manitou Springs decades ago. Today, a study to determine the sustainability of the mineral springs aquifer is currently underway, in an attempt to one day bring back these once popular mineral soaking pools. But for now you’ll just have to enjoy drinking our naturally carbonated mineral springs!
THE JOURNEY OF A RAINDROP
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To obtain more information about the mineral springs of Manitou Springs, membership in the Mineral Springs Foundation or planned giving and tax deductible donations to the Endowment Fund, call or write:
Mineral Springs Foundation
C/O Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce
354 Manitou Avenue
Manitou Springs, CO 80829