The old western town of Pagosa Springs was named by the Ute Indians after the nearby hot springs, from the Ute words “pah” meaning “water”, and “gosa” meaning “boiling”. Today the accepted definition of Pagosa is “healing waters”. A growing resort town, more and more tourists are drawn to the therapeutic benefits of Pagosa Springs each year, as they visit the mineral baths and pools which are found in many of the motels in town.
Pagosa Springs was the center of a dispute between the Navajos and the Utes. For centuries, they fought each other over ownership, for both tribes used the springs. Small battles between the two tribes were commonplace, but failed to solve anything. In 1866 the tribes decided to choose one man from each of their tribes. The two men were to have a one on one battle, and the tribe whose man survived would be the owners of the springs.
The Utes chose Albert Henry Pfieffer, a U.S. Indian agent in New Mexico. Pfieffer had been friends of the Utes for a while, but was not so well liked by the Navajo. Pfieffer picked Bowie knives as the weapon for the fight, and won quickly, killing the Navajo. The Utes took ownership of the springs. By 1880, the U. S. government claimed ownership of the springs, along with one square mile of surrounding property. A few years later, the bathhouses were built and the town of Pagosa Springs was born.
Pagosa Springs Today
Pagosa Springs has developed significantly over the last couple of decades. The hot springs and their therapeutic properties were promoted by the locals during the early twentieth century, with hopes of making Pagosa Springs a resort, but it wasn’t until recently that the area has become popular with tourists. Today, many come to Pagosa Springs, and for a small fee, bathe in mineral water tubs located in resorts along the river. The temperature of the pools range from 85 to 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
Besides the hot springs, which tourists enjoy year round, many who visit Pagosa Springs enjoy golfing at the Pagosa Springs Golf Club and fishing during the summer months, and in the winter, one can stay in Pagosa Springs and ski at Wolf Creek Ski Area.