Glenwood, Steamboat, Pagosa and El Dorado — the list goes on. The Colorado map is fat with towns with “Springs” in the name. Usually, these towns are named for a prominent source of spring water.
But, “Where are the springs in Colorado Springs?”
The answer to that Colorado Wonders question from Carla Huston takes us down a rabbit hole 150 years deep.
Colorado Springs Pioneers Museum Director Matt Mayberry said the city’s founder, Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad magnate William Jackson Palmer, coined the name.
“He noted in his own papers that when he came to this part of the world, really all of Southern Colorado, or at least a vast amount of Southern Colorado, just had the generic name ‘Colorado Springs.’”
Were those original town boundaries around some natural spring?
“The answer to the question ‘Where are the springs in Colorado Springs?’ is — (slightly dramatic pause) they’re actually in Manitou Springs,” came Mayberry’s reply.
The small resort town has long been in the shadow of its big brother city. Manitou was founded around 1872 by Dr. William Bell, and the aforementioned William Jackson Palmer, as a wellness resort. The idea was to bring people in on the railroad to experience the wealth of mineral springs in the area. Manitou Springs Heritage Center President Michael Maio said there are close to a dozen public springs in the town. Each one is set in a fountain created by a local artist.
“For generations and for hundreds of years, Native American tribal members would come here to Manitou Springs, not only as a gesture of peace but also to take the waters,” Maio said. “The natives believed the waters had medicinal value.”
Maio said the town council changed the community’s name from simply “Manitou” to “Manitou Springs” in September 1935.
“That was done solely for the purpose of competing with Colorado Springs,” Maio said. “It was done to claim some of that credit as the sole town in the Pikes Peak region that actually has active mineral springs.”
While certainly not as prominent as the springs in Manitou, there are some springs in the city limits of Colorado Springs. Most of them are quite small, but way back in the past, the city did have something substantial.
“The spring that most people in a previous era would have said ‘Well, that’s the spring of Colorado Springs’ is, or was, a naturally occurring spring in what we know today as Monument Valley Park,” Mayberry with the Pioneers Museum said.
It was called ‘Tahama Spring’ and there was a pavilion built over the top where people could drink the water while resting in the shade. Unfortunately, that pavilion was greatly damaged by a flood of nearby Monument Creek in 1935. The spring itself was buried by another flood 30 years later, in 1965.
However, Mayberry said Tahama does still lurk beneath the ground in Monument Valley Park. There are some in town who propose digging down to resurrect the spring and maybe one day even rebuild the pavilion. That would bring a true spring back to Colorado Springs once again.
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