The Rich Tapestry: History of Pagosa Springs, CO

Nestled in the heart of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains, Pagosa Springs is more than just a scenic retreat. Its history is as rich and varied as the mineral hot springs that have attracted visitors for centuries. Let’s journey back in time and unravel the captivating history of this mountainous gem.


1. Ancient Beginnings: The Ancestral Puebloans

Long before the establishment of modern-day Pagosa Springs, the area was inhabited by the Ancestral Puebloans. Their presence can still be felt through the ancient ruins and artifacts scattered throughout the region, primarily in the nearby Chimney Rock National Monument.

2. Native American Legacy

The Ute Indians, native to the Colorado Rockies, held Pagosa Springs in high regard. They named the area “Pagosah,” which translates to “healing waters,” a nod to the therapeutic hot springs. These springs were considered neutral territory, a place of peace and healing for all tribes.

3. European Exploration and Settlement

The late 19th century saw an influx of European settlers drawn by the promise of land, opportunity, and the Gold Rush. With them came conflicts, as the Utes were eventually forced onto reservations, leading to the signing of the Brunot Agreement in 1873.


4. The Birth of a Town

The establishment of Fort Lewis in 1878 further paved the way for settlers. By the early 1880s, Pagosa Springs was formally founded, rapidly transforming into a bustling hub due to its strategic location and the healing allure of its hot springs.

5. The Railroad Era

The arrival of the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad in 1890 was a game-changer. It not only bolstered the town’s economy but also enhanced its reputation as a tourist destination. The charming Pagosa Springs depot stands as a testament to this era.

6. A Health Resort Emerges

By the turn of the 20th century, the therapeutic properties of Pagosa’s hot springs began drawing visitors from all over. Hotels, bathhouses, and sanitariums sprouted up, catering to those seeking relief from various ailments.

7. Timber and Industry

Aside from tourism, logging played a pivotal role in the town’s growth. The Pagosa Lumber Company, founded in the early 1900s, was a major employer, and remnants of old mills can still be spotted in the area.

8. The Great Outdoors

As the 20th century progressed, Pagosa Springs expanded its appeal by promoting outdoor activities. Ski resorts, hiking trails, and fishing spots were developed, making it a year-round destination.

9. Preservation Efforts

Recognizing the need to safeguard its rich heritage, the town embarked on several preservation initiatives. The Pagosa Springs Historic District was established, and many buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places.

10. Modern Pagosa Springs

Today, Pagosa Springs seamlessly blends its storied past with modern amenities. While it continues to be a sought-after destination for relaxation and adventure, its residents ensure its history remains at the forefront, celebrating its legacy through museums, festivals, and guided tours.


The story of Pagosa Springs is one of endurance, evolution, and enduring charm. From ancient inhabitants to modern-day vacationers, the call of its natural beauty and healing waters remains unchanged. As you walk the streets of Pagosa Springs or soak in its famed hot springs, remember that you’re becoming a part of a history that spans centuries, a tale as timeless as the mountains themselves.