Yampah Hot Springs Vapor Caves

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Glenwood the Early Days

There were 50 hot springs on both sides of the Grand River when white men first came here, with an aggregated flow of 6,000 gallons of mineral waters a minute and a temperature of 127 degrees F. The sulpo-saline-alkaline medicinal waters are world-renowned for their therapeutic value for both bathing and drinking. Yampah’s caves are the only known natural vapor caves in North America …others are manmade excavations.

The Ute Indians who originally inhabited this region visited these caves for centuries, and regarded them as a sacred place of healing and rejuvenation. Visitors today still honor that tradition. The Ute Indians were the first proponents of the hot water and constructed the first sweat cave. It was known by the early pioneers as Cave No. 1 and was located along the south bank of the Colorado River just below where the railroad tracks are now and a few feet east of the present water suspension bridge. In front of the caves the Utes constructed a mud and wood hut. They also constructed an opening on the hillside through which they lowered sick bathers on a stretcher to the floor of the cave. The opening was then shut so these people could sweat out their illnesses.

The Ute Indians knew the advantages of the caves healing powers for hundreds of summers before white men ‘discovered’ the area in the mid-1800s. The original Ute cave was on the south side of the river and was used until 1887, when it was sealed over by the railroad. Vapor Cave #3 was developed along with the Hot Springs complex and the Hotel Colorado in the 1880s, when the caves received an enclosed entrance, electric lights and marble benches. Men and women bathers had separate bathing times and, for modesty’s sake, wore heavy linen bags with a draw string at the neck.”

A Walking Tour of Downtown Glenwood Springs, Frontier Historical Museum

Long before the white settlers came to this area, the hot springs were well known to Indians, the tribe in possession of the Yampah Hot Springs possessed the big medicine of that time. Yampah translates into “Big Medicine” in Ute language.

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