Wheeler Spring (Manitou Springs, Colorado)

Wheeler Spring, Manitou Springs, Colorado

Wheeler Spring
~ 307 Canon Ave/ Park Avenue, near the post office, Manitou Springs, Colorado

Article by Thomas Baurley, Leaf McGowan, Techno Tink  Research

Wheeler Spring was named after the investor of the “Manitou Mineral Water bottling plant” from the 1920s, Jerome B. Wheeler (former co-owner of Macey’s). It was drilled in 1920 by him after which he created the bottling company and created the Wheeler Clock nearby. It is located on the wall outside of his former Windemere estate. This spring tastes of copper and has been described by many visitors as having a sweet, minor effervescent taste. It is also classified as a soda spring (naturally carbonated), which erupts approximately 6-8 hours and is caught in a catch basin before springing out or being utilized. It is medicinally known to help cure tuberculosis and other illnesses. It contains a high concentration of copper at .17 parts per million (ppm).

Mineral Amount
Alkalinity 2,439 mg/L
Calcium 440 mg/L
Chloride 240 mg/L
Copper 0.17 mg/L
Fluoride 3.30 mg/L
Iron .11 mg/L
Lithium .726 mg/L
Magnesium 66 mg/L
Manganese 1.60
Potassium 55 mg/L
Silica 41 mg/L
Sodium 460 mg/L
Sulfate 200 mg/L
Zinc .097 mg/L
Total Dissolved Solids 2,790 mg/L

Mineral spring comparison chart

The little touristy village of Manitou Springs is most famous for its mineral springs that well up through eight (previously 10, upwards of 50) fonts peppered throughout the town. These springs are free to visit and each holds its own variation of minerals, magic, folklore, and healing properties that visitors sought throughout the ages. Each has its unique flavor, natural carbonation, and effervescence. This valley was originally heavily frequented by various Native American tribes who visited Fountain Creek and its natural springs for their healing magic, offering homage and great respect to the spiritual powers that dwell here. They believed these magical springs were the gift of the Great Spirit Manitou, after which the town and valley were named. They brought their sick here for healing.

The aboriginal inhabitants and visitors of the area called the “Great Spirit” as “Manitou”, and felt these mineral springs was its breath, as the source of the bubbles in the spring water. This made the waters and grounds extremely sacred. The Ute, Arapaho, Cheyenne, and many other tribes came here to partake of the great spirit’s breath. They would heal their sick here, collect the waters, stay for winters, and share in the waters as an area of peace where no conflict was allowed. There were believed to have been 10 natural springs in the valley.

The Euro-Americans caused conflicts and skirmishes with the Natives, pushing them out so they could utilize the valley for business, resort, tourism, and commerce. It is said that after the Natives left, they cursed the area for the Whites and that no business would ever succeed there. Ever since, it has been an ever-changing valley with businesses coming and going, failing and closing, and new ones coming in and replacing those that left. One of the first white explorers to record the waters was Stephen Harriman Long in 1820. The expedition’s botanist and geologist Edwin James recorded in detail the healing nature of the waters. The explorer George Frederick Ruxton wrote in his travel about these “boiling waters” as well that “… the basin of the spring was filled with beads and wampum, pieces of red cloth and knives, while the surrounding trees were hung with strips of deerskin, cloth, and moccasins”. This is a common practice to leave similar objects, items, and cultural artifacts around the world at magical and healing springs, wells, and bodies of water.

Nearly 50 years later, Dr. William Abraham Bell and General William Jackson Palmer made plans to develop a health resort here during the Civil War with “a vision of dreamy summer villas nestled in the mountains with grand hotels and landscaped parks clustered around the springs” that they called “Fountain Colony” and “La Font”. It became Colorado’s first resort town. By 1871, white settlers came in and began developing the area for tourism, health care, and profit. A resort was soon developed here, taking advantage of the waters and incorporating them into medicinal and healing water therapies. This brought great prosperity to the region. By 1873, a developer by the name of Henry McAllister, who worked for Palmer, spread the news about the medicinal benefits of the Springs and pushed for it to become a spa resort, including “incomparable climate and scenery” as its backdrop.

Then came various medicinal practitioners, such as Doctor Edwin Solly, who pushed the area as a resort for healing and therapy, preaching the combined waters to drink, soak in, and breathe pure air mixed with the sunny climate would be the most effective prescription to treat tuberculosis. The commercial businesses began to lay claim to the various springs, enclosing some of them as the village grew. The first of which was the Cheyenne Spring House was established as a red sandstone bricked conical roofed structure. Over 50 wells and springs were drilled shortly after, many of which were enclosed. Once popularity disappeared and “dried up”, many of these springs were capped, paved over, and closed. However as the fad died, medical centers and hospitals around the United States improved, Manitou became forgotten and suffered abandonment. The Mineral Springs Foundation was formed in 1987 as an all-volunteer 501(c)3 non-profit to protect, improve, maintain, and manage the springs, targeting to restore some of the springs and promote their popularity once again. They host walking tours called “Springabouts” every Saturday from Memorial Day to Labor Day, beginning downtown, and can be arranged by visiting the Tourist center or calling 719-685-5089. Upon request, the visitor center will provide maps, brochures, detailed content charts, and sampling cups. They can also be found on their website at http://www.manitoumineralsprings.org. The series of springs has been developed as a National Register of Historic Places district and is located in one of the country’s largest districts of its kind. It was originally called the “Saratoga of the West” and established as a resort community within a spectacular setting at the edge of the Rocky Mountains along the base of Pikes Peak. Numerous bottling companies moved into the area making a profit on the waters, the most famous of which was “Manitou Springs water” and was sold globally.

Geology: The waters come from two original sources in the Rampart Range and Ute Pass; these “deep-seated waters” travel through limestone caverns and drainage systems created by karst aquifers. The water dissolves the limestone and absorbs carbonic acid, carbon dioxide, and other minerals that make it “effervescent” or slightly naturally carbonated. It is heated by volcanic and inner core processes. Through time, the waters return to the surface naturally by means of an artesian process rising to the surface, collecting soda, minerals, and sodium bicarbonate upwards. The other source of the waters is from Fountain Creek and Williams Canyon, snowmelt, rainwater, and surface waters. The warm water then flows up into a limestone cavern, where it becomes carbonated and springs forth to the surface in natural as well as human-drilled locations. Most of these waters take thousands of years to complete their voyage from the mountain snow-capped peaks down to the inner earth and back up to the surface – freeing its content and solutions from being affected by industry, development, and atmospheric contamination.

The Springs of Manitou:


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