Known for centuries for its geothermal wonders, Glenwood hot springs history started long before the first settler came to the area; Nomadic Ute Indian tribes originally inhabited the area and frequently bathed and soaked in the hot mineral waters.
Explorer Captain Richard Sopris, for whom the majestic Mt. Sopris is named, discovered the remote area in 1860 and named it Grand Springs. Seventeen year later, James Landis became the first white man to settle in the area.
In 1882, Isaac Cooper came to what was then known as Defiance by way of Aspen and dreamed of developing a hot springs resort. Cooper and his wife Sarah renamed Defiance “Glenwood Springs” for their hometown of Glenwood, Iowa, and it was platted and incorporated in 1885.
A year later, Walter Devereux and a group of British investors sought to develop the natural Yampah Hot Springs to attract the wealthy travelers. Yampah means “big medicine” in the Ute language. The Hot Springs Pool opened July 4, 1888.
The first commercial use of the Yampah Vapor Caves—the only naturally occurring vapor caves in North America—was in 1887 and, in 1893, the foundation for the current spa building was laid. The hot springs vapor caves officially opened to the public later that year.
Glenwood Springs attorney Charles W. Darrow homesteaded the top of Iron Mountain and began offering tours of the Fairy Caves in 1895. The caves were formed millions of years ago when the Colorado River cut a path through the mountains. The fresh river water mixed with the sulfuric waters of the Yampah Hot Springs, creating the unusually colorful formations found in Glenwood Caverns and the Historic Fairy Caves.
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