The History of Iron Mountain Hot Springs

The Iron Mountain Hot Springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, has a rich history long before the property’s first commercial operation opened in 1896. Nomadic Ute Indian tribes originally inhabited the area and frequently bathed and soaked in the hot mineral waters.

Evolution of the Spa: 1896-1943

In 1896, Sheriff Bob Ware purchased the land along the Colorado River and opened the West Glenwood Health Spa. Guests staying on the upper floors of the brick mansion could stroll along the river bank, go fishing, enjoy views of Mt. Sopris and Red Mountain, and take a mineral bath, all with a glass of ice-cold buttermilk for 25 cents.

Ware sold the spa to George “Wash” Allen and his wife Gertie in 1908, and they ran the Wash Allen Bathhouse until 1938. It reportedly thrived, even during the Great Depression. Allen earned his nickname, Wash, by washing his guests’ dirty linen on the lawn daily.

In 1938, the Allens sold the place to Louis Nicholson, a machinist from Leadville who’d been coming to Glenwood Springs for several years to bathe in the mineral waters to improve his health. As the economy improved, Nicholson added five cabins to house guests on the grounds.

He sold the resort in 1943 to the Gamba family from Kansas, who was visiting the area for its therapeutic hot springs mineral waters. The family’s vacation resulted in a stay that has not yet ended. Humbert “Hum” J. Gamba ran it as the Gamba Mineral Springs for about 30 years.

Transition of Ownership: 1943-1967

Dr. Charles A Graves announced in 1963 that a chiropractic center would operate with the Gamba Mineral Springs in West Glenwood. Four years later, Dr. Graves purchased the resort from the Gambas. A bathhouse divided into six units for private bathing in natural hot water, five cottages with complete housekeeping facilities, a family residence, and wide, well-shaded land of several acres were included in the deal. The following year, he changed the name to the Glenwood Health Spa.

Modern Developments: 1992-Present

In 1992, Roy Marker and Mike Retelsdorf remodeled and refurbished the bathhouse as the Fort Defiance Bathhouse.

One hundred years after it first opened, the spa closed, and the remaining structures were torn down to make way for a water park project that did not come to fruition. It sat vacant until the Iron Mountain Hot Springs construction started in late 2014, with a grand opening celebration in July 2015.

Response to Colorado’s newest hot springs has been overwhelmingly positive, and the business has thrived. Since opening, the owners have doubled the size of the locker rooms, installed a sand-based filtration system, and added the Sandbar refreshment stand near the soaking pools and an outdoor Rejuvenation Station with rainfall showers to cool off between soaks.

Their thoughtful enhancements and the dedication of the management team and employees have paid off. Accolades include multiple locals’ choice awards each summer, such as best date spot, best local attraction, best place to view the sunset, and best tourist spot.

International Recognition

Iron Mountain Hot Springs has twice been recognized by the U.K.’s Luxury Travel Guide: in 2017 as the Innovative Wellness Centre of the Year in Colorado and in 2018 as the Wellness Centre of the Year for the U.S.

On June 30, 2023, WorldSprings, an adults-only area, opened to the public. Guests 21 and over can experience 11 inspired pools from the most famous hot springs around the world, 1 freshwater pool with waterfalls, 1 inspired pool by The Dead Sea with waterfalls, and a cold plunge pool. In addition, a new restaurant, the Sandbar Café, will be available to WorldSprings guests with more drink options, elevated menu items, such as poke bowls and ceviche, and the same favorites from the Sopris Café menu.


Make sure to read our other articles in the Iron Mountain Hot Springs Media Room