All the Relaxation, None of the Smell
Ouray County’s hot springs are free of the strong sulfur (“rotten egg”) smell that you encounter at many other hot springs. This has to do with our water’s mineral content and our local geology. Ouray is located along a large geological lift at the head of the Uncompahgre Valley and the pressure and heat from this activity resulted in a series of clean and odorless hot springs. The same geologic forces that made the town rich in minerals and ore also produced some of the largest and most pleasant hot springs in the United States. For more information on the history of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool and other hot springs history in the Uncompahgre River Valley, be sure to visit the Ouray County Historical Society & Museum.
Photo courtesy of Classic Visions Photography
Ouray’s hot springs water starts as rainfall on the surrounding peaks. This water percolates deep into the earth, starts to heat up geothermally and picks up minerals along the way. When it encounters a major fault, like that in Box Canon Falls Park, it finds a quick way back to the surface, retaining its heat and minerals. The rotten egg smell is caused by hydrogen sulfide. Sulfur itself doesn’t have an unpleasant smell but anaerobic bacteria deep in the earth convert sulfur into hydrogen sulfide and it emerges with that unmistakable stink. Ouray’s waters don’t reach the depths where this happens so you get all the health benefits of dissolved sulfur without all that smell.
The main source of the Ouray Hot Springs Pool’s water comes from the Box Canon where 100 GPM of 150 degree mineral water is gravity fed over a mile to the current day location of the pool. This line was the sole source for hot water at the pool from the 1920s until the 1980s when supplemental mineral water from exploratory drilling was discovered and added to the pool water supply. Today, 250-300 GPM of hot mineral water is continuously entering and exiting the pool in what we refer to as a flow through design. This flow through design allows us to provide fresh, clear, odorless mineral water 24 hours a day seven days a week for your enjoyment! Here's a recent article from the Ouray Hot Springs Pool staff about the water supply and the mineral content of the water. They're fascinating reads!
Healing Hot Springs:
Balneotherapy (from Latin: balneum, "bath") is the treatment of disease by bathing, usually at a spa, or in our case, at a hot springs pool. Soaking in hot water has great health benefits because hot water tends to keep higher concentrations of minerals in solution and help them absorb through the skin. Ouray’s water is hot, ranging from 156 to 117 degrees depending on the spring. Some of the healing minerals that are found in Ouray’s hot spring waters and their key properties are listed here:
- Sodium – Water balance, brain function, muscle cramps, anti-aging
- Calcium – Bone health (osteoporosis), arthritis, dental care, insomnia, menopause, cramps, weight loss, high blood pressure
- Magnesium – Maintains normal heart rhythms; converts blood sugar to energy; maintains muscle tissue and hormone levels.
- Potassium – Normalizes heart rhythms; has been shown to reduce muscle cramps, support healthy muscle growth, and moderate stress
- Chloride – Helps keep the amount of fluid inside and outside of cells in balance and helps maintain blood volume
- Sulfate – Acne, arthritis, back/shoulder/neck pain, detoxify the body, anti-inflammatory
- Iron – Haemoglobin formation, body metabolism, muscle activity, anaemia, brain function, immunity, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, regulation of body temperature
- Manganese – Body metabolism, osteoporosis, fatigue, reproduction, inflammation, brain function, epilepsy
- Fluoride – Prevention of tooth and bone decay
- Boron – Bone health, brain function, anti-aging, muscle pain
- Molybdenum – Supports dental health
- Zinc – Skin care, healing of wounds, colds, weight loss, aids in digestion
- Phosphate – Weakness, bone health, brain function, sexual weakness, dental care, body metabolism
- Lithium – Associated with healthy brain function