To the Utes, the piping-hot currents of Glenwood Canyon were sacred fountains of physical and spiritual healing. Chief Ouray and his wife, Chipeta, came often to ease the pain of rheumatism. The tribe took the waters in a vapor cave on the south bank of the Colorado, opposite today’s hot springs pool, and jealously guarded their treasured resource from Arapahos, Cheyennes, and white men. Even after being moved to distant reservations in 1881, the Utes made annual trips here; Chief Colorow liked to while away the time with white visitors in just-settled Glenwood Springs. But in 1887 new investors, protective of the town’s tourist appeal, had the tribe banned. The following year the Utes’ beloved cave was sealed off under the railroad tracks.
“Englishmen of every variety abound. Here, fresh from the Columbian Exposition come a German count and countess, followed by their body physician and body surgeon and a numerous retinue armed with rifles and other weapons of war. There goes a bright-eyed professor of world-wide reputation from New York. And, yes, it is he, the prince of scientists, von Helmhotz himself, who is promenading up and down the long corridor.” — Dr. Henry Lyman, December 1893, Medical Record
Rather than compete with the silver kings of Leadville and Aspen, Isaac Cooper opted to build them a hot-springs playground. Cooper envisioned a resort rivaling Europe’s famous spas; kindred spirit Walter Devereux had the money and connections to make it happen. After buying Cooper out in 1887, Devereux rechanneled the Colorado River to expose the springs on the north bank, raised the magnificent Hotel Colorado, and got his friends at the Denver & Rio Grande and Colorado Midland to offer special excursion runs. In the mid-1890s, as the rest of the state reeled from the Silver Panic, Glenwood Springs staged polo matches and formal balls for barons and lords. Long Colorado’s glamour capital, it remains one of the state’s most popular tourist attractions.