Why Orvis Hot Springs Doesn't Stink
Orvis Hot Springs in Ridgway is blessed with naturally flowing lithium-based hot spring water that does not smell like sulphur. The Tabagueche Indians, led by Chief Ouray, soaked in the hot springs of the Uncompaghre river valley for its calming affects as well as medical healing for such ailments as rheumatoid arthritis. Today the soothing waters of Orvis Hot Springs are still sacred to our guests.
There are several sources of water at Orvis Hot Springs. Each has a different mineral content, which is why the water can look and feel different from the last time you were here. You can find out more about the different minerals on the Orvis website.
Water naturally flows through underwater veins and into the main outdoor Pond. Hot water naturally fills the pond and can be felt by digging your toes in the gravel at the bottom. There is a rock bench under the water, next to the Plunge (cool in summer, hot in winter). Under the bench is a cave. The cave is the biggest outlet from the underground vein, giving the pond the most volume of water. Rising water tables will increase the flow of this water, which will maintain a hotter pond temperature.
A wooden pipe, known as the Flume, shoots water into the pond, but does not give a sufficient amount of water to keep the pond full. Instead, its purpose is to manipulate the pond temperature, and give a great back massage. Water from the flume can come from any of the hot springs sources, depending on the weather and time of year.
Most people want the pond to be 103-104 degrees Farenheit. A combination of hot and cold water coming out of the flume is the only way to work with Mother Nature in an attempt to provide that ideal temperature. Natural occurrences such as rain, snow, wind, sunlight, high water tables and more affect the temperature greatly.
In the pool known as the Crater, water comes out of the ground at about 127 degrees Farenheit. It is much too hot to soak in, but that doesn't mean it is useless. Quite the contrary, the crater water is used to heat the entire Orvis building, pre-heat the showers, and add heat to the pond during the very cold months. The Crater source is located on the highest point of the property, making it easy to gravity feed any area of the hot springs. Future plans for the Crater water include heated walkways to soaking areas, more soaking areas, heated tent pads and hot waterfalls!
A vein located by the campground feeds the hot spring pools at Orvis, and is called the well pit. With a pump, some of the water is piped from the well pit and runs through valves to desired areas. Different valve positioning fills the indoor pool, the private tubs, and the "lobster pot" at various temperatures. Because these areas have less surface area than the pond and are more sheltered, they will maintain a more consistent temperature.