The first draw for visitors to Saratoga Springs were the naturally occuring mineral springs. Found thoughout the area due to a geological fault line, the springs are well preserved to this day. Naturally carbonated, the springs have been an important icon for the Saratoga area since it became popular as a destination.
Today, visitors can sample the mineral springs at many pavillions in the area. A comprehensive guide can be obtained from the Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce offices or via the Saratoga Springs Visitors Center. Visitors can also take natural mineral spring baths at the area spas. Each spring has a unique taste and look based upon the mineral content. You too can "take the cure" as visitors have for centuries at the "Queen of the Spas"...Saratoga.
For an informative podcast (digital audio) describing the springs, click here.
Where To Find Saratoga's Mineral Springs
Congress Park Area- Saratoga Springs
Deer Park Spring
High Rock Avenue- Saratoga Springs
High Rock Spring
Old Red Spring
Saratoga Spa State Park-Saratoga Springs
Geyser Island Spouter
Hayes Well Spring
Orenda Spring and Tufa Deposits
Lincoln Spring (bathe and taste this spring at the Roosevelt Baths and Spa)
Saratoga Race Course Grounds-Saratoga Springs
Big Red Spring
Old Iron Spring
The Springs of Saratoga - 'The Wonders From Down Under'
For centuries before the Colonists learned about the wonders of the mineral waters this area was sacred ground to the Native Americans of the Iroquois Nation. Legend has it that the High Rock Spring was referred to as the "Medicine Spring of the Great Spirit".
Sir WIlliam Johnson was the "Indian" agent for the British and had established a mutual respect and strong bond with the tribe. In 1771, the Mohawks brought Sir William Johnson to the High Rock Spring for healing. This was the first time anyone outside of the Nation was made privy to the mysteries of the ritual that for centuries was part of their tradition. Consequently, news spread to those outside of the Iroquois Nation prompting a curiosity and interest in the waters.
By the 19th century, Saratoga had developed as a resort town to serve the needs and whims of visitors who sought the springs for their therapeutic properties. It became a thriving spa, where devotees came for "the cure", drinking prescribed amounts of various mineral waters, taking hydrotherapy treatments & mineral baths, and walking in the fresh, clean air.
Saratoga's famed mineral springs arose from waters that were trapped eons ago in layers of limestone capped by solid shale deep beneath the Earth's surface. When geological forces fractured the shale along the Saratoga Fault Line, the mineral waters sprung upward through the resulting cracks. Water dissolves minerals from the limestone and in the process, becomes naturally carbonated. All of the springs contain the same minerals in varying concentrations, depending upon how far underground they have originated. The mineral concentration increases with the depth of origin.
The mineral waters of Saratoga are unique east of the Mississippi for several reasons:
(1) They are naturally carbonated with carbon dioxide.
(2) They are cold, a constant 55º F, unlike hot springs in other parts of the country.
(3) Several of the springs are 'spouters,' escaping from the earth with enough force to shoot high in the air. Each of Saratoga's mineral springs contains at least 50 grains of mineral salts per gallon, is naturally carbonated, and maintains a constant temperature year round. The amount of sulfur is miniscule.
Historic Health Benefits
"Saratoga, Queen of the Spas", by Grace Swanner, MD, published in 1988 remains one of the most authoritative books on the waters of Saratoga Springs. Swanner notes that during the 19th and early 20th centuries there were as many as a hundred or more mineral springs; today there are fewer than 20.
The springs are categorized as cathartic (laxative), alkaline (antacid), or chalybeate (high in iron). Information about their healing properties is included as historic comment and is not intended as a statement of medical fact. (Note: reputed health benefits are printed in Italics)
How to "Take the Cure"
Visitors flocked to Saratoga Springs, the 'Queen of Spas' to 'take the cure'. They followed a rigid schedule, designed for maximum results. In "Saratoga Chips and Carlsbad Wafers" (published in 1888) Nathan Sheppard summed it up this way: "The mineral water treatment consists of mineral water, mineral baths, mastication, cheerfulness, abstemiousness, wholesome food, exercise, sleep, self restraint, and general reasonableness of life."
Congress Park Area
- Congress Spring: Congress Spring was discovered in 1792 by a congressman from New Hampshire. It became the centerpiece of the park and village that grew up around it. Bottled and sold around the world, Congress Water was the most famous of the Saratoga mineral waters. Covered by a Greek Revival style pavilion, a reproduction of the first pavilion built there in 1826, Congress Spring flows year round. (Cathartic, thought to benefit dyspepsia, gout, and skin ailments)
- Columbian Spring: Once known as 'the headache spring', the Columbian now dispenses municipal drinking water; the original mineral water vein has been lost. Topped by a reproduction 19th century Federal style pavilion, it looks much as it did during the mid 1800s. ('Iron Water'. Strengthened the stomach, increased red blood cell count)
- Deer Park Spring: Also known as 'the Deer Spring', and marked by a diminutive ornate green and white cast iron monument, this spring dispenses water from a vein of the Congress Spring. In the late 1800's a rustic style of Adirondack lodge stood at the south end of the park to house tame deer. This spring is named for its proximitiy to this once popular attraction. (Similar to Congress Spring)
- Hathorn #1: On the northeast corner of Putnam and Spring Street is the Hathorn #1 Spring, a highly mineralized, diuretic water. The elaborate pavilion, benches, and landscaping, are recent additions to Saratoga's landscape. This beautiful site demonstrates the city's continued interest in maintaining and updating her most valuable natural resource, the mineral springs. (Cathartic, diuretic, 'grateful to the stomach')
High Rock Area
- Governor Spring: Named for Governor Hughes who signed the Spa State Reservation Legislation.
- Peerless Spring: A palatable, saline water of moderate strength, at one time very popular with the public.
- High Rock Spring: The cliff bordering High Rock Park marks the western edge of the Saratoga Fault Line. High Rock Spring, at its base, is distinguished by a cone of hardened mineral deposits. Known to Native Americans for over 5,000 years, Mohawk Indians carried an ailing Sir William Johnson to the spring in the late 1700s. The first white man to visit the site, he spread the word about the water's healing powers.
- Empire Spring: Discovered in 1793, Empire Spring has also been known as the Walton or New Congress Spring. Originally located behind the building, it was a favorite of the Van Raalte Knitting Mill employees. In 2004 it was rerouted to the front of the building and re-tubed as part of the mill's restoration project.
- Old Red Spring: Past the renovated Van Raalte Mill, is the Old Red Spring. Known as the 'Beauty Spring', it was renowned for healing skin disorders. (Called "Beauty Water", it is still used by some to treat inflamed eyes)
Spa State Park Area
- State Seal: Known for its delicious fresh water, is very popular with spring water aficionados, who fill all manner of bottles and jugs at the ever-flowing taps. It is located on the Avenue of Pines in the Joseph Bruno Pavilion, opposite the Saratoga Automobile Museum, a former bottling plant. (Fresh, delightful "drinking" water)
- Geyser Spring: Located at the rear of the rectangular stone fountain under the Joseph Bruno Pavilion, is the Geyser Spring. This water, once very popular, was bottled by NY State. (Considered the strongest tasting water)
- Charlie Spring: The most recently drilled spring in the Spa Park, Charlie Spring is located near the Hall of Springs entrance to the Performing Arts Center. The spring was named in honor of Charles S. Dake, one of Saratoga's leading community figures of the twentieth century. (Alkaline, Saline)
- Polaris Spring: The Polaris Spouter is located on the Loop Road in the heart of the park. (The minute quantities of radon gas present in this pleasant tasting water are viewed with some skepticism by American health professionals, while in Europe and Japan, drinking small doses of radon is considered beneficial)
- Geyser Island Spouter: The Island Spouter and the Polaris Spring (#13) are accurately called "spouters", but the Geyser Island Spouter is locally referred to as "the Geyser". An island of hardened minerals surrounds this spring. (The Park was originally known as Geyser Park)
- Hayes Well Spring: Near the parking area for the Geyser Island Spouter is the Hayes Well Spring.(Some people still believe that inhaling the gas vented from a pipe at the back of the spring's pedestal will clear the sinuses)
- Orenda Spring & Mineral Bank: A short distance along the stream past the Geyser Island Spouter is another impressive deposit of hardened minerals, called travertine, formed by the overflow from the Orenda Spring. Fallen leaves and twigs make almost perfect imprints in the gold and orange shaded natural sculpture. (The Orenda Spring, located at the top of the hill, is rich in iron, for strong blood)
- Hathorn #3: Hathorn #3 is situated at the south side of the park, on the East West Road, off Route 50. At the height of its popularity, long lines of people waited each morning to start the day with a glass or two of this bracing water. (Slightly cathartic. Highly mineralized, considered the most saline of Saratoga's mineral waters)