4 Riveting Facts You Didn’t Know about Pagosa Springs

By Kim Cassels   •   June 5, 2024

4 Riveting Facts You Didn’t Know about Pagosa Springs

Downtown Pagosa in Spring - Things to Do in Pagosa Springs - Mild to Wild
Credit Pagosa Daily Post

Looking for a little more fun know-how with a side of cold hard facts about Pagosa Springs? Beyond the well-known yet undeniably-fascinating tidbit that it’s home to the world’s deepest geothermal pool, aka the Pagosa hot spring. And if you didn’t already know that, there’s your bonus fact! You are so welcome. 

Beyond those steaming egg-scented bubbles, Pagosa is actually a hotspot for multiple records, ranging from the state level to the entire history of the Earth. And they all seem to involve a lot of drama that anyone would want in their arsenal of random knowledge. So suit up, get ready for a some reality-altering, probably life changing facts about Pagosa Springs. And then… Don’t. Stop. Talking. About it.   

#1 The Largest Piece of Gold in America Was Found Near Pagosa 

While most of the mining hotspots of the San Juans were balanced on the slopes between Silverton, Ouray and Telluride, the nugget of all nuggets was 20 miles from Pagosa Springs in 1975, per Pagosa

Unearthed right below the long-abandoned mill of the Summitville Mine, an unsuspecting equipment operator caught a boulder sparkling in the October sun right off the road. He was accompanying a geologist out on a survey, who helped him move all 141 pounds of this unburied treasure into the pickup and down the mountain for testing. 

The rock was laced with 384 ounces of gold, and is today valued over $500,000. If you’d like to see it for yourself, it is on display at the Denver Museum of Natural History. 

Colorado Towns Pagosa Springs
Credit Pagosa Springs Commerce

#2 The Hot Springs Heat Multiple Buildings In Pagosa 

If you thought hot springs were only good for a good soak, news flash buddy! With the ingenuity of geothermal engineering and the immense heat from the mother spring, Pagosa boasts an exclusive way to keep things toasty all on its own. 

Pagosa boiled up its geothermal heating system in 1982, which works through a straightforward “closed loop heating system.” The zero-emissions system pumps spring water into one tank that heats non-spring water in another tank, which then gets pumped through town. Quite simple! On the surface anyway.  

Most of Pagosa’s schools, a small portion of residential homes, expectedly the Pagosa Hot Springs Resort, greenhouses, a handful of other government buildings, and Riff Raff Brewing Company are kept cozy from October to April with Pagosa’s geothermal powers. 

Upper Piedra River - wide shot of boats paddling - Mild to Wild

#3 Near the Most Restricted River for Commercial Rafting in Colorado

Just 30 minutes from Pagosa Springs, one can quickly find themselves one with the ponderosas and simultaneously food for the bears in the Piedra River canyon. Unlike the San Juan River that runs right through town, the Piedra is more isolated and enclosed by dense forest and granite box canyons. 

The Piedra Area is protected under the Colorado Wilderness Act of 1993, with potential to be added to the National Wilderness Preservation System. This act of Congress designates this area to be mindfully managed to keep its wilderness character intact. 

In order to ensure the Piedra River wilderness goes “untrammeled by man”, only four outfitters are permitted to raft this beautiful canyon, with limited seats at that. From late May to June, the Piedra River offers the best white water rafting trips not only near Pagosa Springs, but in Colorado at large. 

Here’s another bonus fact: There are primitive hot springs right along the Piedra River. If you want to take a dip, or just explore the beautiful canyon along the way to them, check out the Sheep Creek Trail

Volcanic activity of the San Juan Mountains - Mild to Wild - La Garita Caldera

#4 Pagosa Sits at the Edge of the Largest Volcanic Event in History 

It happened like it was yesterday… geologically speaking. Only 27 million years ago, you know, that time when Colorado was constantly fuming and oozing with countless volcanoes. Well, one day, one of those supervolcanoes decided it was going to really make something of itself. 

So, perhaps for irony sake, it exploded. And to a magnitude difficult to comprehend— or 10,000 times larger than the Yellowstone eruption, if that helps, per USGS. First, it caused all of the volcanoes in proximity to also erupt and quickly collapse, creating an even deeper depression from an already cataclysmically large hole in the ground. Then it filled the atmosphere with so much ash, it covered half the continent, ushering in a prolonged winter for the next decade. 

Today, we can see this event in the form of the La Garita Caldera, a 62 mile long depression about an hour’s drive from Pagosa Springs. If you want to visit this amazing, world record site and some of the ridiculous geology it left behind, check out the Rio Grande National Forest


And that’s what we’ve got for the facts you needed about Pagosa Springs. For now anyway. If you’re planning to visit the area, or you’re already from the area, all of the destinations discussed make for great day trips that are often less-visited. Thanks for learning with us!

More Reading

The Perfect Weekend in Pagosa Springs 

The Explosive Geology of the San Juan Mountains

Get New Blog Posts in your Inbox