A View of Pike's Peak. Original image prepared by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.


Where is Manitou Springs located, and why?

Manitou Springs has a rich and interesting history of settlement, which explains its present location in the state of Colorado. Several waves of explorers passed through the valley where Manitou Springs is now located (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. The location (x) of Manitou Springs, Colorado.

The first explorers were Native American people, including the Ute, the Anasazi, and the Navajo. These indigenous peoples revered the valley for its bountiful resources, including mineral springs and wildlife. Because these Native American cultures viewed nature with great religiosity, they practiced sustainable forms of agriculture. Ancient cliff dwellings that housed the Anasazi people may still be found in the area (Fig. 2). Subsequently, the landscape would begin to change as new explorers discovered the valley and used its resources for different purposes.

Figure 2. Anasazi Cliff Dwellings. Original image prepared by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.

French missionaries arrived during the early 1700s, and described the valley as having ". . . health-giving springs, rivaling in efficacy the fabled Fountain of Youth" (Hooper, 8). They named the creek Fontaine-qui-Bouille, which translates as "Fountain of Youth." The French were also appreciative of the valley's scenic beauty and natural resources. Many were so impressed by the land that they continued to make frequent pilgrimages there. In honoring the valley, they gave it the name Manitou ("the Great Spirit").

The third explorer of Manitou valley was George F. Ruxton, an Englishman who arrived in 1847. Like the Native Americans and French, Ruxton cherished the teeming natural riches of the valley, a beauty that he described as comparable to Eden. Ruxton's missives from Manitou valley attracted the last group of explorers, General William Jackson Palmer and William and Cara Bell. Following the development of Colorado Springs (the city directly east of Manitou valley) a year earlier, General Palmer and the Bells founded the resort town of Manitou Springs in the fall of 1872. The first structure built in the valley was a hotel named the Manitou House, which was completed on August 13, 1872. Shortly afterwards, more hotels, homes, churches, and roads were built. The Victorian heritage of the city can be seen in the architecture of many buildings (Fig. 3).

Figure 3.Miramount Castle, (circa 1895) once a private home, is now a historic landmark museum. Original image prepared by the Manitou Springs Chamber of Commerce.

The founders of Manitou Springs believed that the town would be a popular tourist destination. Accordingly, plans for a spa began around 1875, and it was finally completed in 1920. Of course, the mineral springs were (and still are) the town's most favored attractions. Some visitors contended that the mineral springs had certain medical benefits. As word spread of the healing properties of the spring water, tourism boomed. The influx of people stimulated commercial and residential development along Fountain Creek. Many homes and businesses were built along the Creek itself. But little did these developers know of the potential dangers posed by their actions . . .

Note: All questions appear in a blue background.

(1) Refer to Figure 1. Please describe the location of Manitou Springs in relation to other cities and physical features in Colorado.

(2) How and why did land-use differ between the major cultural groups that settled along Fountain Creek?

(3) Describe the past and present economic landscape of Manitou Springs. What makes Manitou Springs an attractive location for these activities?

(4) Ironically, why is this location a potential threat to local businesses and residences?

Please continue to Page 2 of the Introduction.

Page 2 | Home