Glenwood Springs History

Originally inhabited by nomadic Ute Indian tribes, this area of bubbling hot springs has long been a destination for the health seeker.

In the early 1880's, James Landis homesteaded the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Grand rivers that would become Glenwood Springs.

Early settlers Isaac Cooper and Walter Devereux saw the potential for Glenwood Springs to become a highly regarded destination and developed these amenities into a world class resort. The arrival of the railroads in 1887 brought the first trainloads of tourists to enjoy all that Glenwood has to offer. The addition of the Vapor Caves, Hotel Colorado and Fairy Caves provided a total package for the well-heeled traveler. The local economy was not only fueled by tourism, but also coal mining, farming and ranching, commerce and outdoor recreation. A visit to historic Glenwood Springs will take you back in time to enjoy all of the amenities that were formerly reserved for the well-to-do.

Hot Springs Pool and Bathhouse

With a diversion of the Grand (now Colorado) river in 1886, visionary Walter Devereux sought to develop the natural hot springs bubbling from the ground into a recreational attraction to accommodate the wealthy traveler. The Hot Springs pool officially opened July 4, 1888 and the addition of the beautiful sandstone bathhouse in 1890 completed the picture.

Hotel Colorado

Designed after the Villa de Medici in Italy, the Hotel Colorado was originally a summer destination for affluent tourists. Opened in 1893, the Colorado employed a highly trained staff in its luxurious surroundings to cater to visitors who expected only the best. Over the years, the hotel has played host to presidents, gangsters and movie stars.

Vapor Caves

The current Yampah Vapor Cave was actually the third geothermal cave to be opened to the public, but the only one on the north side of the river and specifically intended for use by the wealthy clientele of the Hot Springs Pool and Hotel Colorado. Workers began development of the cave itself in 1892, providing marble benches for seating in this "hygienic Hades." After completion of the cave building, the facility opened in March of 1896.

Historic Fairy Caves and Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park

The Fairy Caves Co. was incorporated in 1895 by local attorney, Charles Darrow. By July of 1896, a road up Iron Mountain was constructed to access the caves which were previously reached by a foot trail up the mountain behind the Hotel Colorado. By the summer of 1897, electric wires had been strung up the mountain and throughout the caves, making the Fairy Caves one of the first five electrically lighted caves in the country. In 1900, a tunnel to Exclamation Point was blasted through, creating an incredible view of Glenwood Springs and the Canon of the Grand.

Iron Mountain Hot Springs

The history of the Iron Mountain Hot Springs property dates back to 1896, when the West Glenwood Health Spa opened. Over the next 100 years, it changed hands multiple times and also operated as the Wash Allen Bathhouse, the Gamba Mineral Springs, the Glenwood Health Spa, the Fort Defiance Bathhouse and the Iron Springs Spa. After sitting vacant for almost 20 years, the Iron Mountain Hot Springs reopened in July 2015, welcoming visitors to once again soak in the iron-rich mineral waters along the bank of the Colorado River.

Linwood Cemetery

Established in 1886, Linwood contains the graves of the pioneers of Glenwood Springs. Its most infamous resident is Doc Holliday, who died of tuberculosis here in November of 1887. Doc had arrived in May of that year, presumably looking to the hot springs as a cure for his tuberculosis. Harvey Logan, alias “Kid Curry” was also buried in Linwood after committing suicide following a train robbery in 1904 near Parachute. Logan had been, for a while, a member of Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid’s gang. Exploring this historic graveyard, with its beautiful and interesting headstones, is not to be missed.

Frontier Historical Museum

Home of Glenwood’s Frontier Historical Society, this 1905 house takes you back in time with artifacts and exhibits on everything from household life, mining, ranching and the Ute Indians to Doc Holliday, Teddy Roosevelt and Buffalo Bill Cody, all of whom spent time in Glenwood Springs. The archives are available for research and the photo collection contains over 5,000 historic images. Pick up a walking tour of downtown historic Glenwood Springs or arrange a guided tour of Linwood Cemetery. Shop the Museum Store for books on Glenwood history, Doc Holliday and much, much more. Learn more about the Frontier Historical Society.

Glenwood Railroad Museum

The railroad museum, located in the historic 1904 train depot, focuses on Glenwood’s railroad history. Model railroads and train artifacts tell the story of railroad transportation in Glenwood Springs and throughout Colorado.

Cardiff Coke Ovens

An important part of the mining history of this area, the Cardiff coke ovens (circa 1888) were used to superheat locally-mined coal to remove any impurities. A company town grew up around the ovens, where upwards of 250 people resided. There was a company store, post office and school. Remnants of the coke ovens, on the National Register of Historic Places, can still be seen today.

History-related events: Annual Ghost Walk through Linwood Cemetery

Held every October, costumed actors portray the pioneers of Glenwood Springs who are buried in the cemetery. Tour guides lead you up the ½ mile trail to the graveyard at night by lantern light. With tickets going on sale October 1st, this fundraiser for the Frontier Historical Society is a sell out every year, so buy your tickets early.

Storm King Fire & Memorial

On July 6, 1994, 14 firefighters perished as a wall of flames swept over them in a matter of seconds. Trapped by steep slopes and dense vegetation, they gave their lives in the line of duty on Storm King Mountain about five miles west of Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

During a year of drought and record high temperatures, a lightning strike ignited a fire on July 2 that was reported to the Bureau of Land Management the next day. The fire began on a ridge in pinyon-juniper and was burning in no more than two trees. It was named the South Canyon fire because of its location near the South Canyon exit on Interstate 70.

Along with the South Canyon fire, there were more than 40 fires reported to the Grand Junction Dispatch at the time with several fires threatening public safety and structures. These were attacked first with available firefighters.

On July 4, five new fires were reported in the area covered by the Grand Junction Dispatch. Two were more than 100 acres and still 31 remained uncontrolled. All fire personnel were commited to the highest priority fires. Around 6:30 p.m., the Forest Service and BLM each had an engine at the base of Storm King Mountain released from other fires and assigned to fight the South Canyon fire. But, they determined they could not reach the fire before dark and decided they would return the next morning. By then, the fire had grown to 11 acres.

The next day, seven BLM firefighters hiked 3 1/2 hours and built a helispot and began building a fireline. They requested a helicopter, a 20-person crew and another engine crew - however none were available. At 5:45 p.m., eight smoke-jumpers parachuted to the top of the fire and continued building a fire-line. The fire was burning actively and crossed the line constructed by the BLM crew earlier that day. The fire had grown to 50 acres.

On July 6, more firefighters arrived. During the course of the day there were 50 firefighters on the fire. At 4 p.m. explosive conditions were present. A combination of factors existed; the fire had dried vegetation in an already drought ridden area, winds shifted and were gusty, and the temperature due to the fire was extreme. The fire blew up. Between 4:14 and 4:18 p.m. the fire spotted below the crew walking out the west flank of the fireline. Th spot reached the ridgeline within two minutes, overtaking 12 firefighters. Two more firefighters who had been working at a helispot attempted to escape but were overcome trying to outrun the fire. The remaining firefighters survived by escaping out the east drainage or seeking a safety zone and deploying their fire shelters.

There is a memorial at Two Rivers Park to honor of the 14 fallen firefighters. It is a stopping place for firefighter crews passing through Glenwood Springs either enroute to a fire or returning home. It honors all firefighters and allows visitors to reflect on how courageous wildland firefighters are - putting their lives on the line to save others. In addition, the Storm King 14 Memorial Committee wanted to pay tribute at the site where the firefighters lost their lives. Their goal was to help us understand and reflect upon what happened at Storm King Mountain and to learn from that fateful day.

The trail was left rugged and steep as it was for the firefighters. An observation point was established one mile up the trail giving a complete view of the fire area. From this point, a more primitive trail continues up another steep 3/4 of a mile to the sites where the firefighters perished. Visitors return the way they came. The path is very similar to the one the firefighters took only they carried heavy packs on their backs. There are steep slopes and unstable footing - it allows visitors to experience what it is like for a firefighter.

This trail is not recommended for everyone. You must be in good health and it is recommended to hike with another person. The BLM maintains the path in this condition, based on the families' wishes to pay tribute to the firefighters and acknowledge the conditions they work under. The trail is used to educate and train Smoke Jumpers and Hotshot crews during the summer months. If you are planning your next Colorado Vacation, our rich history is a must.