Copyright 2015 & 2021 by Richard O. Aichele -


Exploring New York's Saratoga Mineral Springs Waters

by   Richard O. Aichele

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Saratoga's  Regional   Geological   Evolutions

wrap text around imageMillions of years evolving geological history led to the creation of the mineral waters of Saratoga State Park and surrounding areas. During the glacial period, the area was covered by the geological Lake Albany but as that water drained away the area became dry land. The Coesa Spring and Spouter located in the park was once a source of water for Lake Albany. The water flow from Coesa remains a source of water for a small lake on the west side of the park near New York State Route 50 and the outflow from that lake is a tributary to Geyser Creek, then flowing into Kayaderosseras Creek and ultimately the Hudson River.


"The mineral waters of the Saratoga region are found in a natural reservoir in the sandstone or dolomite layers of the earth's crust, namely Amsterdam limestone. They occupy channels and cavities formed by the solution of the limestone in these rocks. The channels are connected on different levels by passageways making it possible for the waters to circulate freely throughout the same area. As they circulate they find egress to the earth's surface at the fault that connects with surface. The cause of the rise of the water in a natural flow is due to the carbon dioxide gas with which the water stored in the channels is saturated. When an opening is found in the rock at or near the surface, the gas released from the from the water sources forces the water to rise and flow out on the surface. It is interesting to note that wherever the mineral waters are found, Canajoharie shale forms the surface layer of rocks. Because it is impervious to water, the shale prevents the mineral water from reaching the surface except along fault lines where the surface is broken. In the same way, surface water is prevented from reaching and mixing with the mineral waters," according to Grace Maguire Swanner, M.D. in her book Saratoga Queen of Spas.


Ballston   Spa  Mineral   Water  Springs


wrap text around imageThe Old Iron Spring in Ballston Spa was discovered in 1769 by Colonists during surveys of the Kayaderosseras Patent and the spring waters still flow today. This spring and others in the area had been used by Native American Indians for the heathful characteristics of the waters many years earlier. In the late 1800s, (see photo) the area around the Old Iron Spring was continually improved including construction of the Spring House that served refreshing mineral water. The Spring House was restored during the 1990s and is open during special events.

During the past 245 years, Ballston Spa had a total of 19 named mineral water springs that were active at different times. The Sans Souci Springs group of springs included the Low's Spring, Sulphur Spring, Park Spring and the San Souchi Spring. Today, the Medbury Inn and Spa in Ballston Spa still offer private mineral baths using the Sans Souchi Spring's "naturally carbonated mineral water heated to body temperature."

Saratoga Spa Park Mineral Springs

Eleven of the fourteen springs in Spa Park are classified as carbonated mineral water springs as a result of their naturally occurring minerals and carbonic gas content. Two of the springs identified as State Seal and Ferndell Spring are neither carbonated or contain high mineral content. According to Swanner's book, while in the 1930's era there were still fifteen springs that were being "principally marketed pure still waters." Research at the Saratoga Reservation's laboratory identified two of the sources among the fifteen that were superior in quality. "The spring showing the smallest total was found in the ravine near the Willow Gate of Geyser Park and was chosen for development." Geologically, that source's "upper stratum of sand is entirely sealed off from the more soluble rock by an impervious table of clay; the water bubbles forth from the sands which are silaceous and insoluble in water." Today, these "non-carbonated, non-mineral spring water" sources are known as State Seal Water and Ferndell Spring water located at the Geyser picnic area, the Bruno Pavilion and along the Ferndell Trail.

wrap text around imageThe Spa Park's active mineral springs including the Island Spouter shown here can be reached by using the park's excellent trail system with easy access from the park roads. The Island Spouter is near the Geyser Creek picnic area and the Vale of the Springs trails.





Rediscovering  the   Champion   Number 2   Spring

A Once Famous Spa Park Spouter

wrap text around imageIn the late 1800's, the Saratoga underground waters gas content became commercially valuable. Three of the most powerful springs were drilled on the private Champion Natural Gas Company property and they became famous in the Saratoga Region. Champion spring well Number 1 spouted water over 100 feet into the air. It became famous enough that the passenger trains between New York City and Montreal, Canada often slowed to give passengers a view of the spouting spring waters. Champion Natural Gas drilled two other wells, Champion Number 2 and Champion Number 3, that also became popular Saratoga Region attractions. The Champion property was acquired by the State of New York and by 1915 to create Spa Park. The spring sites were developed with many walking trails allowing the public to enjoy the many springs.


The Champion Number 2 spring underwent many cosmetic changes from a verical water spray to less water directed into a decorative glass ball to the vertical upward water spray in the lower 1937 image and finally aiming the water spray into the pond as shown in the upper image. After the destruction of the observation platform, general interest in the spring ended and memories of Champion Number 2 generally were lost.


wrap text around imageA lengthy search by Richard O. Aichele for the long-lost Champion Number 2 spouter spring in the photo image was unexpectedly successfully rediscovered on August 25, 2015. He had often surveyed the collapsed concrete platform area, studied historic geological records and maps. With newly acquired old photographs, he determined the probable location of the drilled Chaampion 2's wellhead.

wrap text around imageOn that day, due to low water level of Geyser Creek, he observed unusual upward turbulance in the Geyser Creek which he believed was near the possible location of Champion Number 2 spring. A follow-up underwater investigation confirmed the upward rurbulance was in fact the long-lost Champion Number 2 spouter's wellhead that was still flowing freely. It is near the remaining large concrete and stone segments of the old platform but was not damaged when the platform was destroyed about 50 years earlier. henzelaichele


A Candidate for Restoration

After the rediscovery of the Champion Number 2 spring's underwater wellhead on August 25, 2015, the concept of possibly including restoring the spouting spring as part of any future park work was suggested by Aichele to the park's management and engineering office.

The broken concrete structures near the wellhead are the remains of the original platform and possibly could be incorporated into a new rebuilt platform. The platform's six foot long end wall with a base 30 inches in thickness and faced with decorative stone rests on a poured concrete foundation approximately 36 inches wide and more than 18 inches high. The remaining side wall structures are similarly substantial. A concrete frame now broken in several places was likely the wellhead access opening in the concrete platform's top surface. The overall original design of the platform originally provided a large barrier that protected the adjacent dirt embankment from erosion by the Geyser Creek's water as Geyser Creek water emerged from the tunnel. Aichele's research indicated a blockage of the tunnel by debris during a severe storm suddendly broke sending flash flood waters that destroyed the platform and the Champion Number 2's fountain. It was never rebuilt.



champion walks

Mineral  Water   Health   Therapeutic  Concepts

Spa  Mineral   Waters'   History

wrap text around imageJust regularly drinking some of the mineral waters for health reasons was very popular for many years. Commonly, the beneficial waters were available for drinking at mineral water fountains near the springs or less often as bottled mineral water. One example, the spa at Saratoga Springs State Park in New York once offered three distinct types of bottled mineral waters and one still water from the park's wells. The park had two bottling plants to ensure mineral water purity from the wellhead to the bottle. The famous Hall of the Springs in the park dispensed mineral water piped directly from the Geyser Spring, the Coesa Spring and the Hathorn Spring located some distance from the building.

Drink halls built in the park and in Saratoga Springs NY gave visitors easy access to enjoy drinking the healthful mineral spring waters in pleasant environments.

At any of the mineral springs, the initial major attraction was the opportunity to drink the waters. The medical benefits of the different waters was promoted by the spring operators and sought after by the public. Dispensing the waters was initially done by the small glasses at the springs. In more popular areas, the springs' owners built permanent structures called Drink Halls that were often ornate inside to improve the public's perception of the spring.


Drinking   the Saratoga Springs, NY   Mineral Waters

Saratoga Springs Drink Hall Congress Park

Top: - 1920s Era Drink Hall and Congress Park Fountain

Below: - 1950s Era - Hall of Springs Fountain Counters in Saratoga Springs Spa State Park.

Saratoga Springs Drink Hall Congress Park


Geology   Created  The  Mineral   Waters

Balneology includes studies of the complex geological history of mineral spring waters, their compositions and various wellness treatments to improve people's health over the centuries. As an overview, Grace Maquire Swanner, M.D., a former medical Balneology consultant in Saratoga Springs, New York, wrote: "According to geologists, waters coming from beneath the surface of the earth are classified in three groups: meteoric - waters which are derived from rainfall, magmatic- waters contained in igneous rocks which were formed by crystallization of the molten mass evicted from deep within the earth, and connate - waters derived from sedimentary rocks formed by the laying down of sediments in ancient seas."

The geology of the Saratoga Springs, New York region is composed of sandstone or dolomite layers called Amsterdam limestone. The underground limestone decomposed over time resulting underground cavities that filled with water and the resulting channels allowed the waters to circulate in the area. The water absorbed minerals from the underground rocks at the same time the water combined with the carbon dioxide gas.

Some parts of this New York State region have a layer of Canajoharie shale above the dolomite layers that formed a waterproof shield locking in the carbonated water. Springs or geysers occurred if the upper surface structure was broken allowing a carbonated water flow at the surface. Other areas such as in Saratoga Springs State Park have a clay layer about 50 feet thick below the surface providing a further seal between ground water and the underground mineral water rock layers.

In New York's Saratoga State Park, drilled springs averaging 1,200 feet deep produce springs each with distinctive mineral compositions that still flow at fountains. There are other mineral water springs, notably High Rock Spring, directly in the city.


Healthier  Living   With   Mineral  Waters

The mid-19th Century witnessed a growth of many European and American health spas built around underground sources of mineral spring waters. Guests enjoyed the mineral waters either by drinking it or bathing in the mineral waters heated to a comfortable temperature. Depending on a water's mineral content, physicians prescribed appropriate medical treatments using the mineral waters for a variety of ailments including arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism, gout, paralysis, neuralgia, and skin diseases. As the mineral springs were discovered, baths were built some of which became architectural landmarks with elegant interior designs to encourage healthful relaxation.

By early 1950s public interest and use of the mineral springs and hydro spa therapeutic bath facilities in the U.S. gradually decreased. Among the reasons cited in the U.S. for the declining interest in mineral waters therapies was the influence of the growing pharmaceutical industry, promotion of the concept to "just take a pill for whatever hurts," reduced education of Balneology in the healthcare field, elimination of public funding for mineral water health facilities and reduced knowledge of holistic health approaches.

However, in Europe, the practice of mineral water hydrotherapy treatments has remained strong benefiting both the health of spa users some are under the direction of spa doctors and the healthcare systems. The financial benefits to the economies of the towns and cities near the springs are significant. As a result, many spas are vibrant world class destinations such as Baden-Baden in Germany, Lourdes in France or the Thermal Springs of Saturnia in Italy. Other spas are in towns and smaller cities throughout Europe.


In the early 1900s, the quality of the mineral waters available at Saratoga Springs, New Yorkwas considered equal to those of the European spas but the variety of mineral contents from different wells exceeded those of some European spas. Most of the many drilled mineral springs in what is now Saratoga Springs State Park were shut down and sealed in the 1920s. Nine of the best were made available for drinking purposes at fountains throughout the park, formerly used at the Hall of Springs or also used as bottled waters.

The fifteen chemical compositions of those Saratoga Springs' mineral well waters in a small geographical area have an interesting variety. Calcium content varies from 465 ppm (parts per million) at Polaris Spring to 1.160 ppm at Hawthorn #3 Spring. Sodium levels at Hayes Spring is 2,610 ppm and 920 ppm at the Lincoln Spring. Stromtium ranges between 4.24 ppm at Polaris Spring and 23.8 ppm at Hawthorn #3 Spring. Lithium is less than 0.05 ppm at the Orenda Spring and 12 ppm at Hayes Spring. Potassium levels among six popular drinking mineral sprimgs varies from 106 ppm to 429 ppm. Those wells are among those with significant Carbon Dioxide content. Two wells known as the State Seal Water and the Ferndell Spring Water do not have noticeable Carbon Dioxide and very low mineral levels making them very popular still waters for drinking.


As with the growing positive trends in holistic health practices, there is also a growing reawareness positive trend in the benefits of natural mineral waters. The Balneology Association of North America [BANA] actively promotes greater awareness of the benefits of therapeutic baths and bathing in natural mineral waters through research and education. One element is to increase public knowledge of the importance of various minerals to the human body and how bathing in mineral waters can help met those needs. Every source of natural mineral waters will have different compositions of various minerals. For example, the Baneologo Association of North America identifies the health benefits in five of the minerals commonly found in varying degrees in natural mineral waters.

Calcium Hydrating with Calcium rich mineral waters allows for a consistent level of calcium in the body's fluids and tissues, which is needed for muscle contraction, blood vessel contraction and expansion, the secretion of hormones and enzymes, and communication through the nervous system. An adequate intake of calcium builds and maintains proper bone mass and helps prevent osteoporosis. .

Lithium Hydrating with Lithium rich mineral waters can help protect your brain from exposure to the toxins produced by your own body. Toxic molecules are formed naturally during the course of normal brain metabolism. Lithium supports nervous system, mood and sleep. .

Magnesium Hydrating with Magnesium rich mineral waters su pports energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. Magnesium is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and normal heart rhythm. .

Potassium Hydrating with Potassium rich mineral waters alkalizes the system by working with sodium to balance body fluids. Potassium helps regulate the heartbeat and is necessary to move nutrients and wastes through the cell walls. More of this mineral is needed when the body is under physical or mental stress. It is a natural pain reducer. .

Sulfur Hydrating with Sulfur rich mineral waters has been used medicinally since ancient times. Also known as "nature's beauty mineral", because your body needs it to manufacture collagen, which helps with skin elasticity and keeps us young looking. Sulfur is contained in every cell in the body. Approximately 0.25 percent of your total body weight is sulfur. It is most concentrated in keratin which gives you strong hair, nails and skin. Sulfur eases irritated skin conditions and helps protect the body against toxins in the environment. Inflammation can be relieved by taking a soothing bath in hot sulfur springs.



Enploring Mineral Waters Health Benefits

One of the original Spa Park's four bath houses, the Roosevelt Two Bath House is open seven days a week for mineral water baths and massages. It is operated by the Roosevelt Baths And Spa associated with the management of the nearby Gideon Puttnam Hotel. At the Roosevelt Two, hydrotherapy individual baths use natural cold mineral water with the necessary amount of hot, fresh water to obtain bath water between 97 to 100, degrees F. The baths are 40 minutes in length.

According to the Saratoga Springs Spa, historically the different beneficial effects of the different mineral waters "were attributed to the waters of the various springs: Geyser increased appetite, aided digestion and replenished salts lost in the body through perspiration and therefore had strong laxative effects. The excess carbon dioxide gas from this spring relieved sinus congestion when inhaled. Orenda spring is similar in content to Coesa, and was used both as a laxative and an antacid. Orenda also boasts one of the highest potassium iodide contents of the Saratoga waters. Scientists at the Simon Baruch Research Institute believed that it was possible to inhale the daily iodine requirement at this spring."

Saratoga Springs, New York had the geological good fortune to have a variety of mineral waters within a small geographical area. Most of the mineral waters had an ample combination with carbonic gas. The mineral waters were discovered in the mid 1800s and their medicinal uses led to openings of numerous bath houses, spa treatments and drinking fountains. In the late 1800s, the geological good fortune attracted commercial developers, known as the gas companies, to use the mineral water sources to extract the carbonic gas for resale. The process included wasting the mineral waters by dumping them onto the surfaces. By 1907, the gas companies overexploitation of the underground supply by drilling hundreds of wells was obvious and local citizens and the State of New York took action. The Wall Street Journal called for state takeover of the gas companies' properties because, "It looks in fact, as if individual selfishness would finally leave the medicinal springs as extinct as the buffalo."

The state rebuilt a former gas company wood construction building into the first Lincoln Bath House. It burned in 1929 and within three years a new modern Lincoln Bath House. was opened. During those years, the state's newest Washington Bath House opened in 1920. They were followed by construction of the Roosevelt One and the Roosevelt Two bath houses built during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Both buildings had almost identical bath and other health services. During and after World War 2, the U.S. Veterans Admijnistration used the facilities for therapeutic mineral water treatments of wounded servicemen.

Saratoga Springs Washinton Bath House Saratoga Springs Lincoln Bath House

Left: The Washington Bath House. Right: The Lincoln Bath House.

The ceremony in which the cornerstone of the Hall of Springs was laid July 12, 1933, marked the beginning of the New Spa's development. Mineral waters from the Geyser, Hathorn, and Coesa springs were piped directly into the Hall of Springs for patrons to drink while they enjoyed live orchestral music. The Hall of Springs included a concert hall, a promenade, writing rooms, lounges, and a restaurant, was the centerpiece of the Spa Park complex. Exterior decorative statues show a female representing Earth and a male statue representing Water. Today the Hall of Springs serves as a banquet hall and no longer serves Spa Park mineral waters.

Saratoga Springs Simon Baruch Research Laboratory

Built as the Simon Baruch Research Laboratory for mineral water therapy studies

it is used today as the Saratoga Spa State Park's administration building.

wrap text around imageA centerpiece of the original Spas' goal to develop mineral water therapies and benfits to people of all economic levels was the Simon Baruch Research Institute building. Today it is the state park's administration building. The cornerstone of the Simon Baruch Research Laboratory was laid September 14, 1934. Simon Baruch was an American pioneer in the fields of Balneology, mineral water therapeutic medical treatments and public health issues. He was active in the early days (1910 era) of Saratoga Spa to establish it as "the ideal place to study the nature and course of chronic diseases, a subject which the medical profession had neglected in favor of studying and concontrating on the more demanding acute diseases of the time," according to Grace Maguire Swanner, M.D. With the completion of the laboratory building, the opening ceremony was called "Realization of the Dream of 1910."

The Spa Park complete with mineral springs, four bath houses, laboratory, hotel, theatre and other features that had always been the responsibility of the state. It was first threatened in the 1950s when a New York State commission known as the Little Hoover Commission recommended that the Spa be abolished. Swanner's book Saratoga Queen of Spas also notes, "Legislature cut a large slice of the budget appropriations for the Spa." It was the first of a long series of reductions in operating funds that contributed to reduced services to Spa clients and the resulting steady decline of Spa clients.

The Spa Park as a state park is active and popular. Due to the high quality of the original architects and buildiers work and the continual efforts of park managers and staffs, the approximately 90 year old buildings have survived surprisingly well. However, greater restoration will depend on productive uses. It is the hope of many that the Dream of 1910 may be revitalized.

Saratoga Springs   --   The High Rock Spring

The stone escarpment bordering High Rock Park marks the western edge of the Saratoga Fault Line. The High Rock Spring is distinguished from other springs by a natural cone of hardened mineral deposits at its base. The curative benefits of the mineral water that naturally flowed from the spring were known to Native Americans long before the first colonists reached the New World. The Mohawk Indians carried an ailing Sir William Johnson to the spring in 1771 He was the first non-Native American to visit the site and word soon caught on outside the Iroquois Nation that the waters throughout this obscure region held extraordinary healing powers. The High Rock Spring had also been visited by officers of the American Revolutionary Army after the Battle of Saratoga.

wrap text around imageIn 1824, Chancellor Reuben Hyde Walworth visited the High Rock Spring. He spoke with an elderly Indian chief between 80 and 90 years of age and in perfect mental vigor. The chief was of of the Indians near St. Regis who had been born on the banks of the Mohawk River. The chief said he emigrated to Canada with his father several years before the Revolution. When he was 15 years old and shortly before he went to Canada he visited the Great Medicine Spring. Asked if the water flowed over the top of the rock at that time he said it did not abd they had to get the medicine water by dipping it out of the rock with a gourd shell. There was a tradition, he said, among the Indians that the Medicine Water had formerly flowed out of the rock at its top but it ceased to do so a long time before he came to it with his father.

The High Rock Spring rock cone was described as, "a conical shape rising about four feet above the earth. It is about eight feet in diameter at the base and about fifteen inches at the apex. The cavity, at the top, is about ten inches in diameter and increases in size as it descends. The water stands at about three feet below the top of the rock," according a 1858 document by M. L. North M.D. now in the collection of the Saratoga Springs Public Library - Saratoga Room.

Restoration   and  Rededication

In 1865, the High Rock Spring property was purchased by Seymour Ainsworth and W. H. McCaffrey. The new owners undertook a major excavation to increase the springs water flow. The covering structure over the spring area was removed. Using a hoist, workmen separated the cone from the surface and it was lifted off[the ground and moved it out of the way. Henry McGuier's 1867 detailed report of the excavation, also at the Saratoga Springs Public Library - Saratoga Room, described the operation: "Upon removing the soil quite down to the permanent orifice in the rock below, and by supplying an artificial channel between that point and the surface, to re-produce that much desired spectacle of the water once again bubbling up, and running over the cone. After passing through about seven feet of comingled muck and tufa, they came upon a layer of tufe about two feet think, then a stratum of muck, then another stratum of tufa three feet thick; through the muck were disseminated the trunks of large large trees and pine and other forest leaves, in profuse abundance -- the concentric rings of the trunks of one of the trees, and found one hundred and thirty -- those trees must have lain there for a long period of time before they became covered by the increasing peaty deposit... [Then]wrap text around image proceeding through alternative strata of muck and tufa down to the desired point where an opening was reached which furnished a volume of water vastly superior to anything before ever witnessed at this point. A tube was then furnished , placed in position and properly secured, in which the mineral water rose several feet above the above the original surface of the rock or cone. Preparations were immediately made for replacing the rock back upon the vein of water, and after considerable labor and trial that purpose was accomplished, and water welled up through the orifice and overflowed the rock; a spectacle never before presented" except possibly to Native American Indians. At the High Rock Spring Rededication ceremony in 1866, Chancellor Reuben Walworth said, "when the Great Medicine Spring had ceased to flow over the top is not known to anyone now living but with artificial means on August 22, 1866 it again flows over the top."

Era of the Dipper Boys

Dipper Boys at the mineral springs in the city and at the State Park performed valued jobs during the late 1800s and early 1900s. A typical example was the Dipper Boy at the High Rock Spring shown in the photo who used a long handled dipper that held drinking glasses to fill them from the springs and serve them to the visitors. One Dipper Boy recalled years later that they were at the springs working for tips for many hours "pouring the water into glasses held in the outstretched hands of patrons or other boys who served the customers at the tables." wrap text around image

As the years passed, local ground water conditions changed. The area's stream flowing there often resulted in swampy or ponding areas. Gradually the low lying areas in and around the High Rock Park were filled in with dirt and rocks raising the ground level as much as six feet in some places to eliminate the flooding. The stream water was also carried off with the storm drains. Ultimately, the area's geological conditions were likely affected by continual surface changes and below ground changes over the past 140 years. McGuier's study confirmed the excavation findings that High Rock Spring "had no direct or immediate connection to the rock below" and that the water that reached the spring was "supplied by percolation through the intervening soil." If the surface changes are as described in historical documents, it is possible percolation and water pressure can no longer supply sufficient natural mineral water flow to the spring. At this time, the natural flow of the High Rock Spring's mineral water has ceased.

Historic High Rock Spring Pavilions

1865 1913

The Emperor Spring


Photo above was published in 1916 by the State of New York showing the "Emperor Spring in Historic High Rock Park, Showing Newly Constructed Bowl, and Famous Rock Scarp in Background." The High Rock Spring's pavilion is shown beyond the trees. The depth of the new bowl accessed by the concrete steps may represent the depth of the swampy area and pond of that area in earlier years that had been filled. As recently as 1988, Grace Maguire Swanner, M.D. described the Emperor Spring located just south of the High Rock Spring as "one of the most important springs on the Reservation since the demand for its water was greater than that of any other spring on the Reservation." The Emperor Spring had been retubed and resealed in 1916, Swanner wrote, bringing it to a "condition of purity that had not been known for many years."

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The history of the Saratoga region's mineral water natural flows and man-made springs by well drilling is extensive. Just in the Geyser Valley, the gas industry drilled about 130 wells. Many were later properly sealed preventing loss of mineral water and gas. Some were simply abandoned allowing ground water to deeply penetrate to the mineral water tables. Some wells can be found still flowing up to the surface. The Spa Park mineral water fountains available for the public to sample different waters are well maintained and are a constant attraction for thousands of park visitors.

. . . . . . . .    P.O. Box 4725, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 USA  email contact:

Copyright 2015 and 2021.   by Richard O. Aichele

Historical & Technical Research and Publishing


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