The waters of hot springs and mineral springs have been known for over 1,000 years as a potential source of healthy benefits. The benefits of the Dead Sea were known to Cleopatra and King Herod the Great as far back as 4 BC. The benefits of hot springs, or mineral baths, were by the Romans throughout their empire. The still famous resort of Baden-Baden in Germany grew from the hot spring waters used by the Romans. In 1541, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto group of Spanish explorers found the Valley of the Vapors in 1541. The valley had long been used by Native American tribes who according to legend used them in peace although at war with each other. In other areas, the locations of North American “mineral waters” and their therapeutic health benefits had been also well known and used by Native Americans who later introduced the new European settlers to the waters such as in upstate New York.
The geological history of mineral spring waters and their compositions are complex. “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,” wrote Grace Maquire Swanner, M.D. And former medical consultant to the spa in Saratoga Springs, New York.
THE WATERS OF SARATOGA SPRINGS, NEW YORK
While some springs and spas were enjoyed for the baths, others were also promoted as a source of healthful mineral water beverage. As the popularity of "the waters" grew, bottling plants became common at many mineral water spring locations nationally during the first half of the 20th Century. The popularity of the different mineral spring waters in Saratoga Springs, New York led to numerous fountains in the city and in the nearby Saratoga Spa State Park. In many places, ornate Drink Halls were built centrally located to dispense a choice of "the waters" from several springs connected though undergound piping to the Drink Halls such as shown in the 1930s photograph (on the left). By late 1940s after the end of World War 2, public interest and use of the mineral springs and hydro spa therapeutic bath facilities generally decreased. Some, such as Hot Springs, Arkansas were able to survive the downturn. Others such as Saratoga Springs, New York and Mount Clemens, Michigan simply closed.
More recently, something of a resurgence appears underway. In Saratoga Springs, one bathhouse reopened as a spa with the mineral water baths under new private management. Increasingly, the number of people arriving with empty bottles in hand are seeking the "waters" of the park and city's different spring waters to take home.
Around Saratoga Springs, the U.S. and beyond, a growing interest in Green healthful solutions and the more traditional approaches to Holistic medical therapies including the appeal of different mineral spring "waters" is apparent. The result is a new level of public interest to explore some older, accepted at that time, therapeutical approaches to achieve possible relief by using "the waters" and the related "cures."
HISTORY OF PURLING, NEW YORK's HEALTHY WATERS
The early 19th Century witnessed a growth of European and American health spas built around underground sources of mineral spring waters. Drinking the mineral waters or soaking in heated mineral water filled tubs, depending on the water's mineral content, was considered appropriate medical treatments for a variety of ailments including arthritis, fibromyalgia, rheumatism, gout, paralysis, neuralgia, and skin diseases. According to treatment documents and personal accounts by patients, it was often successful.
One example of the growing public awareness of mineral spring waters’ therapeutic values was the opening of the White Sulphur Springs Hotel in Purling, NY in 1865. It opened as a health resort advertising the “medicinal advantages of the natural sulphur spring on the property,” according to the owners of that hotels current successor, the Bavarian Manor Country Inn. By 1900, the White Sulphur Springs Hotel the hotel and bath spa was renamed The Columbian. The Columbian's management explained the health benefits of their hydro spring water’s baths:
“The White Sulphur water acts on the kidneys, bowels, liver and skin.As a diuretic its affects are very soon apparent. But it usually requires some days before it [produces a decided action on the bowels.Its operation on the liver, too, may not be manifest for some time, and where there is much torpidity of this organ, some auxiliary means are required. Its affect upon the skin is very apparent through not immediate.But the most decidedly controlling effects of the water over diseased action, and that which more than every other gives its highest and most valuable character as a remedy, is its ALTERNATIVE POWER, or that pecular action by which is effects salutary changes or alterations in the blood, in the various secretions and upon the various tissues of the body.”
HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
Similarly, geological formations in Arkansas and the waters flowing from them created the baths and spas of Hot Springs, Arkansas. According to the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture,, "The complex geological forces, the hot springs flow from the Zigzag Mountains, a small range within the Ouachita Mountain system. Falling rain first percolates through the ground cover, forming carbonic acid as it reacts with carbon dioxide in the soil. Continuing downward through broken chert and novaculite, the acidic water dissolves calcium carbonate, iron oxides, and other minerals. As the water sinks even deeper, its temperature rises, probably because of elemental radioactive decay and gravitational compression deep within the earth.Geologists believe that, at the end of a journey lasting approximately 4,000 years, the water converges between 6,000 and 8,000 feet below the ground just northwest of downtown Hot Springs (Garland County). Here, several large cracks in the earth’s crust provide the water with a quick escape route, and it finally emerges as hot springs on the west side of Hot Springs Mountain."
Hot Springs, Arkansas has remained an actively popular destination for many people especially due to the preservation and development at the Hot Springs National Park. According to park information, In 1832 the Federal Government set aside four sections of land for the preservation of the natural thermal mineral waters and their recharge area. "The water coming from the 47 protected hot springs located along the lower slopes of Hot Springs Mountain emerges from the ground at an average temperature of 143° and flow rates average 850,000 gallons per day." In 1921, a portion of this area was established as the Hot Springs National Park and the development at the Park and preservation of the architecturally significant Bathhouse Row has made the area a popular destination. The water coming from the 47 protected hot springs located along the lower slopes of Hot Springs Mountain emerges from the ground at an average temperature of 143° and flow rates average 850,000 gallons per day. Within the Park, the U.S. Geological Services chemical analysis of a spring water location concluded samples contained, in Milligrams per Liter: Silica (SiO2) 53.0 Bicarbonate (HCO3) 130.0, Calcium (Ca) 47.0 Sulfate (SO4) 7.8, Magnesium (Mg) 4.9 Chloride (CI) 2.2, Sodium (Na), 4.0 Fluoride (F) .26, Potassium (K) 1.4, Oxygen (O2) 4.5, and Free carbon dioxide (CO2) 9.7. Radioactivity through radon gas emanation is 43.3 pico curies per liter.