I’m not big on carbonated beverages. Water and tea (hot or iced) are my thirst quenchers of choice. Recently however, while on vacation in Colorado I found myself on an a spontaneous treasure hunt for sparkling water across the city of Manitou Springs.

Located at the based of Pikes Peak (a 14,115 foot mountain and designated National Historic Landmark), the city’s history is closely tied to natural mineral springs which helped to establish it early on as a spa destination. A quick Google search to learn more about what makes the water here so unique yielded the seeds for an impromptu scavenger hunt to find and sample the water from 10 different publicly accessible spigots that dot the small town.

Cheyenne Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

@chicagosean poses in front of Cheyenne Spring

First up, Cheyenne Spring, which could be seen from Adam’s Mountain Cafe, the creekside lunch spot where @chicagosean and I enjoyed our best meal of the trip [Senegalese Vegetables for him, Tibetan Vegetables with sesame crusted tofu for me]. Filling up our water bottle we took our first sip, and looked at each other in surprise when the carbonation and unique flavor hit our tongues. What a shock! While the font for the spring runs constantly unlike a typical public water fountain, somehow I still expected the water to be similar to what you find in public fountains everywhere. Instead the water both had a hint of flavor and sparkling bubbles, not unlike what you might find in a bottle of seltzer. The water is naturally cold, at between 49 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit as it rises up through the spring from limestone aquifers a mile or more below the surface.

According to the pamphlet Taste the Mineral Springs that made Manitou Famous published by the Mineral Springs Foundation, the unique water flowing from the springs has quite a journey:

“Rainwater and snow melt from Pikes Peak and surrounding mountains soak into rock fractures. As the water penetrates to great depth, it becomes heated and mineralized. The warm water naturally flows up the Ute Pass fault zone and into cavernous limestone where it becomes carbonated. The water issues from numerous springs from wells drilled into the limestone aquifer. Because the water takes thousands of years to compete it’s journey from mountain sources to the Manitou springs, it is totally free of industrial and atmospheric contamination.

Unlike most other mineralized springs, these have a distinctive flair because if the minerals the water picks up as it passes through limestone and dolomite caverns.”

Next up we sought out Navajo Spring, nearly hidden in the seating area for the local sweet shoppe. The font itself was adorned with a painted and tile surround. Despite being located not even a half block away from Cheyenne Spring, it had a noticeably different taste and was less carbonated. While no longer in view, the deposits from the carbonate of lime in this spring long ago formed a natural basin where Indians would bathe the sick and wounded.

Navajo Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

The font for Navajo Springs is incongruously located in sheltered area of picnic tables behind a candy store

Soda Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Soda Spring restoration in progress

After a bit of confused walking (which was corrected by this excellent article on the springs), we found Soda Spring in the lobby of the building where we ate lunch. The spring is currently unmarked and the water source itself is enclosed so we weren’t able to try a sample.

Having stumbled into this unplanned quest, we headed across the street to the Stratton Spring, just a short distance from where the Cheyenne, Soda and Navajo springs are clustered together. This spring was drilled in 1936 to “bring distinctive character”1 to the surrounding properties owned by it’s namesake, Winfield Scott Stratton who made his fortune in Colorado’s gold rush. The current font (many of the fonts have been restored from their originals, and in some cases even moved) is topped with a bronze sculpture of a young girl reaching down to scoop the water.

Stratton Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Stratton Spring’s font has a bronze statue of a girl scooping water into her hand above the spigot

Venturing west of the town center toward the train station for the cog rail that runs up Pikes Peak, we found Twin Spring. At first glance, its metal enclosure made it look like someone shoved the fountain into a phone booth. But we found the water to be one of our favorites, and according to the signage, a local favorite –considered in Manitou as “the connoisseur’s choice”. Concentrations of calcium, potassium and trace of lithium apparently make it popular for lemonade as well. Meeting a biker who stopped to refill his water bottle at this springs, we were directed up the road to the Iron Spring, which according to our new acquaintance really lives up to it’s name. But after several uphill blocks in unrelenting heat without reaching our destination, we decided to check this one off the list.

Twin Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Twin Spring’s phone booth-like metal enclosure (left); Close up of font sculpture and mineral sediment in the basin (right)

Heading back into town, we refreshed with another stop at Twin Spring as we walked in the direction of Wheeler Spring. Inset without fanfare into a wall along a street across from Soda Springs Park, this was also a favorite, with a light taste and pleasant carbonation. Drilled in 1920, the spring erupts every six to eight hours, but the water is held in a basin so it flows evenly into the font.

Wheeler Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

Sampling the waters at Wheeler Spring

Located in a small bucolic park with a gazebo and small amphitheater is 7-Minute Spring. When it was originally drilled in 1909, as its name suggests, it would erupt every 7 minutes. After years of disrepair, restoration efforts began in 1992 when a new well was drilled four times the depth of the original. With it’s contemporary font, the water now flows continuously.

7 Minute Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

7-Minute Spring is located in a cute little park with a gazebo and amphitheater

Shoshone Spring in Manitou Springs, Colorado

The building into which the Shoshone natural artesian mineral spring font is build was constructed in the 1890′s out of red-orange Lyons sandstone

With bellies sloshing, we decided to end our impromptu taste testing after a quick stop at Shoshone Spring, where the font is built into the outer wall of the round spring house. According to the Mineral Springs Foundation, its water is both the warmest (just over 70 degrees Fahrenheit) and has some the highest mineral concentrations of the downtown springs.2

Many thanks to ColoradoGuy.com whose post inspired our spontaneous day in Manitou Springs!


[throughout] On-location signage

1 “Stratton Spring”; Mineral Springs Foundation; September 2011

2  “Shoshone Spring”; Mineral Springs Foundation; September 2011