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History

Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa

Opened in 1868, Ojo is one of the oldest natural health resorts in the U.S


SPA is the acronym for the Latin phrase, “Salus Per Aquas”, which means “health through water”. The very essence of the words is the reason we are here.

Steeped in myth and legend, these ancient springs have been a gathering place and source of healing for thousands of years. The use of the waters can be traced back to the earliest human migrations in the region. Ancient peoples, the ancestors of today’s Native American Tewa Pueblos, built large pueblos and terraced gardens overlooking the Springs. “Tewa” is the language spoken by the 8 Northern Pueblos of New Mexico. Tewa People include current residents and descendants of Taos, Picuris, Santa Clara, Ohkay Owingeh (formerly San Juan), San Ildefonso, Nambé, Pojoaque and Tesuque Pueblos.


Surrounding the Springs are the ruins of the cities populated before the birth of history. P’osi or P’osi-owingeh, “where the water comes to a point” was the largest of four pueblos surrounding the Springs and home to thousands of people. Because of the work of archaeologists Adolph Bandelier and Edgar Hewitt, we know that P’osi was a vibrant center of activity until the 15th century. The unusually diverse and abundant styles of pottery shards and other artifacts remain as a testament to P’osi and the Spring’s long-standing iconic significance within the larger region. Tradition tells us that often-warring tribesman would set their weapons and differences aside to gather in peace at the Springs to enjoy the benefits of the sacred waters, and to trade and heal their wounds and ailments without conflict.


In the 1500’s the Spaniards, in their quest for gold and the Fountain of Youth, also discovered the Springs. The first explorer’s record cites, “The greatest treasure that I found these strange people to possess, are hot springs which burst out at the foot of a mountain … so powerful are the chemicals contained in these waters that the inhabitants have a belief that they were given to them by their “gods.” These Springs I have named “Ojo Caliente” (literally translated means “hot eye,” but more commonly known as “hot spring”). After discovering Ojo Caliente’s Springs and the lush and fertile surrounding river valley, the Spanish were challenged in their attempts to colonize the area and cultivate the land throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Those attempts repeatedly resulted in the settlers retreating back to the more established and safer settlement of Santa Fe, as result of routine raids conducted by the Comanche and other hostilities. One can still see the old “gun portholes” in the walls of Ojo Caliente’s original Santa Cruz church (constructed in the late 1700’s) that the Spanish settlers used to defend themselves.


It was not until the 19th century that westward expansion caused Ojo Caliente to emerge from its prehistoric origins. In 1868, Antonio Joseph, New Mexico’s 1st Territorial Representative to Congress, built the first bathhouse and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs became one of the first natural health resorts in the country. Ojo quickly became a hub of activity providing the mineral waters, overnight lodging, a post office, and a general store where historical ledgers show Kit Carson frequently purchased supplies. As a “sanitarium,” Ojo was known throughout the country as a place where thousands of people were “cured” each year through the healing effects of the waters and the earth. Three original buildings have been caringly restored and maintained and today are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, including the Historic Bathhouse built in 1868; the Historic Hotel, built in 1917; and the Adobe Round Barn built in 1924.

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