Salida Hot Springs Pool History

A 1937 Federal Works Progress Administration (WPA) project constructed springs collection boxes, collection lines, a junction box, and a five mile underground hot water transmission line to the Salida Hot Springs Aquatic Center. The pool and building were constructed as part of the same WPA project. During the depths of the Great Depression, some 200 men found work digging the pipeline and constructing the building essentially by hand. It cost $160,000 to install the line and build the concrete pool building. In 1941 the City purchased 145 acres of land at the hot springs source and water rights from J. Carter and A.T. Hartwich for $40,000.

The natural hot springs rise in two groups, called the north and south springs, at an elevation of 7,900 to 8,000 feet. Therefore, delivery of the hot springs water to the pool by gravity is practical.

Although the City owned the facility, it never was a profitable enterprise, so the city entertained offers to buy or lease the property and water rights. In 1958, Marion Chelf and Max L. Sauder attempted to put together an investment group to lease the property and water.

In 1968 Elmo Bevington, an Omaha based beer distributor, attempted to buy the rights and pool property for $100,000. The proposal failed however, when Bill Rush, a prominent Salida Attorney, led a fight against the sale.

In February 1975 a natural gas leak in a pipe joint near what is now the Chamber of Commerce building crept back into the pool building. An electric pump led to an explosion in the building, closed at that time of night, destroying newly refurbished decking and pool walls. In November 1975, city voters defeated a $450,000 bond the rebuild the pool.

In April 1976, using about $100,000 in insurance money, the city council approved $153,000 to rebuild the facility and in the process removed the damaged roof. The pool reopened that summer, but had to close during cold weather as the hot water caused too much steam around the pool limiting visibility.

In November 1979 city voters approved by a 2 to 1 margin a $280,000 bond issue to replace the roof, revamp the hot baths, rebuild the entryway and dressing room access, and add a new wading pool and whirlpool. The whirlpool was cut when funds ran out on the project.

In 1993 Salida citizens passed a bond issue directing the City of Salida to help finance replacing the collection system and improvements to pool plumbing.

In 2000, the original 5 mile hot water transmission line was to be replaced because of constrictions, leaks, and breaks in the 62 year old line.

From 1996-2003 a new line, in a new location, was constructed. This multi-phased project cost 2 million dollars. The new line began operation in August of 2002. The water temperature never reached the previous level due to the effect of high ground water and a river crossing in the path of the new line resulting in a significant loss of heat in the new line.

In 2003 The City of Salida sued the engineering firm that had done the design and construction oversight for the new line. In December 2006 a $325,000 settlement was reached with the firm, McLaughlin Engineering.

In May of 2001 a large snowstorm dumped 5 feet of snow causing the roof of the pool building to collapse. The city recovered one million in insurance funds and spent another million updating the deck and gutter, replacing plumbing, adding an HVAC system, and play pool.

In 2009 the changing rooms were repaired and updated, while a Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) grant was secured to do water line remediation. This grant supplied $448,000 while insurance money and city funds from the occupational tax made up the remainder of the $880,000 project. The water line remediation project was completed in May of 2010, and hot water began to flow into the pool 7 to 15 degrees warmer topping out at 115°! Cool water is now introduced to keep the water at safe and enjoyable levels.