Saratoga Springs Spa Park Mineral Waters
Saratoga Springs Mineral Waters
The city of Saratoga Springs is rich in resources, both natural and man-made and one of my favorites is the state park, Saratoga Spa Park, located smack dab in the middle of the city.
At over 2,000 acres, the park has something to offer for everyone from fishing to hiking to history and even seeing live concerts at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), located smack dab in the middle of the park.
One of the things the park is most famous for is the multitude of mineral springs, once thought to have healing powers, and sparking a health craze in the early 1900s. For this article I would like to focus on the springs and their status and uses today
A walk around the park will reveal several brick structures built in a classic architecture with several columns, kind of reminiscent of Greek temples. These buildings were constructed in the early 1900s when visiting the springs became a favorite pastime of summer visitors to the city.
Although discovered by Native Americans who believed the springs held healing powers, white newcomers to the area quickly discovered a money-making possibility by promoting the supposed healing quality of the waters.
Visitors would come to the park, bathe in the bath houses, and stroll along the promenades, socializing at the nearby Hall of Springs, a dining establishment still in use today that had three of the estimated 17 springs.
At the heart of it's popularity, Saratoga Spa State Park became THE destination for the rich and famous, and those wanting to be seen.
Left behind was nearby sister city Ballston Spa, with its own springs. Although not known why Ballston Spa didn't develop like Saratoga Springs, speculation is that it wasn't promoted as aggressively as Saratoga Springs.
Signs along the promenade reveal that Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was also a visitor here and while a governor, secured federal funds to further develop the buildings and promenades. A little-known fact about Roosevelt was that he suffered from polio and perhaps also believed in the supposed healing power of the water.
Also still in use today is the Gideon Putnam Hotel, which was built more than 75 years ago to accommodate overnight guests at the park. The hotel has 124 rooms. It is a short stroll from the bath houses and promenades, and nestled in the woods. It is also built in the same style as the bath houses.
It is quite a challenge to find all of the springs located in the park, and involves a lot of hiking, but it is every satisfying to find all of them and taste them all.
Today there are only two locations left for Saratoga mineral baths: The Roosevelt Baths and Spa at the Gideon Putnam Resort (located within the Spa State Park) and the Crystal Spa on South Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. Each bath house consists of individual rooms with bath tubs where you can soak privately in the water, which is surprisingly bubbly.
A lot of the buildings and walkways are still standing and visiting them brings you back in time. One can almost picture the well-dressed ladies and gentleman strolling along the passages, a warm summer breeze ruffling the ladies’ dresses.
There are still approximately 17 mineral springs located in the park and around Saratoga Springs. Within the park itself there are seven, the most famous being the Geyser Island Sprouter, which shoots up a steady stream of the mineral water and is probably the most photographed of them all. Other springs include the Polaris Spring, the Hathorn Spring #3, the Hayes Well Spring, the Charlie Spring, the Peerless Spring, the Governor Spring and the State Seal Spring, which is where people get their water in gallons or jugs or whatever else they can find every day for free.
Each spring tastes slightly different, depending on its mineral content and even the time of year. Most of them smell like rotten eggs or sulphur, but also most of them don’t taste like they smell. First time tasters have different reactions to the taste, as it is nothing like what comes out of your tap. Some of the springs are actually very sweet tasting, especially the ones at the State Seal Spring. The water there is the sweetest I have ever tasted, and no longer drink tap water. Also, coming out of the ground at around 50 degrees, it can be very refreshing in the summer time.
Needless to say, the State Seal Spring is quite popular, and there are often waiting times, but the wait is well worth it. Most people come by car because of the containers they have to be filled, but pedestrians, bicyclists and even tourists will often stop by for a drink.
One of my favorite pastimes is watching the reaction on the faces of first-time drinkers. Contrary to the smell, most of the spring water has a mineral taste to it. People are either pleasantly surprised or remain suspicious. Either way, the look on their faces is priceless.
Finally, while modern medicine has debunked a lot of 19th century folklore, the mineral waters do have real health benefits. There are a number of true health benefits. Some of the waters are high in iron, which is good for your blood, especially if you are vegetarian and don't consume meat. Some have high alkaline levels,and can be settling for upset stomach and heartburn. Others are cathartic, or laxative, which can act like a diuretic. Overall, mineral waters are a great and healthy alternative to other beverages and can help you maintain a healthy, hydrated lifestyle. It is the only water I drink now, especially as it can be obtained easily and is free.
A trip to Saratoga Springs Spa Park should include a visit to at least one of the springs, if not all of them.