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Dip into History and the Lure of Saratoga Springs

Among the few naturally carbonated springs in the country, Saratoga mineral water is steeped in legend and lore. During the fourteenth century, the Iroquois were attracted to this area for its hunting. What they did not know was that it was high content of salt in the waters that attracted the animals to this site.

Drinking and bathing in the waters of Saratoga Springs was regarded as medicine by the Iroquois who celebrated its strong healing and curative properties. Once discovered by settlers, accounts of its healthful benefits caught on in a big way.

Over time, the extraordinary and sensational claims regarding the benefits of Saratoga mineral water multiplied. “Taking the waters” was reputed to cure kidney and liver complaints, rheumatism, diabetes, heartburn, scrofula, dyspepsia, cancer, malaria and hangovers. It couldn’t be scientifically proven, yet people kept coming to take in the waters,

By the middle of the 19th century, Saratoga had become “The Queen of Spas”. During the 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s, it was the “in” place to see and be seen, as the gilded age saw prominent guests such as the Vanderbilt's, the Whitney's, JP Morgan, and “Diamond Jim” Brady frequenting Saratoga. Actress Lillian Russell spent time here, and top-name performers such as Bing Crosby and Sophie Tucker played to packed crowds in downtown Saratoga Springs hotels. Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had polio, had a special interest in the springs.

During this glitzy era, the aura of pampering included the presence of a “dipping boy” at Flat Rock Springs, whose job was to fetch and serve a dipper of mineral water to eager summer visitors seeking its benefits.

The Hall of Springs and its three bubbling fountains became a popular evening gathering place for the “Who’s Who” of vacationing Saratogians. Not just for drinking, bathing in the Saratoga Springs mineral water was reputed to ease tension and a host of ailments…the bath houses, including the Lincoln Bath House and Roosevelt Baths were popular, and filled with patrons. There remain two locations for Saratoga mineral baths: The Roosevelt Baths and Spa located within the Spa State Park. Today the bath house consists of individual rooms with bath tubs where you can soak privately in the effervescent water. The Spa is also a full service beauty spa with facials and massage.

Tasting the Waters

Today there are approximately 17 mineral springs in Saratoga, located at various points throughout the city, each one varying slightly in its mineral makeup and flavor. The springs also taste different depending on the season.

For all the positive references made regarding the benefits of mineral water, first-time tasters are often a bit surprised. It tastes nothing like what comes out of your tap, and may be a bit disconcerting.

Whatever the actual benefits may or may not be, the waters of Saratoga continue to draw the faithful, skeptical and curious here to sample and savor its mineral essence.

The mineral waters of Saratoga Springs are unique east of the Mississippi for several reasons. Due to the waters dissolving minerals in the limestone beneath the earth, they are naturally carbonated, are a constant cold temperature of 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and each of the Springs contain at least 50 grains of mineral salts per gallon.

All of the Springs contain the same minerals in varying concentrations, depending upon how far underneath the ground they originate. Some are ‘spouters’, the waters escape from the Earth with such great force they shoot high into the air.

Congress Park:

1. Congress Spring- Discovered in 1792 thought to benefit dyspepsia, gout, and skin ailments.

2. Columbia Spring- ‘Iron Water’ strengthened the stomach, increased red blood cell count.

3. Deer Park Spring- dispenses water from a vein in the Congress Spring. Similar to the Congress Spring

4. Hathorn #1 – Cathartic, diuretic, ‘grateful to the stomach’

High Rock Park:

5. Governor Spring- Named after Governor Hughes who signed the Spa State Reservation Legislation.

6. Peerless Spring- saline water of moderate strength

7. High Rock Spring- distinguished by a cone of hardened mineral deposits8. Empire Spring- Discovered in 1793

9. Old Red Spring- “Beauty Water” healing skin disorders

SPA State Park:

10. State Seal- delicious fresh water

11. Geyser Spring- considered the strongest tasting water

12. Charlie Spring- Alkaline, Saline

13. Polaris Spring- a ‘spouter’ minute quantities of radon gas

14. Geyser Island Spouter- a ‘spouter’, an island of hardened minerals surround this spring.

15. Hayes Well Spring- some believe that inhaling the gas vented from the spring will clear the sinuses.

16. Orenda Spring & Mineral Bank- rich in iron, strong for the blood. It’s overflowing waters have created a deposit of hardened minerals, called travertine

17. Hathorn # 3- Slightly cathartic, Highly mineralized, considered the most saline