Getting Settled

Come on in, the water’s fine!

For centuries, the waters in Pagosa Springs have drawn visitors who wish to take advantage of the healing qualities of the world’s deepest natural hot spring. 

Prior to the arrival of Hispanic and Anglo settlers, members of various tribes of Native Americans came to heal and refresh themselves in the local waters. Historians report that Native Americans preferred to coat themselves with mud mixed with the mineral water rather than soaking directly in the pools. The rationale was simple: at 144 degrees Fahrenheit, undiluted spring water is far too hot for a pleasurable soak.

Although early Hispanic and Anglo settlers took advantage of the hot springs from time to time, the healing properties of the waters remained largely a local secret. Eventually, however, word was passed regarding the “magical properties” of The Great Pagosa Hot Spring and travelers sought out the medicinal qualities of the water. Since then, visitors from all over the world come to seek out a healing experience that had once been known only to the local inhabitants.

Experience the ‘magic’

Local spin has it that the Ute term, “Pagosa,” describes the mystical qualities of the legendary Great Pagosa Hot Spring, repeating the apocryphal tale that the phrase translates as “Healing Waters.”

Alas, the truth might be much more hackneyed, but no less descriptive: local historian John Motter writes that, “According to the dictionary prepared under the auspices of and with the help of Southern Utes in Ignacio, Pagosa comes from two Ute words meaning ‘stinking water.’”

Certainly, there is an unmistakable aroma accompanying the springs, but are they really also healing waters? You can judge for yourself, but abundant testimonials say, “yes.”

And while Native Americans visited the geothermally heated waters, certain the Great Spirit had endowed the bubbling cauldron with superhuman virtues, reverence for the “Healing Waters” has not abated with passage of time. In recent years, The Great Pagosa Hot Spring has attracted more visitors than ever before. And why not? It is a unique experience, providing comfort and relaxation unmatched anywhere. 

Making it all possible is The Great Pagosa Hot Spring, that bubbling fountain of natural mineral water and the world’s deepest hot spring. 

How can we make the claim of “the world’s deepest hot spring?” Because the Guinness Book of World Records says so! A judge from the New York office of the Guinness Book of World Records visited Pagosa Springs to verify measurements on The Great Pagosa Hot Spring made by Durango-based hydrologist John Casey.

How deep is it? We wish we could say. So far, attempts to plumb the depths of the spring have defied the best efforts to find out. When Casey dropped a 1,002-foot long plumb line into the “mother spring,” it didn’t hit the bottom; instead, the plumb line ran out. So now, the official measurement is 1,002 feet and, according to the Guinness Book of World Records, that’s the deepest hot spring in the world.

Prior to that, however, the depth of the spring had been measured using a 2,500-foot plumb line. The same thing happened: before the plumb line reached the bottom of the spring, the line ran out.

So, the mystery remains unsolved. Deeper still, however, is the mystery of our water’s ability to soothe, heal and relax even the most harried soul. Visit the site of the spring and experience it for yourself. Take the opportunity to avail yourself of Pagosa’s healing waters, its mystery, its spirit-rejuvenating properties and, yes — its magic.

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Motor vehicles

In making your transition from another state to Colorado or from another Colorado county, we would like to help in making the registration of your vehicle as easy as possible. 

Colorado law requires you to register your vehicles, trailers, motor homes, heavy equipment, etc. within 60 days of becoming a Colorado resident. Unfortunately, the law does not allow you to keep your out-of-state plates until they expire.

If you are currently a Colorado resident and are just moving here, you may call the Archuleta County Clerk’s office and they will help you change your registration address so you will receive a renewal notice from Archuleta County when your plates expire. You can also utilize our online services to make any changes at www.mydmv.colorado.gov.

Some of the most obvious reasons that, by law, constitute becoming a resident are: obtaining a Colorado driver’s license, registering to vote, enrolling children into school or becoming employed. If you are retired and consider this your legal place of residence and intend to file your federal income tax with a Pagosa Springs address as your legal address, you need Colorado plates. 

To obtain Colorado license plates, you will need:

1. A current registration or title from the state you are coming from.

2. Proof of Insurance.

3. A vehicle identification verification. This is done Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-11 a.m. It will cost $20 cash or check. Parking is located behind the courthouse. You can also go to the Sheriff’s Office on Tuesday or Thursday, ​8 a.m. to noon, located at 85 Harman Park Drive. 

4. An acceptable form of ID.

Vehicle registration in Colorado is based on the year, weight and taxable value of the vehicle, when new. The taxable value is then depreciated according to the age of the vehicle. The office is located at 449 San Juan St., in the east side of the courthouse. 

The nearest place to obtain a Colorado driver’s license is Durango, approximately 60 miles west of Pagosa Springs. The DMV is located at 329 S. Camino del Rio. You may contact their office at (970) 247-4591.

Please visit www.archuletacounty.org for more information. For any questions you may have, call (970) 264-8350.

Voter registration

You may register to vote or change your address online by visiting govotecolorado.org or sos.state.co.us and following the directions for Election & Voting. Should you have questions, please call (970) 264-8331 or (970) 264-8350.

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Ahavat Adonai Messianic Jewish Congregation (970) 946-5262

Amazing Grace Community Church (970) 444-2111

Arboles Baptist Church (970) 883-3630

Baha’i Community of Archuleta County (800) 228‑6483

Calvary Chapel Pagosa (970) 507-0123

Centerpoint Church – SBC (970) 731-2205

Church of Christ – Lewis Street (970) 264-2552

Church of Christ – Community Center (970) 264-4236

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (970) 731-2623

Community United Methodist Church (970) 264-5508

CrossRoad Christian Fellowship (970) 731-4384

Open Door Church (970) 731-5767

Grace in Pagosa (970) 731-6200

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church (970) 731-5744

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witness (970) 731-5826

New Thought Center for Inspirational Living (970) 309-6067

Our Savior Lutheran Church – LCMS (970) 731-4668

Pagosa Baptist Church (970) 946-5166

Pagosa Bible Church (970) 731-3120

Pagosa Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (970) 731-7900

Pope John Paul II Catholic Church (970) 731-5744

Restoration Fellowship (970) 731-2937

Saint Patrick’s Episcopal Church (970) 731-5801

Seventh Day Adventist Church (970) 731-1005

Tara Mandala Buddhist Retreat Center (970) 731-3711

Trinity Anglican Church – Orthodox Anglican (970) 585-4124

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Photo courtesy Mark Meier

If you have a camera and are inclined to trek through the extensive wilderness that composes the greater portion of Pagosa Country, be prepared for the chance to snap the shot of a lifetime. 

In a region that ranges from 6,000 to 13,000 feet in elevation, the 1.8-million-acre San Juan National Forest not only hosts a complex diversity of climate zones, ecological niches and microenvironments, but also is home to a vast array of wildlife that call these diverse habitats home. As the country climbs in elevation from the south and east to the mountains north and west, that diversity becomes apparent as high-desert plateau gently transitions into alpine forest, then dramatically ascends beyond the tree line to alpine tundra. While many species of wildlife prefer to inhabit a specific ecological zone, others travel throughout Pagosa Country, seeking resources and habitat wherever they can find them. 

Coyotes, foxes, cougars and black bears may roam the region at almost any elevation and are a common sight (and sometimes a nuisance) for residents. A special, but not uncommon, sight is the symbol of our country — the American Bald Eagle — soaring majestically above meadows, lakes or rivers at all elevations. Snapping a photo of one of these birds perched atop a ponderosa pine is a rare treat.

In the lower reaches, short-horned lizards, eastern fence lizards, western rattlesnakes and ringtail cats share sandy sage flats, arid rocky slopes, deep canyons and sandstone mesas with jackrabbits, prairie dogs, elk and mule deer. Piñon jays, turkey vultures, red-tailed hawks and golden eagles commonly grace the sun-drenched skies above the high-desert plateau.

In the high country, observers may see bighorn sheep, snowshoe hares, ptarmigan or a rare Canada lynx. Although normally a denizen of high-country meadows, willow flats, forests and lakes north of Pagosa Springs, it is not unusual for the Shiras moose to be seen at most elevations. The largest member of the deer family, these solitary individuals occasionally wander the streets and outskirts of town. 

While the encroachment of civilization on some of the region’s wilderness has decreased the numbers of several species in the area, many other species are thriving and even increasing in numbers, including foxes and coyotes, mule deer, bears, magpies, crows and ravens, golden and bald eagles, wild turkeys and vultures. While mountain lions are normally solitary and secretive, reported sightings have become frequent, particularly between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. Residents are cautioned not to feed local wildlife, especially as prey species can attract lions into residential areas. Food should never be left out to attract bears.

In the spring and early summer, infrequent hikers and wildlife watchers will invariably stumble upon a newborn fawn or elk calf. Baby birds, rabbits, foxes and squirrels may appear quite approachable, yet mother is almost certainly nearby. As long as a potential predator lurks about, she’ll not return to feed or coddle her young. Therefore, it is always best to back away and leave little ones as they’re found. Survival in the wild is challenging enough without avoidable human interference. 

In a bountiful area as rich and diverse as Pagosa Country, vigilant observers will enjoy an array of wildlife matched by few places on earth. The adventurous outdoors person traveling the canyons, mesas and forests early or late, moving in silence and employing a pair of good field glasses, is almost guaranteed to be rewarded with the sight of wildlife in their natural habitat — and the experience of a lifetime. 

Please note that wildlife should not be harassed, captured, domesticated or fed. Intentional or inadvertent feeding is the major cause of most wildlife problems. Under Colorado law, intentionally feeding big game animals is illegal. The prohibition applies to deer, elk, pronghorn, mountain goats, bighorn sheep, mountain lions and bears.

For more information about the best hiking trails for wildlife watching in the San Juan National Forest and surrounding wilderness areas, visit the U.S. Forest Service website at www.fs.usda.gov/sanjuan/ or stop by the Pagosa Ranger Station at 180 Pagosa St. 

For information about Colorado’s wildlife and hunting and fishing licenses, go to Colorado Parks and Wildlife’s website at cpw.state.co.us.

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Moving to a new town with your pets can be an exciting adventure with many new discoveries. It can also be a bit stressful for you and your pets leaving behind the familiar. For peace of mind, plan ahead for your pet’s safety during the move. There are many Internet sources of good information on how to safely move your pets, as well as great tips on how to help your dogs or cats acclimate to their new home.

Before you move, make sure that your pets are healthy and up to date on their vaccinations. If you are moving from out of state with dogs or cats, Colorado requires that you have a Certificate of Veterinarian Inspection (CVI) that is no more than 30 days old. If your cat or dog is three months or older, they must also have had a rabies vaccination within the preceding 12 months. For livestock and other animal requirements, visit the Colorado Department of Agriculture website (colorado.gov/ag).

Part of moving involves gathering all your important personal documents. Make sure you do the same for your pets. Have all of their health and vaccination records on hand so that when you choose a local veterinarian you can provide your new vet with your pets’ medical histories. 

Losing a pet can be nerve-wracking. The Humane Society of Pagosa Springs (HSPS) operates the only animal shelter in the area, located at 465 Cloman Blvd. The shelter is open seven days a week. A call to the animal shelter at (970) 731-4771 should be one of your first steps in finding a lost pet. HSPS is also an administrator for the Lost/Found Pets Pagosa Springs Colorado Area Facebook page. This Facebook page is visited regularly by a lot of community members and has helped reunite many lost pets with the owners over the past several years.

The HSPS website (humanesociety.biz) hosts detailed information on what to do if you and your pet become separated. Check the website’s “Lost and Found” page for a list of useful suggestions. The website also has information on adoptions, low-cost spay/neuter voucher programs and other community services.

To aid in finding a lost pet, make sure that your pet always wears a secure collar with a sturdy identification tag attached. The ID tag should contain your name and contact information, including information on rabies vaccination. If you are moving, make sure the tag has your current cell phone number. Secondly, have a microchip inserted in your pet. This aids identification if your pet’s collar is lost or removed. The HSPS animal shelter scans every incoming pet for a microchip. Make sure you have registered your pet’s chip with the manufacturer, and update your microchip contact information with your new address and relevant phone numbers right before you move. If your pet does not have a microchip or a collar ID tag, the HSPS shelter can provide both at a reasonable cost. 

Pagosa Springs and Archuleta County do not require licensing for dogs or cats at this time. You are, however, required to have a current rabies vaccination for your pets. While the Town of Pagosa Springs does have a leash law, Archuleta County does not. You are required to have your dog under control at all times, whether by leash or verbal command. If you want to exercise and play with your dog in a safe, controlled environment, there is a fenced community-accessible dog park at the HSPS animal shelter.

If you are purchasing property in Pagosa Country, make sure you check for additional pet regulations or restrictions in the covenants of your property owners association. Keep in mind, too, that regardless of where you live, some homeowner insurance policies have certain dog breed exclusions, so check your insurance policy for pet restrictions.

Pets are important members of our community, and Pagosa Springs is one of the most animal-friendly places that you will find in all of Colorado.

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