INDIAN HOT SPRINGS
INDIAN HOT SPRINGS. The Indian Hot Springs, a cluster of seven geothermal springs with high mineral constituents, are on the Rio Grande twenty-five miles south of Sierra Blanca in southern Hudspeth County (at 30°50' N, 105°19' W). They are within the floodplain, spread out over a 700-by-300-meter area at the southern edge of the Quitman Mountains. In 1976 during an investigation of thermal waters in the Trans-Pecos, Christopher D. Henry identified the following springs at Indian Hot Springs: Chief, Squaw, Stump, Beauty, Soda, Dynamite, and Masons. By 1988 local informants related that only Soda Spring, Stump Spring, Masins Spring, and Squaw Spring had retained their previous designations. What had formerly been Chief Spring was called Bath Spring, Dynamite Spring had become Salt Cedar Spring, and Beauty Spring had been changed to Itty Bitty Spring and Grass Spring. The name Indian Hot Springs originated as a result of use of the springs during prehistoric and historic times by Native Americans. Debris associated with their camps is adjacent to several of the springs, and a stone trough cut into the travertine deposit adjacent to Chief Spring is thought to have been made by aborigines interacting with the springs. All of the springs except Soda Spring flow from an extensive travertine plateau precipitated by the springs. Only Stump Spring discharges to the surface (at least 400 liters per minute in 1976); the others discharge through permeable travertine or alluvium below the travertine. The travertine mounds at Chief, Squaw, and Stump springs are the largest, standing approximately 0.5 meters above the plateau. This area is at the southern extension of the Hueco Bolson along the Caballo Fault. The dynamics involved in these artesian spring systems are not fully understood, but a few hypotheses have been generated. Henry's study, using chemical analyses, concluded that the thermal springs in this area of Texas and Mexico are recharged through meteoric (rain) water. The recharge zone probably is contained within the immediate area, including the Quitman Mountains. Using surface and subsurface reservoir temperatures and an estimated thermal gradient, the depth of circulation was calculated to be between 1,000 and 1,300 meters, where the waters are heated then apparently discharge upward using the Caballo Fault as an avenue. The mineral constituents present are thought to be a product of interaction with subsurface strata. Henry's analysis concluded that these springs contained a high number of chemical constituents compared to other thermal springs in the region. Included among these constituents are relatively high levels of boron, lithium, chloride, sulfate, potassium, sodium, calcium, magnesium, bicarbonate, nitrate, and strontium. Henry also measured the temperatures of the springs in 1976 with a maximum recording thermometer, finding Stump Spring to be the hottest (also the highest temperature of the thermal springs in Texas), with a temperature of 47° C (117° F). Soda Spring was found to have the coolest waters in this cluster, with a temperature of 27° C (81° F).
In the late nineteenth century the Ninth and Tenth United States Cavalry regiments, whose members were also known as Buffalo Soldiers, regularly patrolled the vicinity of Indian Hot Springs in search of the last Apaches in the region. On the morning of October 28, 1880, a party of thirty to forty of Victorio's Apaches attacked a small cavalry patrol at a redoubt overlooking the springs, killing at least six of the soldiers. Following the removal of the last Apaches, the area was opened up to settlement, resulting in ranching and farming endeavors. The springs were used by Sierra Blanca residents as early as 1905 or 1906, but the most elaborate commercial effort involved the establishment of a health resort at the springs sometime between 1925 and 1929. In the early 1940s the resort shut down as a result of World War II. Currently, rock and wood "bathhouses" are located around Chief and Squaw springs, while rock "tubs" have been constructed around the others. Indian Hot Springs is now privately owned, and it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.
Jewel Babb, Border Healing Woman: The Story of Jewel Babb (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981). James John Bell, Geology of the Foothills of Sierra de los Pinos, Northern Chihuahua, near Indian Hot Springs, Hudspeth County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1963). Gunnar Brune, Springs of Texas, Vol. 1 (Fort Worth: Branch-Smith, 1981). Christopher D. Henry, "Geologic Setting and Geochemistry of Thermal Water and Geothermal Assessment, Trans-Pecos, Texas," Bureau of Economic Geology Report of Investigations 96, University of Texas at Austin, 1979).