Conserving Sacred Waters in the High Desert

By Wendi Gelfound Director of Marketing, Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa | April 30, 2017

Steeped in myth and legend, the ancient springs at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, 60 miles north of Santa Fe in Ojo Caliente, New Mexico, have been a gathering place and source of healing for thousands of years. The use of the waters can be traced back to the earliest human migrations in the region, when ancestors of today’s Tewa tribes built large pueblos and terraced gardens overlooking the springs. Now, ruins of these ancient cities are marked by the shadows of walls and a sprinkling of potsherds. It is not uncommon, while hiking on Ojo’s 1,100 acres and adjoining BLM lands, to find evidence of a life lived above the springs. Posi or Poseouinge, “village at the place of the green bubbling hot springs” was the largest of 4 Pueblos surrounding the springs and home to thousands of people, and, due to archeological study, we know that Posi was a vibrant center of activity until the 15th century. Tradition tells us that often-warring tribesman would set their weapons and differences aside to gather in peace at the springs to enjoy the benefits of the waters, and to trade and heal their wounds and ailments without conflict, a true testament to the power and necessity of the waters for all walks of life.

In the 1500’s the Spaniards, in their quest for gold and the Fountain of Youth, also discovered the springs. The first explorer’s record cites, “The greatest treasure that I found these strange people to possess, are hot springs which burst out at the foot of a mountain…so powerful are the chemicals contained in this water that the inhabitants have a belief that they were given to them by their gods. These springs I have named Ojo Caliente” ( literally translated means “warm eye”, but more commonly known as “hot spring” ). After discovering Ojo Caliente’s springs and the lush and fertile surrounding river valley, the Spanish were challenged in their attempts to colonize the area and cultivate the land throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Those attempts repeatedly resulted in the settlers retreating back to the more established and safer settlement of Santa Fe, as result of routine raids conducted by the Comanche and other hostilities. One can still see the old “gun portholes” in the walls of Ojo Caliente’s original Santa Cruz church ( constructed in the late 1700’s ) that the Spanish settlers used to defend themselves.

It was not until the 19th century that westward expansion caused Ojo Caliente to emerge from its prehistoric origins. In 1868, Antonio Joseph, New Mexico’s 1st Territorial Representative to Congress, built the first bathhouse and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs became one of the first natural health resorts in the country. Ojo quickly became a hub of activity providing the mineral waters, overnight lodging, a Post Office, and a general store where historical ledgers show Kit Carson frequently purchased supplies. As a “sanitarium”, Ojo was known throughout the country as a place where thousands of people were cured each year through the healing effects of the waters and the earth. Three original buildings have been caringly restored and maintained and today are listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, including the Historic Bathhouse built in 1868; the Historic Hotel, built in 1917; and the Adobe Round Barn built in 1924.

Generations continue to make the pilgrimage to Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs to enjoy the unique combination of four different sulfur-free mineral waters: Lithia, Iron, Soda and Arsenic, with more than 100,000 gallons a day steaming to the surface revitalizing those who soak in them.

The legendary oasis, owned and operated by the Scott Family since 2000, was and continues to be an early innovator in water conservation. With stewardship at the top of the resorts’ list of core values, the objective is for both employees and guests at Ojo is to share the great responsibility to care for the sacred waters. That means using state-of-the-art water conservation and protection, and maintaining the level of water cleanliness and purity indefinitely.

Our geothermal system uses the energy from the hot mineral water after it has flowed through our pools to heat and cool our buildings, meeting our goal of heating and cooling 95% of all newly constructed buildings at the facility. This system requires one-tenth the energy of conventional systems to operate. It is estimated that for every dollar spent on electricity to run system water pumps and compressors, seven dollars of propane usage will be saved at current propane pricing.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.