Jamie McAnally and Stella Craig pose Thursday afternoon in downtown Craig. Stella Craig recently sold the Juniper Hot Springs, which she owned for 45 years but which has been closed since 1993, to McAnally and Rebelsix.  The hot springs are open again, and construction has begun on a new 25-room hotel and restaurant that is expected to open in early 2009.

Photo by Hans Hallgren

Jamie McAnally and Stella Craig pose Thursday afternoon in downtown Craig. Stella Craig recently sold the Juniper Hot Springs, which she owned for 45 years but which has been closed since 1993, to McAnally and Rebelsix. The hot springs are open again, and construction has begun on a new 25-room hotel and restaurant that is expected to open in early 2009.

Moving forward, thinking back

Woman sells hot springs she ran for 45 years

— She brought the Juniper Hot Springs into the 20th century, and now is helping it into the 21st.

Stella Craig, 91, took over the springs in 1962, just after the federal government ran electricity through the area. She had grown up minutes away from the resort, which is between Lay and Maybell, about 27 miles west of Craig.

After more than four decades of owning and operating the resort, she passed the torch earlier this year.

Craig sold the resort to Craig real estate agent Jamie McAnally and Rebelsix, LLC, a mostly local group of McAnally's family and friends.

McAnally's role as managing partner will make him a face at the resort.

Craig originally closed the resort in 1993 because the job was too demanding for her to keep on at the pace it required.

"I tell ya, I got too old to run it," she said.

But she shows no hesitation in endorsing McAnally as the perfect person to rejuvenate the resort known for its healing waters.

"I don't know anyone more qualified than Jamie," Craig said. "He's going to be great. Everyone who goes out there will love him and that is what will make Juniper."

Craig was born and raised on a ranch 10 miles from Juniper. The resort had always been part of her and the valley's life, she said.

"I loved every minute of being out there," Craig said. "The most rewarding thing I did was cater to those people" at the springs.

She and her sisters would ride their horses to Juniper from Maybell on the last day of school every year to have a picnic. When she owned the resort, children from Baggs, Wyo., would show up on a bus on their last days of school.

When Craig assumed ownership, the springs had a small cafe, but nothing that could be called a restaurant, she said. It was mostly for people coming in on horseback, or in horse-drawn carriages.

The visitors would saddle up for soup and crates of produce.

"But I knew the restaurant days were here," Craig said.

She built tables and chairs at her ranch, and a new counter for people to eat at. She installed booths for families.

And she started making more than soup.

"People could have soup if all they wanted was soup," Craig said. "But things were different then. You had to have something else, too."

Through the years, Craig ran as many as five businesses out of the springs, she said. She had nine hotel rooms, seven cabins, sold hunting licenses and equipment, installed a gas pump and worked as a massage therapist.

That was all on top of the four indoor pools - three private and one public - and the large outdoor pool.

If she didn't know what she had when she first bought the springs, Craig learned soon enough.

"When I started, I said I won't cater to sick people," Craig said. "I was going to run it for the recreation part, though I knew of the healing minerals. I got my mind changed in two weeks time."

One night, about a week after she bought the place and while she still was working to get the cafe up and running, a man pulled up in his car. He had recently been in a car accident with Native Americans in Utah, and was injured to the point of being crippled, Craig said.

"He told me, 'Well, I'm pretty boogered up. The docs have given me two weeks to live so I don't have nothing to lose. I came to see what the water can do for me,'" Craig recalled. "He was a sad sight. Right then and there, I changed my mind. This water's for healing."

Craig and her husband put the man up in a room, let him soak and soon he was able to sleep again. In a few weeks, he could walk without crutches.

Craig has a lot of stories like that. The wife of a childhood friend was bedridden in Denver from polio, but walked out of the springs and lives in Craig, the city, to this day. Craig herself cured her arthritis 20 years ago in the springs, she said.

McAnally wants to remember all that history, from when the springs were used by settlers at the turn of the 20th century, to what the resort brought to the area in the last few decades.

And he wants to remember Craig, the woman that worked so hard, he said.

The bathhouse is the only building still standing. The hotel and cafe were torn down because vandals carted off "anything that wasn't nailed down," including the windows and doorjambs, Craig said.

Rebelsix, LLC plans to restore and revive the hot springs resort while staying true to its legacy, McAnally said.

"We want to maintain the history and the stories," he said. "And educate the people on one of the great assets of Moffat County. We'll be modern and retain the history, and have a resort that fits all the amenities people expect today."

Construction should begin in spring 2008, with a 25-room hotel and restaurant opening at about the beginning of 2009. The hot springs are open now, and will be open year round from here on out, McAnally said.

"We're just going to try and be the next chapter," McAnally added. "That's what we're going to do."

Collin Smith can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 209, or cesmith@craigdailypress.com

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