Juniper Hot Springs targeted by vandalism, future development plans uncertain
Craig — Juniper Hot Springs has seen many lifetimes since it was first discovered and developed by settlers in the late 1800s, and was known to Native Americans for its healing waters for many centuries before that.
It now sits unattended and minimally maintained alongside the Yampa River in western Moffat County. Wrapped in a wire fence, the springs is a mere echo of its former self when it was a destination bathhouse, hotel, restaurant and gift shop.
It has also recently been the target of vandalism and burglary. But the real question is: will plans to develop the springs anew ever come to fruition?
In the middle of the night Feb. 18, vandals broke into the fee-collection box housed on site, damaging the mechanism, though no money was stolen as the box was empty.
“They went to a lot of work and destroyed property for nothing,” said owner Roy McAnally, who also owns Coldwell Bankers and a locksmith business in Craig with his wife, Yvonne.
The property was also vandalized in January, when someone removed an overflow pipe that feeds warm water from a trio of smaller pools into the large pool to keep it from freezing, which could have caused expensive damage to the structure.
McAnally, who bought the springs in 2007 in partnership with family members, plans to re-open the pools by the end of the month, but is less sure of when and how their once-ambitious development plans will proceed.
“Our original plan was to develop a resort there. We have conceptual drawings for a 21-room hotel with a restaurant, spa, meeting area and recreation,” McAnally said. “But we bought at the wrong time, because the economy collapsed the very next year and the money just wasn’t available to do that.”
The family bought the facility from Stella Craig, who owned it for 45 years dating back to 1962, according to previous reporting by the Craig Daily Press.
Under Craig’s ownership, it flourished in the 1960s as a popular place for families and kids to swim, replete with a café, motel, gas station and gift shop. It even saw prime years as a town center earlier in the century; in 1905, it was home to a post office, general store, hotel, restaurant and livery stable.
The site fell into disrepair after it was closed to the public in 1993 due to Craig’s health and age, and most of the buildings had been demolished before McAnally’s purchase in 2007. The only remaining building, covering a trio of spring-fed tubs, was torn down within a few years, after it began to crumble and fall apart.
Despite the underwhelming, ancient-ruins-like appearance of the hot springs, the waters contain an unusually high mineral content.
“There’s only one other hot spring in the world that has mineral content like ours and that’s in Germany, so these springs are very unique in that regard,” McAnally said. “They have a lot of reputed health benefits to soaking and even drinking the water.”
Though several historical sources reflect 105-degree temperatures in the springs, the pools’ current temperatures range from 86 to 97 degrees in summer months, McAnally said, and even cooler in winter.
“The biggest problem there is they’re not pulling water that’s hot enough to really make it a spa and hot springs attraction,” said Craig Chamber of Commerce Director Chris Oxley.
McAnally and his family partners have explored options for heating the water, but thus far, it’s been prohibitively expensive.
Moffat County Tourism Association Director Tom Kleinschnitz is eager to see the property developed, nonetheless, especially after witnessing the wild success of a recent national marketing campaign for Colorado hot springs.
“It has tremendous potential, and I understand even a number of the minerals in that spring are much higher than anything else in the state,” he said. “But the facility there is not worthy of promoting. It’s pretty rough and it needs a lot of work.”
For now, McAnally will resume power washing the pools every three weeks during warm weather months. They’d like to put in a nicer fence and make landscaping improvements, and said they’re considering a smaller-scale version of their development plan.
“We’d like to establish a health center there, where people can come and … soak in mineral waters there and learn about healthy lifestyles,” he said. “That is the alternative we’re probably going to pursue, but we don’t have a timeline for that yet.”
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While the state of Colorado will receive much less in vaccines in the second major rollout than expected, Moffat County continues to roll along vaccinating community members with the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.