More to Ojo Caliente than meets the Eye

Our guest post is from Karen Denison of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing in Santa Fe.

Ojo Caliente! In local Spanish the name means “hot spring”; the village is the site of one of the area’s largest. Lying an hour’s drive northwest of Santa Fe, Ojo Caliente offers the opportunity to explore historic and prehistoric ruins, take in magnificent vistas, and relax at the legendary hot soda springs.

Archeology sites: Soaking pool Ojo Caliente photo'Karen Denison

Waterfall pool at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs & Resort, photo/Karen Denison

The springs were prized by early inhabitants. The area was visited routinely and sparsely occupied over 9000 years ago. Around 1250 AD, the region began to grow in population. Between 1400 and 1550 AD, three large ancient Puebloan villages each covering 100,000 to 200,000 square feet existed within a short distance of the springs. One of them, Posi-Ouinge, is easily visited on foot from the springs via a well-maintained trail across a sagebrush mesa (plateau). The village is unexcavated, but a sharp eye and knowledgeable guide can readily pick out the features of its adobe rooms, plazas and kivas (partly-subterranean ceremonial rooms). Pottery shards are readily apparent. Self-guided visitors should get a pamphlet describing the ruins from the federal Bureau of Land Management (available online or at the registration desk at the resort). Northern New Mexico’s high desert ecology and other landscape features are also well displayed here.

New Mexico Archeology sites Mica mine above Ojo Caliente  photo Karen Denison

Mica mine at Ojo Caliente photo/Karen Denison

Geology is king in this landscape and an old, old story is revealed here. Another easy walk from the springs is to the remains of mica mines which operated between approximately 1900 and 1940. These shallow mines contain “books” of mica sheets embedded in the grotto walls along with crystals of other minerals like amphibole and feldspar. This attractive mineral wealth is courtesy of a magma pocket which intruded into the much older surrounding rock. Called a “pegmatite”, this magma pocket cooled slowly enough deep underground to allow the formation of the larger, purer mineral crystals. Mica here was mined by hand for a variety of uses.

New Mexico Archeological sites  photo Karen Denison

Ojo Caliente seen from Posi Ouinge, photo/Karen Denison

An intersection of geologic fault lines is also responsible for the hot springs. The non-sulfur thermal waters gain their heat as a result of fractures in the surrounding ancient (1.7 billion year old) rock. Recirculating about a mile deep, water is heated by the intense pressure and also takes on some of the minerals of the surrounding rock notably sodium bicarbonate which gives a very pleasant “feel” to the water. At Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa a shallow well pipe 130F water (mixed with cold water to moderate the temperature) off to several relaxing outdoor pools. For a moderate fee, daytime visitors may soak to their heart’s content-there is no time-keeping here to interrupt a relaxing visit.”

New Mexico Archeology

The ground at Posi Ouinge is covered with pottery shards, photo/Karen Denison

The Resort & Spa also offers lodging in new casitas or the lovingly restored Historic Hotel, a variety of excellent massage and other spa treatments, and a small but fine restaurant with delicious, healthy fare. Back along the highway there are other additional services available including a traditional northern New Mexican diner, and less upscale motel rooms.

If you’re visiting Santa Fe but want a nice day trip that’s not part of the usual tourist “checklist”, consider a day out to Ojo Caliente for a little walking, beautiful big skies and a whole lot of relaxation.

In partnership with the Bureau of Land Management and Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs Resort & Spa, Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing offers a Hike+Soak Adventure to Ojo Caliente. Visit Outspire’s website or call 505-660-0394 for more information.

What are your favorite geological or archaeological sites to explore in the Santa Fe area?

Editor’s note: The soaking pools are open from 10am to 10pm. The private Kiva pool, for suite guests only, is open from 6am to midnight.

Karen Denison is owner of Outspire Hiking and Snowshoeing which offers private, interpretive hiking tours in Santa Fe, NM. She has been sharing her knowledge and love of the New Mexico outdoors with visitors since 1997.

Read these other posts about Ojo Caliente:
Take a llama to lunch
Ojo Caliente then and now
Photo of the Week: Llama Trekking from Ojo Caliente to Posi Ouinge

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6 Responses to “More to Ojo Caliente than meets the Eye”

  1. Nomadic Samuel
    February 23, 2019 at 12:04 am #

    Ojo Caliente looks like a very scenic place to visit. I’d love to take photos here :)
    Nomadic Samuel recently posted..Laughing on the phone | Penang, Malaysia | Travel PhotoMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      February 23, 2019 at 7:54 am #

      It is wonderful. This whole area is a photographer’s dream. You’ll just have to come and visit. :)

  2. Wendy Kapp
    February 23, 2019 at 7:55 am #

    Thanks again Billy for another fantastic
    write up!

    • Billie Frank
      February 23, 2019 at 8:01 am #

      Thank Outspire’s Karen Denison, the only thing we did was have the wisdom to post it. But thanks for being a loyal reader.

  3. Payje
    February 23, 2019 at 12:13 pm #

    I just found your blog thanks to Inn on the Alameda on facebook! It’s wonderful! I love the pictures, the food, and pretty much everything that you have on here. I will definitely be following your travels now! My boyfriend and I also love to travel, I started a new blog recently to document our trip as we move from ABQ to Alaska. Congratulations and thanks for doing what you do!
    Payje recently posted..Snapshot: Colorado Flat TopsMy Profile

    • Billie Frank
      February 23, 2019 at 2:03 pm #

      Thanks for the REALLY kind words about our blog. Will thank the Inn on the Alameda for expanding our readership. Hope you subscribed. Good luck with your new blog (I’ll subscribe) and your move. That sure is a lifestyle change. You can read Santa Fe Travelers when you get homesick. Safe travels!

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