Waters of Saratoga > Mineral "Springs" History

The Early Legends Of Saratoga Mineral Water

Among the few naturally carbonated springs in the country, Saratoga mineral water is steeped in legend and lore. The springs are the result of a geological fault that allows water trapped in shale layers to surface.

Mohawk and Iroquois tribes drank and bathed in Saratoga waters to celebrate the waters' supposed strong healing and curative properties. Local lore says that the Mowhawks called the area "Serachtuague" to refer to it as a "place of fast moving water." Early settlers may have mispronounced this word, leading to the anglicised "Saratoga."

Once discovered by settlers, accounts of its healthful benefits caught on in a big way. Even George Washington was an advocate of its restorative powers, and tried unsuccessfully to purchase High Rock Springs in 1783!

Taking The Waters

Mineral Spring in Saratoga Springs, NYOver time, the extraordinary and sensational claims regarding the benefits of Saratoga mineral water multiplied. Doctors recommended “taking the waters” to cure kidney and liver complaints, rheumatism, diabetes, heartburn, scrofula, dyspepsia, cancer, malaria, hangovers and “weakness of women.” While none of these claims could be proven, visitors kept coming to enjoy the waters! Even the first part of Saratoga's slogan - "Health, History, Horses" - specifically references the supposed value of the waters!

By the middle of the 19th century, Saratoga had become “The Queen of Spas.” During the 1800’s and early-to-mid 1900’s, Saratoga was the place to see and be seen. The Gilded Age saw prominent guests such as the Vanderbilt's, the Whitney's, JP Morgan, and “Diamond Jim” Brady frequenting Saratoga. Actress Lillian Russell spent time here, there's even a restaurant in her namesake.

The Hall of Springs and its three bubbling fountains became a popular evening gathering place for the "who's who" of vacationing Saratogians. Many visitors believed bathing in the Saratoga Springs mineral water would easetension and a host of ailments. The bath houses, including the Lincoln Bath House and Roosevelt Baths were incredibly popular, and always filled with patrons.

There remain two locations for Saratoga mineral baths: The Roosevelt Baths and Spa at the Gideon Putnam Resort (located within the Spa State Park) and the Crystal Spa on South Broadway in downtown Saratoga Springs. Today, each bath house consists of individual rooms with bath tubs where you can soak privately in the effervescent water. There's even a Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa at Disney World.

Tasting The Waters

A family drinks from a mineral spring in Saratoga Springs, NYToday there are approximately 18 mineral springs in Saratoga, located at various points throughout the city, each one varying slightly in its chemical makeup and flavor. The springs also taste different depending on the season.

For all the positive references made regarding the benefits of mineral water, first-time tasters are often a bit surprised. It tastes nothing like what comes out of your tap, and may be a bit disconcerting to the uninitiated!

Here's 5 reasons why you should go on your own private tasting!


Modern Day: 5 Reasons To Drink Saratoga Mineral Waters

1. It smells like eggs, but it doesn't taste like eggs.
Many folks complain that the mineral water smells like eggs, which is true. Many of the mineral springs give off a sulfuric odor due to hydrogen sulfide, or sulfur gas. Because the sulfur is in gaseous form, there is little to no sulfur in the water itself. So don't let that egg smell turn you off! It's just in the air.

2. Your friends and family won't believe it doesn't taste like eggs.
So, now that you know the springs won't taste like eggs, you can enjoy the reactions of folks who expect the water to taste like pure sulfur. Your friends and family trying the waters for the first time are always pleasantly surprised or remain suspicious. Either way, the look on their faces in guaranteed to be hilarious.

3. They are the only naturally carbonated springs east of the Rockies!
Americans LOVE the bubbly, fizzy, refreshing taste of sodas and seltzers. Long before the invention of cola, there was naturally carbonated mineral water right here in Saratoga Springs. This rare gift of carbonation means that the springs are always bubbling and bursting, but without the chemical additions you'll find in diet and regular sodas. Kids and adults trying to kick the cola habit should try out the Saratoga mineral spring water as a substitute for these unhealthy drinks.

4. They are always cold and refreshing.
While many springs around the U.S. are hot springs, the mineral waters the flow in Saratoga are cold. They hover around a constant 55°F, making them a cool and refreshing drink on a hot summer's day. Plus, the water is always free and availible to the public. You'll see many folks filling water bottles to take home.

5. They really do have health benefits.
While modern medicine has debunked a lot of 19th century medicine, the mineral waters do have real health benefits. While the mineral water probably won't cure malaria, there are a number of true health benefits. Some of the waters are chalybeate, meaning they are high in iron, which is good for your blood, especially if you have a no-meat diet. Some have high alkaline levels, making them antacids, great for upset stomach and heartburn. Others are cathartic, or laxative, which can act like a diuretic. Overall, mineral waters are a great and healthy alternative to other fizzy beverages (see number 3), and can help you maintain a healthy, hydrated lifestyle.

Whatever the actual benefits of mineral waters may or may be, the waters of Saratoga continue to draw the faithful, skeptical and curious here to sample and savor its mineral essence. Try them for yourself on your next trip.

Still thirsty? Read more about the Waters of Saratoga »

History buff? Read more about the History of Saratoga Springs »

Tasting tour? See a map of the Saratoga Mineral Springs »