Iron Spring |From The Interactive Santa Fe Trail | Kansas Sights |

Iron Spring

By Bob Jones,

Iron Spring on the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail used to flow enough to run to Timpas Creek about a mile away. The water is unpalatable and charged with minerals. In the delicate language of 1846 you "felt the effects all next day". Now the spring only flows enough to service a stock water tank.

On July 4, 1851 Capt. John Pope (later Civil War general of headquarters in the saddle fame) wrote "We found a large water hole and boiling spring of Chalybeate water about 500 yards to the left of the road. The taste of the Iron in the Spring is very strong and renders the water unpalatable."

In early 1861 the Missouri Stage Company built a stage station at Iron Spring. The stage line in those days followed the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. It was the only habitation until 1866 between Bent's Old Fort and Gray's Ranch, about 4 miles from what is now Trinidad, Colorado. The stage station was operated by Henry C. Withers who lived there with his family. It would appear that you can get used to the water after a time. Henry Withers' son, Granville (Gus) described the station as a little house surrounded by a high wall. There were attendant corrals and a barn. A traveler in 1869 wrote that the stage station was comfortable and the landlord knew "how to keep a station" - much better than the station at Bent's Old Fort.

In 1864 the Cheyenne grew restless and burned the station. The Withers family fled to Trinidad and escaped any harm. The station was rebuilt but little remains to be seen today. There are some scattered rocks, low mounds of dirt and stubs of posts. The spring is enclosed in a square concrete box and flows underground to the stock tank.

To get to Iron Spring take U. S. Highway 350 southwest about 27 miles from La Junta, Colorado. It is about 50 miles from Trinidad, Colorado. A gravel road heads due south from the highway and the turn is well marked by the U. S. Forest Service. About a mile from the turnoff is a parking area. A DAR marker is visible in the ruts of the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail .3 or .4 miles from the turnoff about 200 yards southeast of the road. The Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail divided at Iron Spring, one branch going through Sheep Canyon Arroyo and the other branch going around what is now called Jack's Point. The branches came together about a mile to the north of Jack's point.

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