Saratoga County

Tasting time, mineral springs a tourist treasure for Saratoga

Water older than humanity itself
Nora Trimarchi, 12, of Wilton with dog Cocoa, takes a big smell of the carbon dioxide at the Hayes Spring.
Nora Trimarchi, 12, of Wilton with dog Cocoa, takes a big smell of the carbon dioxide at the Hayes Spring.

Every time Environmental Educator Ken Chaisson leads members of the public on a tasting tour of the mineral springs in Saratoga Springs State Park, his is very likely showing them something no human being has seen.

Chaisson, who runs the “Creekside Classroom” at the park for the state Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, said water has been bubbling up from Saratoga’s famous springs for at least 10,000 years.

But the water itself is far older than that.

“Chances are, that water hasn’t seen sunshine in 400 million years — it’s really, really old stuff,” Chaisson said.

Chaisson said he leads the tour of mineral springs six times a day during the summer. But the tour is parred down to one 11 a.m. group on Saturdays during the winter.

Chaisson takes tourists through five of the springs, each with its own name: one fresh water spring, “State Seal”; Hayes Well Spring; two Mohawk named springs, Tallulah and Karista; Polaris, named for how it falls toward the North Star; and the tour concludes with the Island Spouter.

Chaisson said the Island Spouter is a good example of how the park has changed over time. In the 19th century it used to look essentially like an industrial park, with companies using the natural pressure build up from the underground springs to produce gas used for seltzer water.

Chaisson said in 1938 the federal Civilian Conservation Corp built the park’s infrastructure, including its roads, bridges, walkways and retaining walls. He said the old six-inch gas pipes used by industry were replaced by half inch pipes, which maintain pressure to allow for the continuous spouting of water.

Minerals from the water at the Island Spouter spring, the last on the tour, have built up to 10-feet thick — accumulating several inches per year — over the eight-foot creek bed rock pyramid originally built around the spring.

Chaisson said the springs are the only cold-water carbonated springs east of the Rocky Mountains, and the reason why the state park exists. He said many people mistakenly mislabel the springs “geysers”, which are defined as warm water phenomenon that discharge water intermittently.

“It’s not a geyser it’s a constant spouter, that never stops,” Chaisson said. “I used to get really upset when people would say ‘Where’s the geyser?’ It’s not a geyser, it’s a spouter.”

With underground pressure pushing up water from under the earth continuously for thousands of years, one frequent question asked on the tours is ‘When will it stop?’

“Nobody knows,”  Chaisson said. 

Mother Michelle Trimarchi and daughter Nora Trimarchi took the tour Saturday. They live in Wilton and Michelle decided to bring her daughter to check out the springs during February vacation. They said they loved the tour, but the water probably wasn’t as good as it would be during the summer when the air would be hot.

“Right now the water is 55 degrees, so it’s warmer than the air,” Michelle Trimarchi said. “I thought it was very salty and bubbly, and not so good. They got increasingly more bubbly and had more of an iron taste.”

Chaisson said the different springs have different tastes due to the differing mineral deposits they are exposed to on their way up to the surface.

“They’re all drinkable,” Chaisson said. “They’re all safe to drink, and they all taste different, because they come from different depths. That’s really the magic behind it.”

Olga Freidzon, of South Orange, N.J., brought her children to the springs Saturday, and they came to completely separate conclusions.

Victoria, 12, said she likes the taste of mineral water. But younger sister Nicole gave a different verdict.

“I thought it was too salty and too bubbly!” 

Categories: Life and Arts, Schenectady County

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