Orenda Spring at Saratoga Spa State Park

Orenda Spring at Saratoga Spa State Park

She was a favorite spring of mine before I even saw her.
The name alone drew me to her.
I don’t think I’m alone in giving the springs personification.

Orenda Spring – March 7, 2017

Sputtering in rage with uncontrollable outbursts
Fierce yet long-suffering
with Endless patience
the mother of tufa never-ending.

A sensory delight.
With various vantages, she is intriguing from any angle.
I was completely captivated the first time I saw the tufa collecting along the hillside.
I had to touch it.

The texture, the colors, the cool water gently trickling down the travertine.
white and orange
with so many different reds
all mimicking blood.

A compulsory need
To touch, to caress, to feel
Its gentle heartbeat.

I smile. because somehow
breathing. is easier here

Tufa – October 5, 2017

Chances are if you’ve visited me since I’ve moved to Upstate New York I’ve brought you to Saratoga Spa State Park. And, if I’ve brought you to the park there’s a high probability I’ve brought you to see Orenda.

Her waters are carbonated giving the taste a little tang, but iron is what gives Orenda a distinct taste. Most certainly an acquired taste, but I enjoy a drink from time to time. The first time I ever drank from the spring I imagined that the flavor is what vampires crave. I believe the flavor and levels of carbonation change subtly depending on rainfall. At least that’s my observation.

Tasting Orenda Spring – May 2, 2017

Orenda Spring

The sparkling mineral waters for which Saratoga is justly famous originate in limestone bedrock layers 100 to 1000 feet below the surface of the ground. Limestone is composed of the remains of tiny sea creatures which thrived in a lagoon here 425 million years ago. The waters are protected by a thick layer of shale (compressed mud), that was laid down about 12,000 years ago when the area was covered by a glacial lake. When Saratoga’s faults shifted later in the glacial period, the famed waters escaped through cracks in the shale and bubbled to the surface. They have been flowing ever since. -Saratoga Spa State Park

Orenda Spring – January 20, 2018
Carbonated waters of Orenda – December 19, 2017

Orenda’s Tufa

The mineral waters are highly carbonated, and therefore more acidic than regular water. As they flow through the limestone they dissolve and hold the rock’s minerals in solution. When the water reaches the surface of the earth, its carbon dioxide is released and its acidity is lost. The minerals precipitate out of the water, creating a pale, bumpy formation called tufa. Tufa is mainly made up of calcium carbonate, derived from the limestone through which the water flows. -Saratoga Spa State Park

Orenda’s tufa and Geyser Creek from the SPAC bridge – May 6, 2017
Geyser Creek, the SPAC bridge, and Orenda’s tufa – October 24, 2016
Tufa – October 19, 2017
Tufa – October 5, 2017

Constantly Transforming

In all honesty I have hundreds of pictures that I have taken over the last few years of Orenda and her mineral deposits. It is truly fascinating to watch her change throughout the different seasons.

Changing Seasons

The weather was warm with subtle hints of autumn. I was with my mother-in-law Laura, showing her my park and taking a short walk after a seaweed wrap and a bath at the Roosevelt Baths & Spa. Exhilarated and feeling refreshed we ventured down the hill at the back of the parking lot and walked the Vale of Springs. I had been to the park exploring before so I knew where I wanted to go. I felt it would be fun and wow us both. Plus, I would finally get to see the Orenda Spring. I did not expect the tufa covered hillside. Calcium and iron deposits mimicking the colors of an orange and vanilla creamsicle delight, with water gently trickling over the hardened minerals. I was thrilled and so very curious.

Me and Orenda’s tufa – September 14, 2015 – Photo credit: Laura
Tufa – October 14, 2016
Tufa – November 21, 2016

It’s funny how a small moment can stick with you for a long time. It was an early November morning and I was at Saratoga Spa State Park taking pictures of Orenda’s tufa. That’s when I met a woman who had a dog named Marcy. I learned something from the dog’s owner I had never known before. Stairs! Up the side of the tufa! From the bottom of the tufa on the trail near Geyser Creek, up to the top of the tufa mound.

My best photo of the tufa stairs – August 28, 2017

Winter Beckons

Crystalline structures accumulate in the most fascinating way, and then the snow and ice arrive, creating another brand of art in the same fashion, water gently flowing.

Orenda Spring – December 14, 2016
Snow and ice covered tufa – December 19, 2017

January. I could smell her sulfurous stench from a great distance, but there was so much ice! So much ice it was difficult and time consuming to try to get to any part of Orenda. The best I could do was capture it from a distance. Without proper footgear I had to stay on level ground so all my photos were taken from the SPAC bridge.

Orenda fountain in a grove of tall pines – January 26, 2018
Geyser Creek and Orenda’s ice covered tufa – January 26, 2018
Orenda Spring flowing down the tufa – February 6, 2017

Springtime Reveal

Mineral deposits from Orenda Spring hardened on a leaf – March 30, 2017
Looking down the stairs on the tufa – April 4, 2017

Summer’s Approach

I drifted to sleep
watching the night sky light up from a thunderstorm.
The rain poured.
I found myself searching for you.
I missed our walks together in this realm.
Where have you been?

I lost a precious moment with you.

You beckoned me into the woods
into the cold.
You whispered to me,
and then you were gone.

I was

“This isn’t where I wanted to be!”
It was so quiet in the emptiness
my voice echoed off the surrounding cold.

wild eyed and knowing
standing naked in the dark
I am here.
blood dripping
ever .

and now all I hear is the sound of drums.
Better than the sound of my labored breath.
a constant, steady, slow moving
Resisting the forward movement of time.
As if I stayed in this cold darkness forever
I could prevent the inevitability of

Copyright © 2017 Alicen K. Hutcheson. All rights reserved.

I wrote Summer’s Approach after experiencing a hike in the park in May of 2017. It was a warm day.

Orenda Tufa Selfie – May 18, 2017.

I have never been to the Orenda Spring in June. I’m sure it’s because of crowds and the warm, sticky weather.

Height of Summer

Tufa – July 18, 2017
Tufa – Vale of Springs Trail along Geyser Creek – August 28, 2017

Textures & Colors

I have this inherent need to touch the tufa!


Getting There

Saratoga Springs, New York
There are plenty of ways to approach Orenda Spring in Saratoga Spa State Park. It all depends on the type of park experience you are craving. Her fountain flows near the parking lot for the Saratoga Performing Art Center (SPAC) off of Route 50. In fact, many people who visit the park for a concert will see Orenda’s travertine, bulging along the banks of Geyser Creek that flows below the entrance bridge. I’ve come to notice that during the off season, the SPAC parking lot is the closest and easiest way to get to the mineral spring.

Snowy tufa – View from the SPAC bridge – January 26, 2018

My prefered parking when I go to Saratoga Spa State is near the Hathorn 3 Spring (South Route 50 Park Entrance). I like it best because it gives me a little walk for my reward. Almost any path you take from this point will lead you towards the valley where most of the park’s springs flow. Unless you go south… I’ve said it before, I am directionally challenged.

Another way to walk to Orenda Spring is from the Roosevelt Baths & Spa parking lot. Just walk down the hill at the back of the lot. It’s fairly short and it will bring you to the Vale of Springs Trail.

So very little is written about Orenda. You can find a short write up in the self-guided tour pamphlet available at the park offices (19 Roosevelt Drive) or from the Saratoga Springs Visitors Center downtown.

All photos were taken by me unless otherwise stated.

A few previous things I’ve written about Saratoga Spa State Park are linked below.

Saratoga Spa State Park

Tallulah Spring at Saratoga Spa State Park

Saratoga Spa State Park in the Winter