Saratoga’s Mineral Springs: Spouters & Tufa

Saratoga’s Mineral Springs: Spouters & Tufa

Saratoga Spa State Park: 2018

To be perfectly honest, I’m surprised I don’t write about the springs in Saratoga Spa State Park more often. I frequently roam the park exploring different trails, watching birds, and tasting the spring’s waters, while taking photographs and documenting changes.

Saratoga Spa State Park is my favorite place to go to “walk off” my depression and anxiety. On several occasions while visiting the spouting springs along Geyser Creek, different people have told me that there is lithium in the air, giving people who walk between Tallulah Spring and Orenda Spring a sense of wellbeing. I don’t know this for certain, but I do know I feel better walking from spring to spring, tasting their waters, and listening to the calming songs of nature.

My favorite season to visit Saratoga Spa State Park is definitely the winter. Winter sometimes begins in November and lingers until April in Saratoga Springs, NY. I consider myself fortunate. Icy hills and snow accumulation can make hiking around the park more difficult than the summer months, but the reward of being alone to enjoy my beautiful haven is always worth it.

As soon as the weather warms up the park is always crowded. SPAC (Saratoga Performing Arts Center) has concerts all summer long, bringing out-of-towners to the park, who seem to leave behind copious amounts of litter along Geyser Creek. Summer also brings in tourists for Saratoga’s Race Season.

Sadly, summer is the only season where you can’t take a good photograph of the Geyser Island Spouter without people standing on the island of mineral deposits.

  • September 2020 – Saratoga Spa State Park officially posted signs requesting people to “Please Keep Off of the Island Spouter.”

In autumn the crowds begin to thin out, but the vibrant colors of changing foliage still draws a fair amount of nature lovers to the park.

Looking through photos from 2018, I noticed a trend. Despite my moodiness and varying weather conditions, I have visited the park at least once every month this year. I decided to share my “Year in the Park” through photos displaying one of the most famous springs in the Saratoga Spa State Park, the Island Spouter. (Geyser Island Spouter is his official name because the tufa island is in Geyser Creek).

As I got further into choosing the best photo from each month, I realized I did not take any photos of the Geyser Island Spouter for three months in a row. Yes, they were June, July, and August.

I had to reassess how I wanted to share my park adventures of 2018 and I was thrilled to find a common theme amongst my favorite springs! Spouting springs and tufa deposits, which includes Orenda Spring, Geyser Island Spouter, Polaris Spring, and Tallulah Spring.

Spouters & Tufa

Spouting Springs

Many refer to the naturally spouting springs as “geysers,” however, a geyser only occurs when heat is involved. Geysers are propelled out of the earth by pressurized steam. Saratoga’s spouters, whose temperatures range between 48 and 56 degrees Fahrenheit, are pushed to the earth’s surface by pressurized carbonic gas. Interpretive Sign

Tufa (too-fa)

The colorful rock you see is called tufa! It grows bigger over time as minerals from the spring water are laid down and harden. Different minerals give the tufa its many colors.
The minerals in the tufa will cover leaves, rocks, and anything else that falls into the spring. Different minerals give the tufa its many colors. The reds and oranges you see come from iron. Interpretive Sign

Year in the Park


Geyser Island Spouter.


Geyser Island Spouter


Geyser Island Spouter.


Geyser Island Spouter.


Geyser Island Spouter.


Orenda Spring.


The first time I felt Orenda Spring’s mineral water on my feet!


Orenda Spring’s Tufa Mound reflecting in Geyser Creek.


Juvenile Great Blue Heron fishing in Geyser Creek.


Tallulah Spring.


Geyser Island Spouter.


Geyser Island Spouter “comparison” photo.

Geyser Island Spouter

“The Island Spouter was exploited for dry carbonic gas during the early 1900s.”

Saving the Springs

The tranquil woodlands that surround you now once resembled an industrial park. The springs were exploited for their carbonic gas during the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many companies, including the Geyser Natural Carbonic Acid Gas Company and the Champion Natural Gas Company had set up gas extraction plants, factory buildings and huge water tanks. They dumped thousands of gallons of water each day to extract the gas for sale to soda manufacturers.

The gas extraction plants operated as many as 200 wells in the area. The amount of water being pumped from the ground eventually took its toll on the quality and flow of the mineral springs of Saratoga, and they began to run dry. A local Committee of Concerned Citizens successfully lobbied the State Legislature for the preservation of the springs, resulting in the introduction of the Anti-Pumping Act of 1908 by Assemblyman Whitney and Senator Brackett. The gas companies challenged the Act in the courts and continued pumping as litigation proceeded.

The Committee of Concerned Citizens, led by Spencer Trask, pleaded with the Legislature to bring all of the springs under State control to ensure their survival. They were successful, and in 1909 the State Reservation was created and the springs were saved from exploitation. The gas companies were shut down and many of the wells were capped. It took many years for the remaining springs to regain their normal flow. Interpretive Sign

“The Island Spouter had reverted to a more natural look by the 1930s.”

Orenda Spring

Orenda Spring’s Tufa (September 7, 2018).

Tallulah Spring

Tallulah Spring (October 24, 2018).

All photos were taken in 2018 by me (Alicen).

All information was taken from signs in Saratoga Spa State Park.