Glenwood Springs: A History of Taking Fun to the Extreme!
The hot springs town in the Colorado mountains is home to some thrilling attractions and exciting events, but our Glenwood Springs predecessors thought of things that could and would never happen today.
There’s a tendency to think the past was a tamer age than the present day; that because of materials, technology or engineering, we current-era folks have the edge on daring pastimes. Not so, at least in Glenwood Springs. Whether it was entertainment or activities, previous generations had their share of fun doing things that would never be permitted now.
Human Fly Scales Glenwood Springs Buildings
The area around Glenwood Springs is a rock-climbing paradise, especially the Puoux in Glenwood Canyon and Rifle Mountain Park west of town. The modern version of the sport has safety features and mechanisms built in.
In 1916, when the “Human Fly” landed in town, that wasn’t the case. New York born stuntman, Harry Gardiner, generated quite a buzz before flying into Glenwood Springs for the 1916 Strawberry Days Festival. Legend has it that President Grover Cleveland gave him his nickname. The daredevil was reputed to have scaled over 700 buildings across the United States. In Glenwood Springs, breathless crowds watched as he climbed the Citizen’s National Bank Building, First National Bank Building and Hotel Denver. Relying on bold confidence and sure footing, he used no ropes, wires, nets or other safety devices. In fact, he was so at ease that he made his ascents wearing a suit, tie and hat! How did he die? The details are cloudy on this point, but a body matching Gardiner’s description was found in 1933 near the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
Ladies Abandon Ship at Glenwood Hot Springs Pool
Glenwood Hot Springs Pool is where you go to steep in the mineral waters either for their therapeutic benefits or just simply to relax. Pure geothermal water emanates from nearby Yampah Spring. The current owners consider it an honor to steward the mineral resources for future generations.
In the 1950s, however, that notion hadn’t quite caught on yet. During an event called the Warm Water Jamboree that took place at the pool in late December, young women in swim attire and bathing caps participated in “fire diving.” Spectators gathered at the deep end of the pool where Norma Weaver, Joanne Benzel, Judy O’Brien and LaBeth Bough demonstrated the “abandon ship warfare technique” of diving into burning water. Oil or possibly even gasoline was poured into the pool to set the water ablaze. Swimmers dove into the water, under the flames and to safety on the other side. According to the 1956 Glenwood Post, all the ladies “emerged with their eyebrows and eyelashes unsinged!”
Speedboat Racers Zoom Through Glenwood Canyon
With the Colorado River as the main attraction, Glenwood Canyon is a recreational paradise. Visitors can ride the Amtrak train through the canyon, bike on an 18-mile paved path, fish for trout along the shores and hike tributaries including the trail to Hanging Lake. Once the weather warms up, however, rafting the Colorado becomes the top choice for those interested in whitewater thrills and adventure.
The Colorado River was also a big draw for boaters nearly 70 years ago. Every year, as part of the annual Strawberry Days festivities, speedboat races would take place east of the Shoshone Dam. For participants and spectators, the sport of speedboat river racing was not for the faint of heart. It required racers in outboard motorboats to navigate the narrow waterway in Glenwood Canyon at thrilling rates of speed. The Glenwood Post reported that over 2,000 people lined the riverbanks to watch the fast-paced action. Organized by the Colorado River Skippers of Grand Junction and sponsored by the Glenwood Springs Chamber of Commerce, competitors could enter in several categories according to boat type such as utility, hydro or cruiser. There were also separate races for ladies and families. Adding to the spectacle were waterskiing demonstrations and acrobatics.
Although it’s much safer these days, Glenwood Springs is still an exhilarating destination for adventures of all kinds. However, we must applaud previous generations for their all-out fearlessness in chasing fun.
Learn more about the Colorado’s favorite hot springs town and make plans for your own bold adventure in Glenwood Springs today!