Since before recorded history, the therapeutic benefits of the hot springs in this area have drawn people here.
The hot thermal water flows out of a rift along the Rio Grande that appeared more than 50 million years ago. The rift uplifted Truth or Consequences’ landmark hill, and faults along the rift allow deep groundwater to flow freely to the surface without losing heat or minerals—producing pristine waters with temperatures ranging from 98 to 115 degrees, with trace elements of 38 different minerals. The pH of the water is 7, or neutral.
With almost 2,700 parts per million of assorted minerals, these thermal springs constitute some of the most heavily mineralized water in the United States. The continually flowing waters also have two important and unique features:
— The water has no unpleasant odor.
— The single largest ingredient in the water is chloride, a naturally occurring germ killer that sterilizes the skin and ensures the purity of the water.
History of the Hot Springs as a Destination
Downtown Truth or Consequences sits atop a large natural aquifer that produces somewhat salty, odorless water ranging in temperature from 100-115 degrees Fahrenheit. Were the city (and nearby Elephant Butte Dam) not here, the downtown area would be a swampy basin of warm mud, subject to seasonal flooding from the Rio Grande.
The event that changed the area forever was the construction of Elephant Butte Dam between 1911 and 1916. Liquor and gambling were outlawed at the construction site, but establishments in the hot springs settlement five miles away offered both – and in abundance. The population grew rapidly and the town was incorporated in 1916.
Once the dam was completed, the flow of the river was altered such that more land could be claimed from the flood plain, allowing for stick frame bathhouses to be built in what had been swamp. Wells were sunk into the aquifer, allowing clear spring water to flow. The town developed as a health resort; hot mineral water was an accepted medical treatment, and slogans like “City of Health” and “Health Capital of the Southwest” drew visitors and healers alike.
Over the course of the 20th century, the town’s name was changed first to Hot Springs, then famously to Truth or Consequences. Some say that last change caused the mineral baths to be forgotten, but today the hot springs are one of the primary draws to Sierra County.