If you like drinking carbonated water as much as I do, you’ll be happy to hear you can drink as much as you’d like, -absolutely for free- just north of the Utah border in Soda Springs, Idaho.
In 1838 Sarah White Smith, wrote in her diary, This is indeed a curiosity. The water is bubbling and foaming like boiling water.” But the water wasn’t hot.
She also wrote how delighted she was when she made bread with the water. “The bread was as light as any prepared with yeast.”
All this stirred up some fond memories I have of my high school science teacher who always made interesting things happen in the classroom. She put a pinch of sodium bicarbonate (commonly called baking soda) in a dish and added a couple tablespoons of water and vinegar. Voila! The dish began “bubbling and foaming like boiling water.”
For centuries something like this has been going on under the ground in Soda Springs. The carbonate rocks are mixing with slightly acidic water, sending CO2 bubbles to the surface .
By 1887, Soda Springs had grown to a bustling town. Some enterprising residents came up with a plan to capture the CO2 gas. They built giant drums over one of the springs and then built a five-mile pipeline to their bottling plant. There they mixed the gas with clear water from another spring and bottled it. The soda water was called “Idan-ha” and was shipped out on the railroad far and wide.
A bottle of Idan-ha mineral water
Mary Heers, Photographer
It won first place at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 and again in the World’s Fair in Paris in 1905.
A decade later, another group of businessmen went to work on a plan to build a mineral water swimming pool resort.
On Dec 2, 1937, drillers dug down to 315 ft. No luck. They went to dinner. Then they heard a gush of water shoot up outside the window. They said it was “roaring like a dragon.” The whole area was enveloped in water vapor and Main Street was flooded. It took them two weeks to cap it.
The water wasn’t warm, so the businessmen abandoned their plans for a swimming pool resort.
The town knew their geyser was accidental; it was man-made- but still a plume of water shooting 100 ft into the air was impressive to look at.
Engineers put a timer on the cap. Now the carbonated water shoots up for 8 minutes every hour on the hour.
You can watch it for free.
As for drinking the naturally carbonated water, the city has set aside three springs.
Mineral springs in Soda Springs, Idaho
Mary Heers, Photographer
My guide drove me to his favorite site just outside of town We scrambled down a grassy hillside to a small bubbling pool about the size of a basketball. He whipped out a cup and dipped it in. I drank. It was cold and fizzy.
“Good as Perrier,” I said.
He smiled, “Now I like you.”
I liked him too. Even more, I loved drinking this tasty treasure bubbling up from the ground.
This is Mary Heers and I’m Wild About Utah
Images Courtesy & Copyright Mary Heers, Photographer
Featured Audio: Courtesy & Copyright © Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio upr.org
Text: Mary Heers, https://cca.usu.edu/files/awards/art-and-mary-heers-citation.pdf
Additional Reading: Lyle Bingham, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/
Wild About Utah, Mary Heers’ Postings
Price, Mike, Soda Springs, We Are East Idaho, EastIdahoNews.com LLC, September 9, 2019, https://www.eastidahonews.com/2019/09/we-are-east-idaho-soda-springs/
Hooper Springs Park, California National Historic Trail, Oregon National Historic Trail, National Park Service, US Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/places/000/hooper-springs-park.htm
A man-made CO2 Geyser in Utah:
Weaver, Lance, Crystal Geyser, Grand County, Utah, Geosights, Utah Geological Survey (UGS), Utah Department of Natural Resources, January 2018, https://geology.utah.gov/map-pub/survey-notes/geosights/crystal-geyser/
Map on page 43 shows water from Soda Springs flows into the Bear River and the Great Salt Lake:
Dissolved-Mineral Inflow to Great Salt Lake and Chemical Characteristics of the Salt Lake Brine, United States Geological Survey (USGS) and The College of Mines and Mineral Industries, The University of Utah, 1963, https://ugspub.nr.utah.gov/publications/open_file_reports/ofr-485/Lake%20Brine%20Interpretive%20Reports/WRB%2003%20-%20Part%201%20-%20Hahl%20&%20Mitchell%20-%201963/Water%20Resources%20Bulletin%203%20Pt%201%201963.pdf