Gather around kids, and let me tell you of four magical springs that sprung forth curative waters.
It was believed that water from this collection of four springs — White Sulphur, Empire, Congress and Seltzer — could heal all kinds of ailments and restore strength and virility to those who drank and bathed in it.
Hence why native Indians called the springs, located five miles north of Suisun City, “The Land of the Healing Waters.”
With the passing of decades, the story of Tolenas Springs became legend, then myth. Its location was forgotten, and first-hand accounts of its power became stories of hearsay.
Tolenas Springs was recently rediscovered by outdoorsman and SF Chronicle field scout Richard DeGraffenreid, who analyzed topographic maps, Google Earth photos and historical documents in order to triangulate the springs’ location.
Lost to public knowledge for the past century, DeGraffenreid described what he saw:
“Like in Yellowstone, the spring water has changed the color of the rocks. Some are black as coal, white as snow, some are green. At the lower spring, the water is 4, 5 feet deep, like room temperature. At another, it’s 3, 4 feet deep that turned the rocks green.
Like with any Indiana Jones-type adventure, DeGraffenreid and his son had to break some rules in order to make the discovery. Even if it was unintentional. Or “unintentional.”
The Tolenas Springs, named after the Tolenas Indians of the Patwin tribe who once inhabited the area, is now private property. Of course, DeGraffenreid and his son conveniently missed the “Do not trespass” sign on the property’s gate:
“We did not see the ‘no trespassing’ sign until we were [on our way] back. I do feel terrible about that. We would never have gone in. […] The gate was open, and we were excited that we were close to a discovery.”
The site became popular in 1855 when marble was discovered on the hill where Tolenas Springs are located. A few years later, the property above the quarry was developed into a Calistoga-esque resort.
Baths were built upon the land, and its waters bottled and sold as Tolenas Springs Soda. According to an old Tolenas Springs pamphlet, the mineral water was marketed to those who were suffering from a loss of virile power:
“…this beverage is an absolute blessing, and for the aged and infirm it is a sustenance and comfort.”
The spring’s bubbly water was also known to purify blood and heal eczema, malaria and yes, even hangovers.