We’re pretty fond of Calistoga.  It’s quite a special place.  Here are some Fun Facts to start you on your love affair…

1) A geyser exists only where conditions include a natural deep subterranean supply of water, a source of heat, and a series of fissures, fractures and cavities that provide a path to the earth’s surface. At the same time, surrounding rock formations must be strong enough to maintain continual onslaughts of the intense pressure of steam and water explosions. Calistoga’s got ‘em…

1a) And check this out: a geyser can only be called ‘old faithful’ if it spouts at regular intervals. The Old Faithful Geyser of Calistoga is one of only three such geysers in the world!

2) Early Native Americans visited the geothermal areas in Calistoga for the healing effect of the waters and called it ‘coo-la-no-maock’ (oven place).

3) Early 1820’s Padre Jose Altimura ‘discovered’ the natural hot springs of Calistoga and sowed wild mustard seeds to help him retrace his path. Napa Valley is now famous for its winter shows of yellow mustard fields – a great cover crop that replenishes nitrogen in the vineyard rows.

4) Gold Rush pioneer Sam Brannan arrives in Calistoga in 1857, determined to build the ‘Saratoga of California’ with the purchase of over 2,000 acres. 

5) During a public speech, Brannan was trying to compare his fledging resort area with the famous spa in Saratoga, New York. Having had a bit too much to drink, he confused his words saying, “I will make this place the Calistoga of Sarafornia”.  He delighted in the mistake, shouting “Calistoga, Calistoga…I like it!”

6) Leland Stanford was a partner in Brannan’s Hot Springs Resort, and considered building his university in Calistoga.  He couldn’t help feeling it was too far from a metropolitan area and chose Palo Alto instead. 

7) James Lick, Leland Stanford, and Brannan originally planned to build an observatory on Mt. St. Helena, but a dispute between Lick and John Lawley who owned the Old Toll Road, persuaded Lick to build his observatory on Mount Hamilton instead. Too bad; Mount St. Helena has more clear nights and is higher than Mt. Diablo.

8) More Sam Brannan

  • First President of Mormon Church in San Francisco
  • Picked location of Sacramento as State Capitol
  • Founder of 1st school in San Francisco
  • California’s 1st millionaire
  • Responsible for Napa Valley & Calistoga Railroads
  • Elected State Senator in 1853 (but never served)
  • Campaigned for Lincoln and the abolition of slavery

9) The first commercial outdoor mud baths were opened in Calistoga in 1880.

10) Calistoga Bottling Works was the first U.S. company to bottle and commercially sell mineral water, dating back to 1924.

Looking for the Past in Calistoga Kent V. Domogalla – Sharpsteen Museum Assoc.
The Brannan Saga - Early Calistoga Kay Archuleta