The area around Soda Springs is well-known for its bubbling water. Ninety Percent Springs produced Idanha Water for many years and the mechanically timed geyser in the middle of town still brings in tourists. But we lost one once-famous feature, Steamboat Spring.
Oregon Trail travelers and early explorers frequently mentioned Steamboat Spring.
In 1839. Thomas Jefferson Farnham described it thus: “On approaching the spring, a deep gurgling, hissing sound is heard under-ground. It appears to be produced by the generating gas in a cavernous receiver. This, when the chamber is filled, bursts through another cavern filled with water, which it thrusts frothing and foaming into the spring. In passing the smaller orifice, the pent gas escapes with very much the same sound as steam makes in the escape-pipe of a steamboat. Hence the name.”
James John, wrote in his diary on August 10, 1841, that he had noticed 100 or so springs, "which are constantly bubbling and throwing off gas. Some sprout water to a considerable distance and roar like a steamboat."
John C. Fremont, writing in 1843 noticed an opening on the rock where “a white column of scattered water is thrown up, in form like a jet-d'eau, to a variable height of about three feet, and, though it is maintained in a constant supply, its greatest height is attained only at regular intervals, according to the action of the force below. It is accompanied by a subterranean noise, which, together with the motion of the water, makes very much the impression of a steamboat in motion; and, without knowing that it had been already previously so called, we gave to it the name of the Steamboat spring.”
Today, Steamboat Spring lies beneath about 40 feet of water in the Alexander Reservoir. On calm days you can see the surface bubbling a bit, marking the spot. In low-water years those who don’t mind tromping in the mud can still find the springs exposed.