Soda Dam is a mini-version of Mammoth Hot Springs, located just north of the Village of Jemez Springs. Built up over millions of years, it hulks like an ancient behemoth across the valley, a great spill of rock that has been growing over the past 5,000 years. The travertine dam forms as the hot springs dissolve calcite minerals in the rock. When the springs reach the surface, calcium carbonate deposits form. In the process of building the formation, pockets formed, creating cave-like openings.
Soda Dam is on the Jemez fault zone, which is still seismically active today. Several small earthquakes have been felt along the fault in historic time, according to an article by Alexis Lavine in the Jemez Thunder, Feb. 15, 2004.
The first white settlers were thwarted by a box canyon here, cut through on the east end by the Jemez River. Soda Dam blocked the valley until the road was blasted out in the 1960s. On both sides of the highway, odoriferous water seeps from the ground at 80° or more, leaving a trail of green and yellow algae. Soda Dam came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service in 1976.
Nearly everyone who visits the Jemez Springs area makes a stop at Soda Dam, and a high percentage of those who visit take a photo. In the early days of the village, it was a popular day trip. Here are a few of the images we have collected so far.