Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hot Springs

Hot springs are naturally occurring springs that release geothermally heated groundwater. Often times they are captured in man-made pools for the purpose of bathing. Hot springs exist all over the world and are common in the western US. Deep in the earth's crust, groundwater is superheated and infused with a high level of mineral solids. This spring water has been regarded for generations as having therapeutic value and artifact records show that hot springs have been inhabited by Native Americans for hundreds of years.

Balneology/Balneotherapy is the scientific study of mineral water and its potential use as therapy for a wide range of disabilities and ailments. It is widely practiced in places such as Europe, Japan and Iceland.


Aside from the medical uses of hot springs, they are useful for average people who want to soak, relax and enjoy nature's bounty.


I have had the pleasure of visiting some of this countries beautiful hot springs. As a child my family visited my Grandfather in Hot Springs Arkansas every summer. At the age of 15 I visited Buckstaff Baths, the only remaining operational bathhouse on Hot Springs' historic Bathhouse Row.

Buckstaff Baths in Hot Springs, Arkansas
Buckstaff Baths has been in operation since 1912. It is a beautiful and historic place to enjoy the mineral-rich spring waters and various luxurious spa treatments. At Buckstaff you can sit in an old-fashioned steam box, be wrapped in hot towels, get a full body massage or just soak in an over sized tub.

In the year 2000 my cat Cali and I traveled out west. Somewhere around Kansas I was reflecting on some of my big brother Pete's hot spring adventures and I decided this would be a good area of focus for my journey. I stopped at a local bookstore and picked up a couple hot springs travel guides. I mapped our journey around some of the west coast's most beautiful hot springs.

First stop... The Hobo Pool

The Hobo Pool in Satatoga, Wyoming
The hobo pool is a free public hot spring pool. It has a black sand floor from which the spring water flows. At one end of the pool is a small tub called the "Lobster Pot". I was not man enough to bear the lobster pot's 120 degree water.

As I sat cross legged in the pool's steamy water, it began to snow.

The next stop was Portland Oregon to visit my big brother Pete. I couldn't wait to talk with him about my newfound interest in hot springs. When I got there he directed me to Mt. Hood and Bagby Hot Springs.

Bagby Hot Springs, Mt. Hood, Oregon
Bagby was amazing. The rustic bathhouse is very cool. Bathers can sit in a big hot tub style tub or take a bath in a personal hollowed out log. If you're shy, you can use a private room with the log style tub. A trough system directs the spring water to the tubs and a cool water pool and buckets are available so you can get that bath just right.

here is a video depicting the Bagby experience, warts and all:

The crown jewel of my hot springs exploration was Cougar Hot Spring. I had heard of Cougar as it was famous as a kind of sub-cultural hot spot in the 90's. It is nestled in a redwood valley where the spring converges with a cool stream and flow into a series of pools. As you go down each pool gets a few degrees cooler so you can find one that suits your needs. I spent the whole day at Cougar where I met several interesting people. Cougar is so beautiful and unforgettable. I will be visiting there again.

Cougar Hot Springs, Willamette National Forest near Eugene, Oregon

Finally, if you decide to visit a hot spring you should be warned...

No comments: