Hot springs: Warm up the natural way

  • Hot springs: Warm up the natural way

Temperatures are dropping throughout the USA – in most places, anyway – and thoughts of places to warm up will quickly start popping into our minds. Here’s a look at a handful or so of natural hot springs that will warm you up in no time, with a bit of relaxation thrown in.

Let’s start in Arkansas, where we find Hot Springs National Park just outside the city of Hot Springs, nicknamed “The American Spa.” The historic Fordyce Bathhouse was in operation from 1915-1962, and now serves as the park visitor center. But do not fear! The hot springs are accessible via a traditional bath at the Buckstaff Bathhouse, which has been in continuous operation since 1912. A modern spa experience can be found at the Quapaw Baths & Spa.

From the south we travel far north to Thermopolis, Wyo., where a treaty was signed in 1896 with the Shoshone and Arapaho tribes to open one of the largest mineral hot springs in the world to the public. Thousands of hot springs enthusiasts visit each year to soak in the healing waters – in which 27 minerals can be found – and to play. And there’s plenty of water to play in: more than 8,000 gallons of 135-degree water flows from the ground at the “Big Spring” daily.

The small, western town of Ouray, Colo., about an hour from Telluride, is flanked by incredibly scenic soaring mountains, leaving little wonder as to why it’s known as “the Switzerland of America,” and is home to five developed natural, sulfur-free hot springs. Swim in the more than 1 million gallons of crystal-clear, natural hot spring waters ranging from 80 to 106 degrees at Ouray Hot Springs Pool; visit the natural vapor cave at Wiesbaden Hot Springs; soak in the clothing-optional lithium pools at Orvis Hot Springs; or stay at Box Canyon Lodge or Twin Peaks Lodge and Hot Springs and enjoy onsite, guest-only springs.

The fresh water that flows in New York State’s Saratoga Springs is ideal for drinking, and several faucets can be found throughout the town. One place to soak and take in the healing waters is the Roosevelt Mineral Baths. The water that is piped up from underground is carbonated, and heated to 97-100 degrees by adding a minimal amount of hot, fresh water to the natural, cold mineral water from below.

The combination of hot, rich mineral water drew California’s first millionaire, Samuel Brannan, to the Napa Valley area in the late-1850s, and he subsequently bought 2,000 acres, envisioning a resort town similar to Saratoga. Brannan opened his hot springs resort in 1862, and named it Calistoga – a combination of California and Saratoga. Today, those hot springs, volcanic ash and mud baths are just as popular as they were back then, making Calistoga Napa Valley’s number-one spa town.

Further south, just outside of Palm Springs, the groundwater in Desert Hot Springs is ranked among the best in the USA, and the hot springs are amazing, too. The word “spa” is derived from Latin and means “health through water,” and plenty of spas offer soaking pools in which to absorb the healing minerals. And right across the street from the El Morocco Inn & Spa is Angel View, a non-profit serving children and adults with disabilities, which has a soaking facility for the clients to help calm and relax their muscles.


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