Jot down a post-it note, alert your brain, call your gals: winter is coming and that means it is time to soak, hot spring style!
When the terms hot pool or hot spring come to mind I think of somewhere exotic: a quiet enchanted forest with the most inviting water to dip into and relax. Those places do exist but they aren’t as far away as they may seem.
Natural hot springs are all over the world. Although the majority of U.S. hot springs are in the West there are several scattered across the country including in not-so-obvious places like New York and Arkansas. After visiting my first hot pool in Lava Hot Springs, Idaho a few days ago I decided to put together a few facts about these natural wonders. (read more)
- The nitty gritty. Hot pools are produced by geothermally heated groundwater that rises from the Earth’s crust. The water in hot pools is extremely rich in minerals and are said to be healing to many ailments including psoriasis, arthritis and circulatory disorders. Most of the hot pool temperatures range from 102˚ to 112˚F.
- For the masses. Many towns across the U.S. make hot pools accessible to all by pumping water from near by springs to structures to swimming pool like structures. They will usually pump the water in and out daily for sanitation although some places do put additives in such as chlorine. Many mad-made springs are affordable to visit, too. Some places only charge $10 for a soak.Side note: I thought going to a structured hot spring would take the fun out of it but I was absolutely wrong. The particular pool that I went to didn’t have any additives,which I loved. They had handicap accessible ramps that when right into the pools which I found really nice. Plus, the grounds were surrounded by gorgeous gardens. There were even grape vines next to the pool, (I many have broken the rules and snuck a few bites for a mid-soak snack, too.)
(Above: Lava Hot Springs facilities; Below: me soaking in the pools.)
- Natural water baths have been traced back to the Greek and Roman times. Water cures or “taking to the water” became most popular as a healing remedy all around the world during the 18th century and was used to help with many health issues including sinus pain, joint and muscle pain, and even used to help severe burn victims. It is true to this day that people seek out warm, mineral rich water for healing but mostly to destress.
- Wyoming. The largest hot spring in the United States is Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. This spring is for viewing only, no soaking! It is about 160 feet deep and 250 by 300 feet wide. Grand Prismatic Springs is the perfect photo op with colors of bright red, orange and blue swirling into each other produced by algae and bacteria in the spring.
(Photos from a recent trip to Grand Prismatic Springs)
- Hot Springs, Arkansas is home to Hot Springs National Park, established in 1832 but still a large tourist attraction today. These springs are deep rooted in Native American History as well, known to be a sacred gathering place for thousands of years.
- Stay Warm. Many man-made hot pools are open year round, even during the snowy winter months. Soaking in hot pools during the summer may be counterintuitive to keeping the body in balance with natural elements: when it is hot outside doubling up on heat building activities can create too much fire in the body. When the air is chilled however, enjoying a warm bath or outdoor soak is a great way to balance the natural elements with the body.
- Soaking is for presidents too. Apparently George Washington liked to visit a hot spring every once in a while favoriting what is now knows as Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, one of the oldest hot spring towns.
- Not all springs are hot. Saratoga, NY is known for it’s mineral rich spring water but in true NY fashion the springs are a crisp 55˚F. These springs are ideal for a summer cool off or refreshing drink. The springs are naturally carbonated too, spritzer anyone?
- Find a spring near you. Although I haven’t found a great online database to search springs around the country I have found a lot of local resources on the web. Search “hot springs near me” to find natural and man made pools close by. Of course, in places like the Rocky mountains where hot springs are of the plenty you can find many pieces of literature pointing out the best places to search a spring out.
Keeping in balance with nature around us is just as important to living a healthy lifestyle as eating a healthy diet. The moral of my hot spring geek out: just as we embrace the natural elements in the summer let’s embrace them in the winter, too! Celebrate the temperature drop by seeking out a hot spring near you. If hot springs are just too far out of reach, a warm bath will do the trick too! Happy soaking!