Remembering the Healing Springs of Eastern Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

Dominion House Hotel, Carlsbad Springs, Ontario

I live in Ottawa, Ontario, very close to a town named Carlsbad Springs. A hundred years ago, Carlsbad Springs was a renowned spa town, with four grand hotels and steeplechase horse racing. It is rumored that Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John A. MacDonald, stayed at the Dominion House hotel. The Dominion House burned down in 1930 as the North American spa culture died out and it was never rebuilt. The last of Carlsbad Springs’ grand hotels closed in 1968.

When I first moved to Ottawa, there were still ruins of a bridge leading to the spa’s site. Today, there is almost nothing left, just one spring house and a plaque to commemorate the glory days of the springs.  The trees have grown in and Carlsbad Springs is part of suburban Ottawa now, with houses on standard size lots and some townhouse developments not too far away.  There is one original spring house still standing and there is a historical plaque along with a small park commemorating the glory days of Carlsbad Springs.

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015

Carlsbad Springs, March 2015. Russel Road Bridge over Bear Brook

I enjoyed watching the spring water gurgling out from under the spring house on the day I took this picture, which is taken from almost the exact same spot as the one above – if I had gone to the exact same spot, we would have a picture only of trees!  The little spring house to the right of the modern photo is the one to the far left of the old photo (I think!) For a detailed history of these healing springs, see the Carlsbad Springs Community Association’s web page at

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872 Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

Caledonia Springs Hotel, 1872
Photo Source: Library and Archives, Canada Photo

In researching this post, I learned that a little east of Carlsbad Springs was the even grander Caledonia Springs. This video, featuring University of Ottawa Chief Archivist Michel Prévost, describes the four springs with their different curative properties, the bottling factory and the hotels frequented by rich members of the elite on doctor-supervised thermal waters cures. The video is in French, but the pictures and ruins are evocative even without the audio.

Mr. Prévost raises a good point that bottle mineral springs water was the only safe water to drink in the days before sanitation. A hundred years ago, drinking water didn’t come out of a tap – you needed a well to find it.

Take some time to think about the history of springs and look around where you live to see if there are some springs that may be almost forgotten.  Let us know what you find!

Ad for Caledonia Springs from Harper’s Bazar, 1879.  Unlike Caledonia Springs, Harper’s is still around!

Hot Springs for Health – in Bodybuilding & Extreme Sports

Here at Hot Springs Aficionado, we believe that hot springs and hot water hydrotherapy should be an integral part of a balanced wellness regime.  For those who push their bodies to extreme limits, it’s even more important to include a solid recovery plan in your training regimen.  If you live near a spa or natural hot springs, you can include those – if you don’t, you can try adding a hot tub to your back yard.

In this segment, Anne-Renée interviews Dean Danis.  Dean is a bodybuilder and pro wrestler with many years of experience and injuries.  In this video, Dean talks about how putting a hot tub in his backyard improves his flexibility and recovery, no matter what season it is.  This video was filmed in Canada, in February 2015, with an outside temperature of about -35 (which is about the same in both Celsius and Fahrenheit!)

Join us at Hot Springs Aficionado as we explore the health and lifestyle benefits of hot springs soaks.

Hot Springs for Health in France – la cure thermale

It can be very difficult to find information on the science behind the benefits of hot springs in English.  So I turned to France to get a sense of the proven medicinal benefits of springs.

Photo by Romaineolas (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

The French health care system has included “thermal medicine” since 1947.  There is a national network of springs spas that provide services covered by the healthcare system, called CNETh.  Each spring has certain specialties, maybe rheumatism, psoriasis, or cardiac diseases.  There is a cancer recovery cure system of 11 or 12 days.  You can easily find a spa that will treat your particular ailment by using this central website.  Your doctor will prescribe the cure and when you attend the spa you will be supervised by a team of doctors and nurses who are trained in thermal medicine.

By Jeunamateur via Wikimedia Commons

About 73% of the prescribed cures in France are for rheumatoid diseases while 11% are for respiratory ailments.  Thermal cures are also used for digestive and skin ailments, psychological and developmental difficulties.  Although its use is fairly widespread, thermal medicine only represents about 0.14% of the overall health budget.

In 2004, the national association started a fund to support research into thermal medicine.  The results of these studies can be found here.  My favourite study was on generalized anxiety disorder, with the control group on a prescription for paroxitene.  After 8 weeks, there was a significant improvement for the springs group.

Here at Hot Springs Aficionado, we try to visit hot springs or spas at least once a month because we can feel a positive effect on our bodies and our minds.  We plan to share a lot more information about how hot springs affect us and how we can use hot springs to bring wellness to our busy modern lifestyle – follow us on social media or by email to learn more about hot springs and health.

As a teaser, here is a video of the pool Franklin Delano Roosevelt used to recover from bouts of polio so that he could continue serving as President of the United States.



Not quite a hot spring, but it is For Sale!

Here is an interesting offer.  It’s a house that is for sale.  How does that relate to hot springs?  Well, it’s across the street from Spa Le Nordik in Chelsea, Québec.  It’s also close to some great skiing and mountain biking.  So if you’ve got a million dollars or so and you’re looking for a place to live or a very nice cottage, click here to check it out!


Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times

There were quite a few interesting hot springs news stories this week and this is the first one I chose to highlight.  It shows how helpful hot springs can be to creativity and innovation!

Matyas GutaiMatyas Gutai got his inspiration for a new way to build walls in 2003 as he stepped in to a “rotenburo” (open-air hot springs) while he was in Japan studying sustainable architecture at the University of Tokyo.  His patented modern walls flow water to supply heat to the home combined with a geothermal pump that stores energy in the off season.  For the full story, click here: Onsen-inspired ‘water walls’ can heat and cool homes, Hungarian inventor says | The Japan Times.

History Undressed: “Taking the Waters,” in Bath, England

I found this blog post that I enjoyed reading and I thought I would share it with you.  It’s written by a historical romance author, and has a very playful take on bathing culture in Bath.  It’s a quick read, and worth it!  Click here to read History Undressed: “Taking the Waters,” in Bath, England.

In more recent times, the Great Bath of the Temple of Aquae Sulis Minerva was closed to bathers.  In 2006 Thermae Bath opened, finally ending a 28 year period of no baths in Bath.  I believe it’s operated by the same group that operates Thermae Valkenburg.

I’ll be doing a series on the history and culture of soaking in the coming weeks.  Follow Hot Springs Aficionado on Facebook or Twitter to keep in touch as we explore the rich history of the relationship between humans and hot springs.  In the meantime, if you want to know more about “Taking the Waters” in Bath today, here is a video from Thermae Bath that invites you to spend the day in one of the world’s premier luxury soaks.

It’s the small moments that count

This evening I went to the gym, then to the sauna.  When I opened the door to the sauna, I was greeted with the gentle strains of spa music.  It was so inviting!

A young woman had brought her cell phone into the gym’s sauna, turned off her data roaming and had a playlist of spa music to listen to help her find that zen space.  In an instant, less than a second, she had completely changed my attitude towards phones in saunas!  Used correctly, technology can help us find peace.  Thank you, Natalya, for changing my perspective so quickly and so thoroughly!

It’s important to find those moments of zen in our too busy lives.  Look around you today to find those moments of peace and enjoy them.  Those moments are what make life worth living.  Peace out.

© Jorge Royan /, via Wikimedia Commons

Valentine’s Gift Idea: A Hot Springs Soak

It’s the first Monday in February – which means Valentine’s Day is next week! What will you do? Whether your status is “in a couple” or “solo” or “it’s complicated”, there is a simple way to deal with the stress of Valentine’s Day: Go for a soak!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

First, for those who are solo (I will talk about couples further down in this post). We all need to spend time with the people we love, and we need to love ourselves first. And that means there is nothing wrong with going to the baths solo. Spend some time relaxing, get a massage, pamper yourself and enjoy your time. Self-care is precious. And if you feel stressed about being solo at Valentine’s, a day at the springs will help you forget that stress before it even starts. As with couples, the trick is to go BEFORE Valentine’s Day!

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

Le Nordik Spa-Nature, Chelsea, QC

My husband and I were married at Valentine’s, so we have a tradition of celebrating our anniversary by going to our local Scandinavian baths at Le Nordik and spending the day together there. The trick, of course, is that we go a few days BEFORE Valentine’s Day! The main benefit of that is that the spa is much quieter than it will be AFTER Valentine’s Day when everyone is redeeming their gift certificates. An added bonus is that when everyone else is running around trying to buy last minute chocolates at the pharmacy, we are done, relaxed and happy. There is nothing that says “couple” better than “we already had our Valentine’s Day together”.

Peter & Dawn.  Read the full story here:

Peter & Dawn. Read the full story here:

If you are in the right location there can be other great reasons for you and your lover to head to the hot springs! Just ask Peter Cousins, the British citizen who was hit with a $250,000 USD medical bill following a heart attack at a remote natural hot spring he and his girlfriend found on a Nevada ranch.  He has no regrets, he says, and his final comment? “It was worth it for the sex”.

Read his full story then head out to the nearest hot springs right now – just make sure you have medical insurance first! Have a wonderful Valentine’s retreat with yourself and the ones you love.

Dancing Hot & Cold

The big news in the hot springs world this week was a 4.8 earthquake near Tofino, BC.  After the earthquake, the hot springs in Maquinna Provincial Park ran cold.  It was a reminder of the intricate dance between water and earth that is needed to make a hot spring.

How does this dance happen?  First, there is an aquifer – an underground body of water.  The aquifer’s partner is the crust of the earth.  The aquifer flows gracefully between layers of impermeable rock, percolates through layers of permeable rock, descends into the depths then bubbles back up again, to emerge at the surface touched by memories of its encounter with earth.  The perfume of sulfur or calcium tells the story of this dance; it is the perfume of the stone through which the aquifer has ventured.  If the water has descended far enough, it will be warmed.  If there is magma nearby, the water may be so hot it emerges as a geyser of boiling steam.  Where the stone holds iron, spring water may be red. Where the stone holds gases, spring water may emerge giddy from its dance, all fizzy and sparkling.


Open source from USGS via wikimedia commons

So what happened in Hot Springs Cove, BC?  Maquinna’s springs are on a major fault line within the Cascadia subduction zone.  Surface water descends to a depth of 5 km where it is heated before returning to the surface to emerge at about 50C (122F).  The epicentre of  January 7th’s earthquake was about 24 km below the surface, about 20 km away from the springs.

But enough of dry geology.  What about the dance?  In this case, the dance took up again after a brief intermission and the hot springs are returning to normal.  But I see this as a reminder that all life is but a dance and we never know what interruptions tomorrow may bring.  So for today, find a hot spring, enjoy it, and spend time dancing with those you love.  Tomorrow is another day, another dance.

To learn more about the Maquinna hot springs, see Outdoors with Juan.  He’s even got a VIDEO posted at the end of his review!

A Top Ten List of Top Ten Lists

Especially with the New Year, it seems that everyone is putting out Top Ten lists! Rather than try to make another Top Ten list, I thought I would bring you a hundred ideas! So here we are, with my Top Ten list of Top Ten lists, offering you a hundred hot springs and spa vacations. Enjoy! (Yes, some of them have more than ten – bonus!)

1. Famous & Funky:
2. Undiscovered and Undeveloped:
3. Luxury resorts:
4. Frommer’s always a little different:
5. On the upscale side:
6. On the budget side:,8261/
7. A good compendium:
8. For general wellness:
9. Pin it!
10. Some that aren’t on any other list:

Pamukkale, By Antoine Taveneaux (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

If you’re interested, the most recurring ones seem to be:
– Blue Lagoon, Iceland
– Pammukale, Turkey
– Banff, Canada
– Ma’in, Jordan