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 http://www.carlsbadsprings.ca/?page_id=165

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!

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

Locals refer to these as the “county baths”. These baths are operated by the Tecopa Hot Springs Conservancy, whose members are working very hard to increase awareness and responsible use of the Amargosa River.  They have developed an excellent website for the Tecopa Hot Springs Campground that is full of useful information to help you plan your trip to Tecopa.  This is an excellent campground with fabulous views and great walking trails.  The campground even supplies GPS tracking systems for hikers, and all campsites have wifi.  I didn’t realize it then, but the new management had only been in place for about three weeks the day I was there and there are a lot of plans for the future.

The View from Tecopa Hot Springs Campground

The View

At the center of the campground are two large segregated bath houses, one for men and one for women. There are two pools inside, one with spring water flowing directly in for an average temperature of about 103 F, while the second pool is supplied with the overflow so it is a little cooler. The pools are enclosed in large but simple and freshly painted cinder block structures. The main pool doesn’t have a roof so you are more exposed to the elements here than in the other bath houses in Tecopa.

Once you enter the bath house, hang up your clothes then take a shower. After that, it’s only a few feet to enter the baths. The pools are very deep, about 4’, so you can easily get a full soak and float experience here. The pools have rounded gravel on the bottom and the open sky overhead gives you a sense of being truly outside – the walls are purely for modesty here. The walls are plain and functional, the pools are plain and functional, and the waters feel wonderful. You can float here for a long time, looking up to the evening stars.

The baths are open long hours and offer a pleasant place for socializing. The office keeps a small supply of drinks and snacks available. As always when heading for Tecopa, I recommend your bring your own water and wine and food. You’re only allowed to bring water into the baths, but for some reason if I had to choose a drink for here it would be a light green tea. That seems the perfect accompaniment to the warm healing waters and wide open spaces of Tecopa California.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

 

 

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort - A Vintage Vibe

Tecopa Hot Springs Resort – A Vintage Vibe

There is a vintage vibe about this place. There are no TVs or telephones in the room. There is no cell service. There is an unending series of mountain vistas. There is dust. There is the hot dry desert sun. And oddly enough when I was there in January, there were frogs, lots of frogs singing. I was even more surprised to find mosquitoes here in the desert – or maybe I was more surprised that they found me!  I get the feeling that life is hard here, but I also got a feeling of deep serenity.  This is an RV park, not a “resort” in the sense that we usually think of them, but it does have a classic vintage vibe and a very welcoming and friendly attitude.

 

 

 

Bathing Rooms inside the Motel Building

Bathing Rooms inside the Motel Building

Like so many places in California, the springs here are semi-developed, enclosed in small private bathhouses.  This resort is a work in progress. Amy, the owner, has been here since 2001, working on her vision of art and healing in the desert’s sacred space. She told me many tales of the history of this place and of the healings that have happened here. She describes this place as “Vast, healing, surprising, calming, serene.” We sit at the bistro overlooking the Amargosa chaos, declared a “wild and scenic river” by Congress in 2009. The Amargosa river’s headwaters are near Beatty, near Bailey’s Hot Springs – I remember seeing that little river and wondering what it would grow up to be. Now here I am, watching the Amargosa in its glory before it turns north into Death Valley.

Overlooking the Amargosa Chaos

Overlooking the Amargosa Chaos

Amy talks of the Resort’s stargazing, of how you can see Jupiter’s moons cast shadows on the planet, of the history of this place, how Harry used railroad ties for his buildings. We talk about technical details; the wellhead provides 120 gallons per minute, at 120 F, we talk of art, and the solstice, the town’s healing miracle cottonwood tree. This is a place to unwind, unplug, be one with the galaxy. It is a good place to be.  This is a good place to “just be”.

Just be.

Just be.

One of the Soaking Pools at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

One of the Soaking Pools at Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

There are 5 small private baths at the Resort, three in the motel building, two in a bathhouse on top of the hill. The inflow pipes are placed high so there is the continuous sound of water pouring into the pools. The water is a perfect temperature, about 103F.  Shower in your room before you come to bathe, or in the upper bath house.  Bring a towel and a wrap and your own sandals.

 

 

Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay Masque

Aztec Secret Bentonite Clay Masque

I picked up some bentonite clay that was on sale in the office and tried it out. I was really impressed with the results. My skin was instantly smoother and more even coloured than it normally is!  I do a full body bentonite mud masque twice weekly now and it has really helped my skin.  I’d recommend this for everyone!

 

 

The Pastels Bistro has a small but decent menu that includes vegan and vegetarian options. I had a lentil, kale and barley soup that was a warm and hearty meal for $8.50. The coffee is excellent. It’s cash only, so bring your wallet. The Bistro opens on demand, for a few hours a day at lunch and supper – if you have asked them to!  They don’t have a liquor license, and I’m not sure where the nearest liquor store is, so bring your herbal teas, your own water, and your own fixings. This is the kind of place where I would mix myself a funky martini and watch the sun set after a great day of hiking, rock hounding and soaking in the wonderful waters.

Soaking at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Soaking at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

The next time you are in Las Vegas, and looking for something completely different, head to Tecopa Hot Springs to unplug, unwind and soak.

This post is one of a series of on the Hot Springs of Tecopa; to see others, click on the links below:

Post #1: Tecopa Hot Springs

Post #2: Tecopa Hot Springs Resort

Post #3:Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Post #4: Tecopa Hot Springs Campground & Pools

Post #5: Signing Off From Tecopa Hot Springs