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!

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!

 

Snowshoe & Soak – A Perfect Evening!

Snowshoe & Soak Under the Stars at Le Nordik

Snowshoe & Soak Under the Stars at Le Nordik

We had a good snowfall this weekend, about 8″ of fresh dry powder, and Tuesday was a beautiful clear day so I decided to take advantage of Le Nordik Spa-Nature’s Snowshoeing and Spa under the Stars.

It turned into an absolutely perfect evening!  I arrived at the Gatineau Park around 6 pm to pick up my snowshoes (included with the package).  There were two guided groups of about 10 people each, one in French, one in English.  We set out for an easy hour long snowshoe hike in the darkness lit by our headlamps.  It was a crisp dark evening, about -5, no wind, and a perfectly clear moonless sky.

Snowshoeing in the Gatineau Park

Snowshoeing in the Gatineau Park

Diane, our guide, led us on some packed trails and into some deep untouched powder, showed us animal tracks and talked a lot about animal behaviours in the Park.  I met a new friend, Cécile, who works at Le Nordik (how cool is that job?).  We took group selfies with snowshoes, and ended our hike with pink cheeks and smiles all around.

After we dropped off our snowshoes we headed around the corner to the baths at Le Nordik.  We headed straight for the hottest pool and relaxed and chatted for at least 30 minutes.  Then we headed to the lounge area for drinks and a light supper.  I had a trio of sandwiches and a champagne flute filled with pink bubbly and strawberries that looked so appealing I just asked for “one of those” and forgot to ask the name!  It was a perfect complement, cool, crisp and sweet – just like the evening.

Arriving at Le Nordik Spa-Nature

Arriving at Le Nordik Spa-Nature

We soaked in the large pools, then basked in the largest sauna until it was almost closing time.  We capped off the evening in the Infinity pool that overlooks the cities, naming the stars and trying to count the Pleiades. We talked about how soaks contribute to mental health, a balanced life and wellness.  All too soon the staff were making rounds for the last call.  We had closed the bar and closed the baths – it was a truly excellent evening of “snowshoeing under the stars”.

A Magical Atmosphere

A Magical Atmosphere

Every Tuesday evening until March 10th is a snowshoe, soak and stars evening at Le Nordik, so it’s easy to book your own perfect Canadian winter adventure or add an evening in this magical atmosphere to your work week.  Just click here to head for the trails and the baths!