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!

Delights Hot Springs Resort, Tecopa, California


Delight's Hot Springs Resort

Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

You can’t miss the entrance to Delight’s Hot Springs Resort – it has the largest sign in town!  Like the other “Resorts” in Tecopa, Delights Hot Springs Resort is mainly an RV park, with some rooms and cabins. It is probably the most “developed” of the springs in Tecopa. The grounds are well maintained, there are nice walking paths and the bath houses are clean and bright. The buildings are mainly made of cinderblock so as hotel rooms they can be dark.

Some people have been coming for decades and are avid fans. But don’t expect luxury here; there is no cell service, no phone, no TV, and only occasional wifi. There is no restaurant on site at Delights (and the nearest place for breakfast is in Shoshone) so pack what you plan to eat and drink. I don’t even know where the nearest liquor store is, so bring your own wine if you’d like a glass. As always in the desert, bring water, lots of it!

Bathing at Delight's Hot Springs Resort

Bathing at Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

Pool Rules at Delight's

Pool Rules at Delight’s

The atmosphere at Delight’s is more structured than some of the other resorts in Tecopa and there are clear rules to follow. There are 5 private bath houses that are large and clean and were freshly painted when I was there in January 2015.  As per Inyo County law, you must bathe naked.  There are showers in the bath houses and you must shower before bathing.  All the showers I saw were modern single unit fiberglass models that looked like recent upgrades.  There was ample hot and cold running water in the showers I used.

Delight's Bath House

Delight’s Bath House

The bath houses are very spacious with room for a few people on the deck as well as in the baths.  The baths themselves are large, close to 10’x10’.  The water is quite hot where it enters the pools – probably about 106F, so the pool temperature is a glorious 103-104F.  The water is deep so you can really sink into it and feel the heat soaking through your bones.  These were the best bath houses I found in Tecopa.  I was solo on this trip, and it would have been nice to share the privacy of these baths with a few close friends.

There are fabric sunbrella roofs over the bath houses to cut the sun. On the day I went it was raining and tiny droplets of rain seeped through – it was a real pleasure to enjoy feeling my body floating in the warmth of the springs while a gentle and cooling rain misted my face.

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

Hot Springs Aficionado: hard at work in Tecopa!

The overflow from the bath houses trickles down the hill in the form of a small creek winding its way towards the Amargosa. The frogs were signing when I was there – that was a hallmark of Tecopa for me: frogs signing in the desert!

A Stream in the Desert, Delight's Hot Springs Resort

A Stream in the Desert, Delight’s Hot Springs Resort

This is the third in a series on Tecopa Hot Springs. Stay tuned for more on the wonderful hot springs in this little town.

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

Furnace Creek, Death Valley’s Warm Spring Oasis

Death Valley… Just the name makes you sweat. It is one of the hottest and most arid places on the planet, yet in the center of it all is the lush verdant oasis at Furnace Creek. Here in the desert, hundreds of feet below sea level, there are groves of cedars, palms and dates.

Furnace Creek is hot. During the summer months, the Inn closes and there is a reduced staff at the Ranch. But in the winter, this valley is a refuge for the heat seekers. In the early part of the 20th century, Furnace Creek was a destination for those seeking to heal in its warm springs water. Over the years, the marshland that surrounded Furnace Creek was replaced with lawns and golf courses. Today the resort offers bike rentals, tennis, horseback riding and Jeep tours and full service restaurants. There is more of a focus on photography these days, and many hikers can be seen carrying large SLR cameras and tripods into the wilderness.

Warm Springs Fed Pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch

Warm Springs Fed Pool at the Furnace Creek Ranch

But in the midst of it all, there are the warm springs. The spring’s temperature is 85F at the wellhead. By Death Valley standards, this is cool but it does make a lovely pool temperature. The spring is channeled into a pipe that flows directly into the Furnace Creek Ranch’s swimming pool – there are virtually no chemicals in the pool. From the main pool, overflow water is piped to irrigate the golf course and grounds. Although it looks like a regular hotel swimming pool, and is not really promoted as a spring, it is indeed a warm spring oasis in the desert, with a history of giving and healing life.

I decided to spend a few days at the Furnace Creek Ranch to recover from a busy business trip. It was a mid-week in January so it was quiet. The “Saloon” offered a variety of red wines – I ordered one of the three California cabernets they offered, along with a very large and varied cheese plate that was well worth $10.75 I paid for it – it had sweet blueberries, strawberries, grapes, dates, and at least ten different cheeses. It included a spiced smoked Gouda that was particularly good! I sat outside by the fires watching the stars come out and chatting with a young Australian couple about which springs to visit next. I couldn’t help but wonder: what took me so long to become a Hot Springs Aficionado?

I am a Hot Springs Aficionado.  Join me!

I am a Hot Springs Aficionado. Join me!

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!