Montana Hot Springs
Montanans love to soak! Once the summer heats up, herds of Montanans flow to the lakes, rivers, spas, and hot springs. Their goal is to soak away their stress and problems. The minerals in the waters can also be beneficial.
Native nomadic tribes would plan their annual ventures so that they could show up near hot springs or certain waters at certain times. Thermopolis in Wyoming is a perfect example. Hundreds of Indians would camp, socialize, and soak in the huge natural hot spring found there. These rendezvous were for social and health reasons. Camping and gathering events were peaceful and open to all.
As a kid, I remember soaking in hot springs around Yellowstone Park. Some springs were open to the public like the Park Ranger Pool. Other small un-named features could be found in remote areas near places we went fishing. The upper Gibbon River was full of these little hot spots. We always carried a bar of soap in a plastic bag in case a soaking opportunity arose. Times have changed, and it is now important to follow the rules for safety.
We also cooked some fish in a hot spring along Yellowstone Lake. If it was good enough for the Mountain Men, it was good enough for us. I would not suggest doing this today. The geothermal waters contain toxins like lead, arsenic, sulfur, and mercury that are not to be consumed. Most watersheds that flow from the park and its geothermal features are also loaded with these unhealthy toxins. Check the MTFWP Consumption Warnings postings for current edible information.
Sadly, many hot spring bathers abused the resources. This seems to be a trend in many of our parks and natural resources, Trash, waste, vandalism, and damages are becoming a huge and expensive problem. This also leads to increased management and enforcement. Back in the day, we were taught to “take only a footprint and leave only a footprint!”
Today, the Boiling River on the Gardiner River near Mammoth Hot Springs can be a destination. Bozeman Boy Scout Troop 676 would camp at Mammoth in the middle of winter each year. Our goal was a group soak in the Boiling River. If you adjusted the rocks just right, and were downstream just the right distance, you could find the right spot for a comfortable soak. During one session, we counted over 20 different animals during our soak. Antelope, elk, and deer were watching the crazy people soaking in their river. Getting out in the freezing cold was another challenge. Parking is limited and the area is periodically closed due to overcrowding.
Bozeman Hot Springs has been a great place to soak for years. Located in 4 Corners, outside Bozeman, this spa offers a dozen pools, modern ammenities, sauna and steam room and also has a KOA campground available.
In Norris, there is a venue that boasts an average temperature of 120 degrees at 60 gallons/minute. These natural heated waters are warmed by the same geothermal features as Old Faithful Geyser. This fault or crack in the Earth’s crust flows up through Boulder Hot Springs where Teddy Roosevelt once soaked away his stress. These springs, near Deer Lodge, are also surrounded by Health Mines where natural radiation soaks are available. Folks say that the radium exposures help with pain and serious diseases.
Chico Hot Springs and the newer Yellowstone Hot Springs along the Yellowstone River are also soaker favorites. Chico is near Emigrant, and Yellowstone Hot Springs are near Corwin Springs. Paradise Valley is a wonderful and beautiful destination.
White Sulphur Springs, also known as Spa Hot Springs, has a public venue near the Smith River and White Sulfur. This older soak site is more like a community pool but enjoyed by many.
Elkhorn Hot Springs near Polaris was built in 1918. It is in the Pioneer Mountains near the Big Hole River. Their pools range from 85- 102 degrees. Many of these hot spring venues offer several different pool temperature options.
If you are looking for a fancier soak, try the Fairmont Hot Springs near Anaconda. This venue has a restaurant, rooms, and all the finishing resort touches. Slides and other pool amenities are available.
There are many natural spas with no names. These small features can be found in the backcountry. A small hot spring will be surfacing and merging into a creek or lake. If you dam up the pools and make an eddy where the hot water can cool and settle, you may be in for a wonderful soak. Years ago, I found a series of gravel tubs along the same drainage I was fishing. They were warmer as you went uphill to the source. Each pool or tub was just big enough to submerge in and was filled with aquarium-like gravel. Tiny air bubbles were visible. My stream thermometer measured the top pool at 110 degrees Fahrenheit, just too hot. Downstream, I found a couple tubs to be 103 degrees. That was the same temperature that we keep our spa at home. No one was around, so Montana Grant stripped down and went for a soak! My bar of “environmentally friendly” soap was in the back pocket of my vest.
Many locals get their soak on at home. Mountain Hot Tub Spas is an excellent place to get your soak on. Their inventory, customer support, and service are exceptional. Hot Spring Spas are built for Montana winters. Saltwater spas are the new trend. Saltwater is so much more natural and therapeutic than smelly Bromine or Chlorine systems. Maintenance and care are also much easier. The salt also softens your skin. Add some music systems, waterfalls and lighting and you are now a citizen of Soak City! After a long day of skiing, fishing, boating, hiking, or stress, entering Soak City is a welcome destination.
The best part of the soak is the feeling you get when you first submerge. AAHHH!!!! The second-best feeling is the one you get when you discover your joints move freely once again. Muscles are relaxed and pain free, and you are ready for life’s next challenge.
Soak, Smile, and Survive!!!