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Waters of Wellness: Kootenay Hot Springs

It all starts deep underground. Unfathomable pressures and temperatures work their magic on underground rivulets, filling their waters with concentrations of dissolved minerals not found on the surface.

Eventually, pressure forces these supercharged waters topside as hot springs whose healing powers verge on the supernatural. While the natural rejuvenation of a hot soak is universally understood, the concept of transdermal absorption, the transfer of trace minerals through the skin itself, has been linked to pain relief, increased circulation, deeper sleeps and better mental health.

On the shore of Kootenay Lake, Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, or Nupika Wu’u, Spirit Water, as it is known in the local Ktunaxa language, emerges from the ground at a scalding 47 degrees in the only Kootenay hot spring within a “horse-shoe shaped cave”.

Ainsworth water boasts a complex array of dissolved minerals that include calcium for muscle tone, endurance and immune system maintenance; magnesium for relaxation and detoxification; potassium to combat arthritis, headaches and nerve function and lithium, which has long been linked to helping heal everything from traumatic brain injuries to anxiety, depression, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. (Hot Springs pool access is only available to overnight guests at Halcyon, due to COVID-19.)

Enjoying the warm at the entrance to the Cave at Ainsworth Hot Springs; photo by Don Weixl

Overlooking the Arrow Reservoir North of Nakusp, Halcyon Hot Springs Resort has long touted the restorative properties of its lithium, strontium, magnesium, sodium, and calcium-rich waters. Halcyon’s water has even been bottled and shipped overseas as a health tonic. (Hot Springs pool access is only available to overnight guests at Halcyon, due to COVID-19.)

Halcyon Hot Springs, photo by Andrew Penner

At least eight natural hot springs dot the mountains of the East Kootenay. The well-loved, family-friendly Fairmont Hot Springs Resort, are equal parts joy, relaxation, and natural healing. With between 10 and 1000 parts per million of dissolved calcium, magnesium, and sodium compounds, as well as dissolved silica and radium, these waters are literally a health soup. (Hot Springs pool access is only available to overnight guests at Fairmont, due to COVID-19.)

The Cool pool at Fairmont Hot Springs, photo by Zoya Lynch

So whether your path is to seek out hidden hot springs or you prefer the drive-in access of Halcyon, Ainsworth, or Fairmont, a soak in any Kootenay hot spring will allow you to contemplate the idea that intense heat and pressure can actually help you relax, and be great for your health.

Relaxing in the hot pool at Fairmont Hot Springs, photo by Kari Medig

Know Before You Go!

~ Take extra time to research and plan your trip in advance. Many of our tourism businesses and services have adopted new COVID-19 protocols and changes to their schedules or policies to ensure your safety. You’ll want to become familiar with them ahead of time.

~ If you normally travel with extended family or with several friends, consider travelling in a smaller group this summer. Travelling with fewer people makes it easier for you to practise physical distancing in public, and may have less of an impact on the destination.

~ Consider a slower travel pace this summer/winter to help curb the spread. 

Related Stories
~ Getting into Hot Water: Kootenay Hot Springs
~ The Indigenous Connection to our Natural Hot Springs
~ Kootenay Wilderness Wellness Retreats
~ Ski & Soak: Hot Springs vs. Hot Tubs along the Powder Highway

Story by Dave Quinn. Top/cover photo by Kari Medig at Halcyon Hot Springs Resort. 

Words by Dave Quinn. Born in Cranbrook, BC; Dave is a wildlife biologist, educator, wilderness guide, writer and photographer whose work is driven by his passion for wilderness and wild spaces. His work with endangered mountain caribou and badgers, threatened fisher and grizzly, as well as lynx and other species has helped shape his understanding of the Kootenay backcountry and its wildlife.

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