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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.
(The pools are now open to the public by “reservation only“, Wed to Sun (10am to 5:30pm). Note, the resort is closed on Mondays & Tuesdays. Recommendation: Book your overnight stay in advance, too.)

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.
(Recommendation: Book your overnight stay in advance.)

Halcyon Hot Springs Resort, photo by Andrew Penner

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.
(Recommendation: Book your overnight stay in advance.)

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. 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 to help curb the spread. Instead of checking in and out of multiple destinations during one trip, choose one or two destinations and one/two accommodation properties for your entire trip (and explore all the things to do & see nearby).

Related Stories
~ A Road Trip of a Lifetime: Kootenay Rockies Hot Springs
~ Connect with the Indigenous Culture in the Kootenay Rockies
~ Getting into Hot Water: Kootenay Hot Springs
~ The Indigenous Connection to our Natural Hot Springs
~ Tips: How to be a Safe & Responsible Traveller
~ Unique Local & Spooky Haunts in the Kootenays
~ Unique Stays on a Kootenay Rockies Road Trip

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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(Originally published in January 2019).

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