7-Day Forecast for Scenic Hot Springs Area (2,900 ft near beginning of Trail Head)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs offers secluded, little known hot spring

Price of admission is leaving the site better than when you found it

12:25 PM, Dec 27, 2012   |  
All that remains at the Lower Breitenbush site are the bathhouse foundations and their built-in tubs along the river.
All that remains at the Lower Breitenbush site are the bathhouse foundations and their built-in tubs along the river.
The trail to Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs is steep and rugged at times.

Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs

Directions: Leave Salem on Highway 22 for 50 miles. Turn left on Breitenbush Road (FSR #46) as you enter the town of Detroit. Drive for 9 miles and turn right on FSR #2231 toward Breitenbush Retreat Center. Cross bridge and stay to the left. Drive approximately 1 mile. Parking will be on your left just after the yellow “congestion” sign.

Distance from Salem: 60 miles or one hour and 15 minutes.

General area: Detroit, Willamette National Forest

Season: All year. Road plowed all the way to Breitenbush Retreat Center.

Fees: None

Elevation: 2,300 feet

Road conditions:

Trail distance: 1 mile round trip.

Kid friendly: Yes

Dog friendly: No, hot springs water makes them sick.

Volunteer opportunities: Detroit Ranger Station, 503-854-3366. There are no scheduled volunteer events for Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs at this time, but the Forest Service would like a list of interested persons for future events to be planed.
Early winter can be an awkward time of year for many avid outdoor enthusiasts. We’ve been hitting as many low elevation trails as we can possibly find because the higher elevations are at a transition point this time of year.
As the temperatures drop in the mountains, so does the snow level. However, until the freezing temperatures become more consistent, we are stuck with a landscape too muddy or slushy to hike, ski or snowshoe before the desired snow pack has accumulated. Instead of sulking in this fact, I’ve decided to soak in it. That’s right, another hot spring!
Before I let you in on this little known gem, you have to promise to respect and protect it. Promise? The Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs, also known as the “Russian Tubs” obviously has a rich history, but no one I’ve spoken with, including Mr. Google, seems to know much of it. I believe this is largely because it is so closely located to the popular, but privately owned Breitenbush Retreat Center up stream. The two individual sites share much of their history.
Many years ago, Native Americans traveled hundreds of miles to soak in the healing waters of these hot springs. European fur trappers discovered it in the 1840s and later named it after the one armed explorer settled there, John Breitenbush. In 1904, Theodore Roosevelt granted homestead rights of the upper site to another settler, making much of it private property. At one point, the lower site was well developed under a special use permit with bath houses, a foot bridge, camp store, and cabin rentals across the Breitenbush River.
Both sites were severely damaged from flooding in the 1970s. The private retreat center up stream was rebuilt and further developed while the site on public land was never restored to suitable conditions prompting the Forest Service to not renew the required special use permit. Today there are no structures remaining at Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs. All that is left now are the foundations of the old bath houses with built-in tubs.
I first discovered Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs about 10 years ago and found it to be disgustingly filthy. The grounds, starting with the parking lot were covered in trash including but not limited to; underwear, food packaging, and broken beer bottles. The tubs were lined in a thick slimy black algae and the water was murky. After that experience, I resolved to instead pay a fee to enjoy the beautifully developed and maintained pools at the private retreat center up stream. Three years ago I returned to the abused lower public site to help clean it up. I drove away with a pick-up truck full of trash and my friends filled the trunks of their cars with even more.
Since then my friends, family, and I try to clean the site every few months as our schedules allow. We have noticed that there is less trash and abuse each time we visit and have even found evidence of others cleaning up. We arrive early in the morning and the kids pick up trash while the adults bail water from the tubs and scrub them down. Once the tubs are cleaned and rinsed, we begin refilling them with the hoses and plastic tubing left at the site. There are two small tubs lined in ceramic tiles that we clean and refill first to reward the kids with an early soak for picking up the sometimes nasty trash. The water emerges from the spring at more than 120 degrees so we add cold water from the adjacent Breitenbush River. Once the large tubs have a foot of tepid water in them, we all enjoy a long glorious soak as the pool fills up with hot mineral water.
If you visit, please do your part to leave it a better place than you found it. I believe if more people with a conscientious outdoor ethic enjoy this natural wonder and set a good example, that those who would otherwise abuse the site will either change their behavior or stop using it.
While in the parking area, the half mile trail to the lower hot springs will be on your left parallel to the road you drove in on. It is a well trodden but rugged path, and can be very muddy this time of year with several small streams to cross. Once you reach the river, follow it upstream to the right until you reach the hot springs. This is not considered a clothing optional site as many of its visitors are families, Russian Americans of conservative faith, and there is a public campground directly across the river.
Eric Gjonnes is a long-distance hiker, snowshoer, and mountaineer who lives in Salem. He shares area trails with readers twice a month. He hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail (2,652 miles) and Appalachian Trail (2,1,84 miles) with his 12-year-old daughter. Read more about his adventures at /sunshine2012at.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Stevens Pass Closures

Note: In order to be able to park and be able to hike into Scenic Hot Springs you have to be able to drive to the base of the pass on the west side (around MP 58 - 59).  These current pass closures affect westbound traffic over the pass (Leavenworth, Wenatchee, etc. guests).  Since the pass is presently only accessible from the west side, the only other option is Hwy 97 (Blewett Pass, which is often worse) to I-90 (Snoqualimie Pass) and then back eastbound on Hwy 2 (a very long trip).

It is not uncommon for the pass to also be closed eastbound later in the winter and those closures are generally made around MP 55 (Old Cascade Hwy) - 59 (BNSF Cascade Tunnel) before the steep drive to the pass.  If the eastbound closure is at MP 59 you should be able to reach the suggested winter parking area and hike in from there.

If you have reservations in good faith for a visit to Scenic Hot Springs, and are unable to make it because of Hwy 2 Pass closures, we will do our best to reschedule you at a later date. Rick

US 2 closed from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth until conditions improve

US 2 closed from Stevens Pass to Leavenworth until conditions improve
Credit: KING / Courtesy Chelan County PUD

by KING 5 News
Posted on December 23, 2012 at 9:19 AM
Updated today at 12:42 PM
The Washington State Department of Transportation has closed US 2 west of Leavenworth due to concerns over trees that have been falling in the roadway.
The DOT says they haven't seen such poor conditions in 30 years.
“This series of storms has been remarkable,” said Dan Sarles, WSDOT regional administrator for the North Central Region. “The snow is unusually heavy and wet, snapping and uprooting trees at a rate we haven’t seen in decades.”
A tree fell onto a vehicle near Rayrock Springs, 15 miles east of Stevens Pass Friday, closing the road for 2-1/2 hours. Saturday, a mile further west, a vehicle hit a tree on the highway, injuring four people in the car. The accident closed closed the highway at 6:25 p.m. It's not clear when the road will re-open.
Mount Baker Highway was closed twice in the last several days due to multiple downed trees. On Friday, a Bothell couple died after their car crashed into a fallen tree on U.S. 2.
A video posted on YouTube show trees collapsing onto power lines and the highway below. About 2,000 people who live in the area are without power and are essentially trapped in their homes.
Skiers can still get to the pass from the west side. Drivers cannot get to the pass from the east side. The pass is not open to through traffic for east or westbound drivers.
Check the latest traffic conditions anytime with the Seattle Traffic App and weather with the Seattle Weather App.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Snowshoes are a must!

There is a lot of new snow on the way up to the hot springs.  Snowshoes are a must and mandatory for all members of the party before permission will be granted to visit.

To give you an idea of snow conditions, it took one of the stewards 3 1/2 hours to break trail through several feet of snow yesterday.  Please don't ask unless you are prepared for conditions and explicitly let us know you have snowhoes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Miracle Hot Springs

Interesting article on Miracle Hot Springs that also gives insight on the origin of hot springs in the Cascades.
Original URL:

Miracle Hot Springs has four outdoor pools
(Times-News file photo)

The original spring for Hagerman’s Miracle Hot Springs emerged close to the bank of Salmon Falls Creek. In the 1930s, the owners dug a deep hole wide enough to drop two old car bodies in to cap the spring. A well was drilled through the car tops to install pipe. The original homesteaders built chicken coops, sheep dip vat to kill ticks, and the best-tasting watermelons were grown around the springs.
In 1957, Dean Olsen bought the land and built the first six baths and a small home adjoining them, opening for business in 1960. In the early 1960s, he expanded by building the big outside pools followed shortly with nine private baths.
Miracle Hot Springs continuous flow of natural hot spring water is soft to the touch and odorless with a sensational alkaline pH of 9.6 allowing swimmers to rejuvenate.
Miracle Hot Springs’ remodel has been complete nearly a year now with 15 private hot pools, six VIP pools, and four outdoor public pools open year-round, including holidays.
“Miracle Hot Springs is fed by thermal groundwater in volcanic rocks,” said Shawn Willsey, College of Southern Idaho Professor of Geology. “The source of the water is likely to the south in the higher terrain of Brown’s Bench along the Idaho-Nevada border.”
Nat-Soo-Pah, located in Hollister, comes from a Shoshone word that roughly translates as “magic mineral water.” In the late 1890s, native Shoshone used the hot springs as a wintering area. The Shoshone lived in the nearby foothills and used this spring for baths before homesteaders built bath houses.
According to the Hollister Herald in June 1911, Goat Springs has for a long time served as the bathing resort for citizens of Hollister.
Sometime between 1926 and 1930, the Hot Wells Development Company was formed to develop a natatorium and camping resort.
The artesian spring comes through a layer of iron pyrite “fools gold,” which gives the water in the swimming pool a greenish color. Mineral content includes iron, aluminum, sodium chloride, magnesium, bicarbonate calcium, bicarbonate sodium and sulphate.
“The thermal water comes from rain and snow that falls in the South Hills and moves into the subsurface passing through fractures in the volcanic rocks and ultimately into the 280 million-year-old marine sedimentary rocks below,” Willsey said.
“Here the water moves along fractures, bedding planes, and perhaps small cave systems, dissolving some of the calcium and other elements from the rocks and ultimately discharging as hot, mineralized water at Nat-Soo-Pah. Studies done in this area estimate that the water takes as long as 5,000 years to move through the aquifer in the subsurface. Nat-Soo-Pah appears to lie along a fault zone, which likely contributes to the movement of groundwater in this area.”
Both Miracle Hot Springs and Nat-Soo-Pah are naturally heated by thermal water bubbling up from the high-desert terrain. The water’s temperature ranges from 99 F to 106 F.
“Ultimately, all hot springs in the area owe their existence to the regional volcanic activity of the Snake River Plain during the past 10 million years,” Willsey said. While there is no evidence that magma still exists beneath the Magic Valley, rocks at shallow depths still retain residual heat from the volcanism and therefore are able to heat up groundwater. The heated groundwater is less dense and rises to the surface. Faults, fractures, and other pathways allow the heated water to make it to the surface more quickly..
According to, Idaho has the most usable hot springs in the nation with about 130 soakable out of 340. Ninety percent of Idaho’s 340 hot springs are the result of leftover energy heating water near fault lines. This energy is essentially leftover from a 17-million-year-old meteorite collision, which occurred in southeast Oregon. The other 10 percent of Idaho’s hot springs are from water being heated by active volcanoes, typically at or around fault lines.
The impact of the meteorite was so deep it remains stationary while the North American tectonic plate shifts above it. As the plate slowly moves, the hot spot periodically erupts volcanic lava — leaving a traceable path of volcanic activity behind. This path of volcanic activity is not only responsible for Yellowstone National Park, but for almost all of the hot springs activity in Idaho.

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

Scenic Hot Springs Conditions

One of our volunteers was up there yesterday and reports "a ton of snow up there!"  Much more is expected today and snowshoes are definitely needed to deal with the snow.  Fortunately, a trail has been packed down . . . unfortunately, with continued snow falling that trail will soon be filled in.  Winter conditions, folks.

As of 3pm yesterday (Saturday) there was a four foot snow berm across the entrance to FS850.  Therefore, parking before the gate will not be possible and the alternative parking area will have to be used.

The pools are running good and toasty (if uninvited visitors would quit disconnecting the feeds).  Mike (the owner) has supplied us with an additional trail camera which we will place near the trail coming up.

For an idea of the road conditions I took a video while driving back down from the pass.  Mind, the plows had done a pretty good job of clearing the highway.  It does give you an idea of the amount of snow that has fallen just at the 2,400 ft level (remember, the springs are at 3,520 ft and two miles onto the mountainside.)  The video starts at just west of the springs access road down just past the Deception Creek rest area.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Pool Conditions and Snow

Lobster Pot (the normally hotter pool) is running cooler than normal due the the series of rain events that have been sweeping across the area.  This is fairly normal at this time of year as all that surface ground water mixes with Lobster Pot's shallow sources and dilutes them.  When we get freezing weather those surface waters will lock up and Lobster Pot will return to it's normal 'hot' temperatures.  Bear Den, by contrast, is minimally affected by ground water and remains nice and warm.

There is icing on the upper parts of the trail.  Traction devices are highly recommended (trax, cleats, crampons).  Snow is minimal just yet but snow levels are dropping with a good snow dump predicted for this weekend.  Though snowshoes may not be needed right now, it is always a good idea to carry a pair along to deal with a sudden drop of deep snow.  If you just need to rent a pair there is a snowshoe shop right on Highway 2 in Goldbar that we recommend.  Be safe.