The Fairmont Indian baths, a treasured reminder of the history of the Columbia Valley, can be found on a little knoll about a minute’s hike up from the Fairmont Hot Springs parking lot. This old stone bathhouse sits on a plateau of tufa rock colored orange, brown, green and blue over ages of time by the streams of spring water that leap out of the rocks above.
The baths are natural hot spring pools that were popular among early settlers of the valley. It is not known why they were called ‘Indian’ baths and at the time explorer David Thompson described them in his journal, there was no building.
“There is much petrified wood. From many places a white siliceous water was trickling … it is a strange fact that the hot spas, so common in Europe, in the great extent of my travels have never been seen by me nor do the Indians know of any.”
Later a stone building was constructed that now stands on the property of Fairmont Resort, along a path that leads from the parking lot to the resort’s trail system.
A stone structure consisting of three small rooms with neither doors nor glass in the windows, comprises the house. The walls, more than a foot thick, are stuccoed and the floor and shallow bath tubs are made of concrete. Hot, clear, odorless spring water drips into the tubs, keeping the temperature an average of 104 to 108 degrees F.
In the old days simple shelters were constructed around the pools for privacy and protection from the weather. People used to travel long distances in the valley by horse and buggy to enjoy these pools.
On a plateau above the bathhouse there are several shallow tubs carved out of the tufa rock. Breathtaking vistas of the Columbia River Valley greet the eye of the bather.
There is no cost to this ‘spa treatment’ at the Fairmont Indian baths. The public is free to use it twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a most unusual experience.
You’ve got to check them out!