Fairmont Indian baths

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.”

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Interior of old stone bath building (CV Photo Archive)

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.

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In winter, the pools were protected by tree branches, partly to give privacy to the users and also to protect them from the weather. (Photo courtesy Windermere Valley Museum)

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!

One thought on “Fairmont Indian baths

  • October 9, 2012 at 1:22 am
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    The fairmont stone bath house used to have rough plank doors back in the 40’s and 50’s. I grew up there and remember visiting those hot baths many times during those years. There were benches beside the carved out pools–it was a great place to soak tired achy feet after trekking around the area. I’m not sure it’s true, but was told the stone building was built by the RCMP around the same time they built the horse barn just below the stolen church, and the barracks about 100 yards to the south of the barn. Last time I was there (about 15 years ago) the barracks was still standing and actually occupied. As kids in the ’40s, we often played in there as our house was just at the bottom of the hill. There were 2 larger rooms at the front and a short hallway with maybe 4 very small bunk rooms at the back. A trap door led to a dirt cellar under the building. The logs were chinked with white clay that we used to gather up and use for modelling clay ~

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