The Ohanapecosh Hot Springs have been brought to the attention of the public again in the 1984 edition of Great Hot Springs of the West, published by Capra Press. It also lists the Longmire Mineral Springs and the summit fumaroles. We learned of this book from visitors who were looking for the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs in which, it declares, bathing is permitted, "no clothing required."
For many older visitors, Ohanapecosh is known for the Hot Springs Resort that operated from the 1920's until 1963. When the hot springs were first developed the land was in the Mount Rainier Forest Reserve, later to become the Columbia National Forest. In 1932, the east boundary of Mount Rainier National Park was moved east to the summit of the Cascade Mountains and south far enough to include the hot springs.
As early as 1912, Eva O'Neal was operating a tent camp at the springs. In 1921, the U.S. Forest Service issued a permit to N.D. Towers to develop a hotel and bathing facilities. In 1924, Towers and Dr. A. W. Bridge of Tacoma constructed a small hotel and two small bathhouses. Two years later, Dr. Bridge became the sole owner, developing the resort over the years until he sold the facilities to Martin Kilian of Eatonville, WA in 1947. The concession contract was terminated December 30, 1960, bringing the history of the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs Resort to a close. By 1967, the National Park Service had removed all the concession facilities and the springs were returned to their natural condition. Today, the story of the hot springs and low forest is told during guided walks and through the self-guiding booklet, "Life Systems: Forest and Springs of Ohanapecosh."
Last month, Ohanapecosh Area Ranger, Wayne Casto, found a new hotspring while walking the self-guiding trail. It is located in the middle of the trail between stops #18 and #19. One week after Casto's discovery, the spring opening was 5" across and 9" deep with 115-120°F water flowing out and down the trail for about 50 feet. No other changes have been observed in the previously known hot springs.
Despite the comment in Great Hot Springs of the West that bathing is permitted in the Ohanapecosh Hot Springs, there is insufficient water for this activity without substantial alteration of the area. The resort era has passed, and the park wants to perpetuate the springs in a natural condition. Thus, bathing is not permitted. There is a chilling alternative though for hearty souls, the Ohanapecosh River is available at 43°F.
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