Arctic Hot Springs

The tundra with fall colors surrounding Arctic Hot Springs.
A sunny day at Arctic Hot Springs.

NPS Photo - Andrea Willingham

 

The paths of Arctic Hot Springs and Serpentine Hot Springs briefly intersected in the late 1940s. Like a new
and energetic student overtaking an old and weary teacher, Serpentine Hot Springs soon surpassed
Arctic Hot Springs as the better well-known of the two. However, Arctic Hot Springs, even in its current state
of disuse, deserves mention in the history of the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve.

Before the late 1940s, Arctic Hot Springs was a popular location with local residents and gold miners. Arctic
Hot Springs gained its name between 1901 and 1907 when someone, possibly a gold miner, built a cabin
and bathing pool at the springs. Around the same time, the springs was dubbed a "resort," and the Alaska
Road Commission decided to maintained a trail to the springs. However, it never became as popular as the
springs at Pilgrim River because it was more difficult to reach. In 1931, a Shishmaref elder remembered
visiting the springs while reindeer herding with his father when he was thirteen. The springs at that point
had a bathhouse and a bunkhouse with a a walkway leading between the two buildings.

A miner who visited Arctic Hot Springs in the 1930s, and then returned to the area throughout his
lifetime, wrote in 1983, "I've been coming here since the early 1930s...it was customary for quite a number
of the Kougarok miners to converge on the springs at the end of the mining season to celebrate. At the
time of course we traveled by cat and sled. We usually stayed about two weeks but what with the bad
trail and lousy weather conditions the entire trip was considerably longer - believe me, boy did we have
good times!" (NPS Logbook; G.L. Bair, 1983).

The use of arctic Hot Springs began to decline in the late 1940s. It was replaced by the up and
coming Serpentine Hot Springs. No one is quite sure why Arctic Hot Springs became less popular.
Perhaps, it was the temperature of the water, which was not as favorable as its rival, Serpentine
Hot Springs. Or maybe people just lost interest in the old and weary structures, so bright and new
at one time, but paling in comparison to the new buildings at Serpentine Hot Springs. Like many
places in the preserve, people discovered a unique feature, used it for a time, and then quietly
left little pieces of their occupation. Arctic Hot Springs briefly held the attention of the outside world
before softly fading into obscurity.

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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