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Where the Hot Springs Flow

by Eva Seelye

Where The Hot Springs Flow

A Boater’s Reference to Coastal Hot Springs
By Eva Seelye

CCruising the coast can be a challenge and your body can pay the price with constant salt spray, calloused hands, sore muscles, and bruises in places you thought impossible. A trip to a few mineral springs that refresh the mind and body might be just what you need to rejuvenate enough to head back out into the unyielding waters with a clear mind and renewed sense of determination. Fortunately for us all, the Pacific Northwest is loaded with natural coastal springs that can do the job.

Thanks to our active fault line and a coastline that stretches on for days, this kind of relaxing getaway is completely feasible in the comfort of our big backyard.

British Columbia offers a solid collection of natural hot springs at the water’s edge, which means you can cruise right up to them, drop anchor (or even dock in some cases), and soak it all in, give or take a little hike or two. A steamy, therapeutic dip at the edge of civilization accompanied by a stunning view is as good as it gets.

Hot Springs Map

It’s important to remember that hot springs, just like any other natural reserve or outdoor location, require a level of respect from their guests, so you and future visitors can have an enjoyable experience. Before you dive in headfirst, do your research, keep the environment at the forefront of your mind, and learn a little hot springs etiquette before you go.

1. Ahousat Hot Springs

49° 16′ 6” N | 126° 4′ 16” W

The first hot spring destination on our seaworthy tour is a small island off Vancouver Island’s west coast called Flores Island. Ahousat Hot Springs is just a short 2.5-mile stroll through Gibson Marine Park’s wetlands to the 8’ by 20’ concrete, water-collecting pool. A little puddle hopping may be in your future, and be sure to keep an eye out for Flores’ resident wolf population for which the island is known! Perched on the southwest tip of Matilda Inlet, a killer view is sure to accompany your 77° F (25° C) relaxing soak.

If you have the time, venture down the scenic route via an old boardwalk path that leads to a sandy beach in Whitesand Cove on the island’s south end. Vargas Island and Clayoquot Sound can be seen in the distance. You’ll likely get to enjoy a little peace and quiet here, compared to the more popular Hot Springs Cove, which we’ll cover next. Boaters can drop anchor in Whitesand Cove. The island is also accessible from Tofino (12.5 miles away) by personal watercraft or water taxi, which will drop you at the Ahousat Village (population 400). A $25 fee to hike the Wild Side Trail is in effect and can be paid in the village.

2. Hot Springs Cove

49° 20’ 59″‘ N | 126° 15’ 34” W

A short cruise north of Flores Island lies a stunning collection of six natural, oceanfront hot mineral springs in the tidal zone of Clayoquot Sound. Once docked at Maquinna Provincial Park, hike the boardwalk through the rainforest, taking in the coastal views with every step. When you see the steam, you’ve arrived. The springs cascade down the rocks to the ocean’s edge, forming multiple natural pools that flow into each other as the water makes its way to the ocean.

My advice? Start your pool-hopping journey at the ocean’s edge where they’re cooler and mixed with the saltwater, working your way back to the top where the pools get progressively warmer (up to 122° F, 50° C). What’s better than an oceanside soak? Whale watching at the same time! The dock is first come, first served, with a $2 per meter fee for each night, with a maximum length overall of 12 meters. Anchorage is also permitted. A $3 park fee is in effect. Campground and restrooms on site.

Hot Springs Ettiquite

Pack it in and pack it out. Arriving to a hot spring littered with wrappers, beer cans, clothing, and who knows what else is a huge let down and can not only put a damper on your experience but also harm the ecosystem itself. Who wants to get into a pool with dirty, garbage-filled water?

It’s not your bathtub. Sure, it might feel like one and look like one, but hot springs aren’t equipped to support soap, shampoo, or any other foreign chemical substances. Leave the bath bombs at home and keep these beautiful pools clean.
Respect your neighbors. In some cases, clothing might be optional, especially in the more secluded springs, so either dive into the deep end, or simply prepare to see a little extra skin.

Read the vibe, and if your neighbor wants a private soak, it’s important to respect that. All in all, most visit hot springs to relax, so as much as you love a solid playlist, it’s respectful to keep your music and conversation to a lull. This topic also encompasses resident wildlife. Bears, whales, bald eagles, sea otters, deer, mountain goats, and more frequent these areas so be aware, both for your well-being as well as theirs.

Do your research. Read up on popular times and pool capacity and adjust your schedule accordingly. This will help lessen the environmental impact of your visit and most likely improve your hot spring experience.

Leave no trace. Remember that you’re a visitor, so act as you would visiting someone else’s home. Many hot springs have been shut down in the past due to misuse, so it’s up to us to be respectful of these beautiful sites so we can all go on enjoying them in the future. Use the restroom before you go, leave your pups at the boat, and if you plan to camp, set up far away from the springs themselves.

Hot Springs Ettiquite
3. Tallheo Hot Springs

52° 12’ 19” N | 126° 56’ 15” W

Continuing up British Columbia’s coastline and on the west shore of the South Bentinck Arm, you will find Tallheo Hot Springs, just south of the town of Bella Coola. The Tallheo springs, or “Ix7piixm” in the Nuxalk language, flows into two pools – one in a rocky grotto about 6.5 feet above the high tide line and the other just beneath it with a steamy temperature of 135o F (57o C). With no dock or moorage buoys, it’s safest to paddle the 1.86 miles to the hot springs.

4. Eucott Bay Hot Spring

52° 27’ 20” N | 127° 18’ 46” W

Eucott Bay Hot Springs is sheltered on the north side of Dean Channel. The mineral water collects in a concrete and rock pool about 6.5 feet above the high tide line on the east side of the bay near a row of six old wood pilings. Hop in for a soak that only slightly smells of Sulphur (it’s good for the skin, right?) and an incredible view of the bay and the extensive cascading waterfall beyond or have a seat in the little bathtub for a semi-private soak and a great photo op. Sheltered anchorage is plentiful.

5. Klekane Hot Springs

53° 14’ 46” N | 128° 40’ 50” W

A magical little spring awaits in the wilderness on the east side of Princess Royal Channel, along the Inside Passage route, with protected anchorage about 6.2 miles north of Butedale. Klekane Hot Springs features a cedar bathhouse where odorless mineral water pours into an 8’ by 8’ concrete pool covered by a green metal roof. At the source, temperatures vary around 127° F (52° C); 106° F (41° C) in the bathhouse. To find the pool, navigate to the northeastern end of the estuary, about five minutes in from the water’s edge at high tide, and just about 65 feet from a small trickling stream.

6. Shearwater Hot Springs

53° 27’ 01” N | 128° 33’ 37” W

Located on the north side of Alan Reach in Gardner Canal in a bay between Shearwater and Europa Point, a protected anchorage site awaits and is a warm, toasty treat. Shearwater Hot Springs is a great pick-me-up after a long day on the water. Tie up to one of the two buoys and head over to the two-pool bathhouse for a soak in the warm, odorless, mineral waters that flow up from the cracks in the pools’ bedrock. At the source, the temperature boasts a comfortable 106° F (41° C). There is also a trapper’s cabin available for public use on the a first-come, first-served basis.

Shearwater Hot Springs

One of the warm pools at Shearwater. (Photo: Russell & Tammy Massey)
7. Bishop Bay Hot Springs

53° 28’ 14” N | 128° 50’ 12” W

Bishop Bay Hot Springs is among the better known of British Columbia’s coastal mineral waters. The protected anchorage lies on the east end of Bishop Bay on Ursula Channel about 40 miles south of Kitimat. The concrete, wood-framed bathhouse features two odorless soaking pools; the larger inside pool overflows to feed a smaller outside pool and temperatures fluctuate at around 100° F (37° C) and 106° F (41° C) at the source. Hike the boardwalk trail to find a changing room, composting toilet, three tent platforms, a deck, and an information shelter. Two trapper cabins are also available in the Bishop Bay area on a first-come, first-served basis with two double bunk beds. A dock is available for boats up to 30 feet and three moorage buoys can be found at the end of the bay.

8. Brim River Hot Springs

53° 30’ 57” N | 128° 21’ 37” W

If you’re a lone ranger and off the grid is your happy place, don’t miss the Brim River Hot Springs at the north end of Owyacumish Bay in the Gardner Canal. These springs are totally undeveloped and perfectly situated amongst old-growth forests, featuring an exceptional collection of natural plant communities surrounded by towering mountains. Here, the Brim River opens to the sea, and the remote, pristine environment is teeming with wildlife. The undeveloped springs are a steaming 132o F (53° C) and sit about a third of a mile up from the east side of the river. The nearest community is Kitamaat Village, about 40 miles away. River is not suitable for power boats.

9. Brim River Hot Springs

53° 41’ 49” N | 128° 47’ 21” W

Weewanie Hot Springs is partly sheltered by a small bay on the east side of the Devastation Channel north of Weewanie Creek. Another common recreational haven for boaters, these springs are complete with a pit toilet, picnic area, campsites, and one mooring buoy. The odorless springs erupt out of the ground on the hillside above the 8’ by 8’ concrete block bathhouse and pour into the pools at a comfortable 101o F (38° C).

Shearwater Hot Springs

Left: Taking a break at Weewanie; Right: Green trails lead the way to the pools at Bishop Bay. (Photos: Russell & Tammy Massey)
10. Hotspring Island

52° 34’ 32” N | 131° 26’ 32” W

Our final destination, and quite possibly the most epic of the bunch, is mysterious, unique, and way the heck out there. Hotspring Island is way up in Haida Gwaii, but if you’re a true hot spring aficionado, distance is just a number; I mean, the island is literally named after the springs themselves, so you know it’s going to be good.

Gandll K’in Gwaay.yaay, or Hotspring Island, features three remote pools, recently rebuilt after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in 2012. Cedar boardwalks connect the pools for minimal environmental impact. Visitors enjoy sweeping views over Juan Perez Sound, ideal for whale, bird, or bat watching. Iridescent blue-green algae, moss meadows, salal, and crab apple patches dominate the landscape as a result of these resident springs.

The spring’s source is still unknown, some believe the mysterious water originally falls on Lyell Island, then seeps through faults and fissures in the rock to a warm reservoir deep below the surface before the pressure from the heat forces it back to the surface. Other springs are thought to emerge from the seafloor in the area. Changing rooms and showers are on site, but no camping is allowed on or nearby the island.

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