Environment - Nature - Non-Fiction - Northern Canada

Hot Springs of Western Canada: a Complete Guide, 4th edition

My first visit to a hot springs was in Radium, BC, in the 80s. It had a more rustic appearance than the photograph shown in this book, according to my memories, which may or may not be the most reliable. I recall the sulphur funk, not entirely off-putting, and the warmth of the pool shared amongst other roadtripping families. I was sick of chlorinated pools by that point, after nine years of swimming lessons forced upon me. I didn’t quite appreciate the main reason the adults were interested: therapeutic benefits. As I am now hovering at my parents ago as they were then, I’ll say I’m looking forward to the relaxation opportunities that thermal springs may bring in an upcoming trip further south, with a volcano in plain sight.

” This is a very interesting and worthwhile guide to read if you are keen on outdoor hot spring soaks and/or nearby hikes to and from.”

The wilderness-loving Woodsworth brothers deliver a comprehensive guide to the hot springs of BC, Alberta, Yukon, Northwest Territories, and a smattering in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. They offer responsible tips for travelling to the springs via resource or logging roads. Given the last few years of forest fires and floods in BC near the regions they describe, it may be helpful to preface those sections with potential travel warnings regarding accessibility. 

Overall, this is a very interesting and worthwhile guide to read if you are keen on outdoor hot spring soaks and/or nearby hikes to and from. A helpful explanation of how hot springs are formed, what “tufas” are, and why people soak is included in the introduction. As for it being a timely reference, note that this is a 4th edition and may likely require subsequent updates to keep up with the effects of our rapidly increasing extreme temperatures and the destruction that may entail. For the avid hot spring pursuer, as you may find this guide a source of wanderlust temptation, do mind your carbon footprint. Many of these locales require a vehicle, boat, and/or small plane. It’s also worthwhile to note that not all the springs listed in the book are ones where soaking is possible.

Provision of maps, colour photographs of the springs, and websites are listed where applicable. Each spring is described with a temperature range, quality of the soak (from poor to excellent), mineral content, taste description, and odour level of sulphur. As with other decent traveller guides, it describes how to get there, alternative routes, nearby accommodations where possible, other areas of interest nearby, and a brief history of its existence. You can appreciate the tips for which springs require permission to access as it may reside on non-public property or First Nations lands. Mentions of flora and endangered fauna are also good to know before you go. 

While the guide is quite thorough due to the accumulation of research over a few decades, some parts could be reorganized for better usability as a reference. Pools that are not worth visiting could be listed towards the end of the region’s section, to make it easier to skip over if one is not compelled to read cover-to-cover. “Rumoured” or alleged occurrences of springs could be provided in an Appendix if necessary. Their inclusion detracts somewhat from the guide, unnecessarily serving up soon-to-be-dated content. Some of the photographs either do not do the springs justice, or accurately depict the authors’ opinions of what they consider rough or pleasant.

Storytelling for some of the resorts adds to the allure of the springs. You can learn the sad history behind the Halycon Resort and the still-standing memorial chapel, or how Harrison Hot Springs once served as a hospital during World War II. Of all the springs listed, the Eclipse Nordic Hot Springs near Whitehorse is more my delicate speed. Anything resembling a dirty tub or a non-descript hole in the ground in the forest suggests that I’m not the target, adventurous demographic. But the stories behind them, or the adventuring involved to get there are worth the armchair travelling read.


About the Author

Glenn Woodsworth is an Emeritus Research Scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada. He has been mapping, mountaineering, and exploring the backcountry of western BC for over sixty years and has had a scientific and avocational interest in hot springs for over thirty years. He has written, contributed to and edited several outdoor guides, including Dick Culbert’s classic A Climber’s Guide to the Coastal Ranges of British Columbia. He is an Honourary Member and current President of the BC Mountaineering Club. With his wife, Joy Woodsworth, he operates Tricouni Press. He lives in Vancouver, BC.

David Woodsworth’s interest in the outdoors came from his father, whose job as a geologist took him all over the Coast Mountains for three or four months each summer. From as young as seven, David accompanied him on helicopter trips. David has more than fifty years of experience exploring all corners of British Columbia, including several summers exploring the coast by small boat. He also has extensive hiking, backpacking and mountaineering experience, and has trained as a private and commercial pilot. He lives in Delta, BC.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Harbour Publishing; 4th edition (Sept. 30 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 328 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1990776442
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1990776441

Mala Rai is a poet, drummer, psychology student, and technical writing hired gun on the West Coast. Her most recent poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, High Shelf Press, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can follow her on Instagram @malaraipoetry

Mala Rai

Mala Rai is a poet, drummer, psychology student, and technical writing hired gun on the West Coast. Her most recent poems have appeared in Eclectica Magazine, High Shelf Press, and Anti-Heroin Chic. You can follow her on Instagram @malaraipoetry