By: Cynthia Josayma
Throughout North America there are significant cold and thermal natural mineral water sources that are being used extensively for health purposes, some for over 10,000 years. Here are profiled six major spa towns in the United States that have at least five mineral water spas on site. All locations have played a significant historical role in the health of people who came to take the waters. The balneological differences between these regions are determined by the kind of minerals in the water, as well as the heat, climate and peliods(muds) of the region.
Truth or Consequences, New Mexico [33°8’1”N 107°15’10”W, Temp 98-115°F/36.6-46°C], which lies along the historic Spanish trade route between Mexico and Santa Fe, New Mexico, also has one of the largest thermal water basins in North America. The waters have one of the highest concentrations of sodium, calcium chloride, and bicarbonates thermal mineral waters in the country, and the water is naturally heated between 98-115 degrees. There were once 40 hot springs spas, with a constant flow of people, coming to take the waters for arthritis and digestion problems.
Hot Springs, Arkansas [34°29’50”N 93°3’19”W, Temp 43°F/61.6°C]. These hot springs were used for centuries by the Tunicas Indians, who introduced them to the Spanish conquistador, Hernando De Soto for their healing benefits in 1541. The waters were later designated as the first Public Land grant to the citizens of the United States in 1832 and later became a National Park. There are numerous mineral water springs on location, containing principally bicarbonate, silica, calcium and carbon dioxide, emerges at 143 degrees, and are used for rheumatism, skin conditions and rehabilitation. There used to be 20 bathhouses with over 50 attending doctors prescribing water cures for over 2 million people annually. Today there are only three places that medically use the waters; a rehabilitation center, and two hospitals, Libbey Memorial and Levi hospital.
Berkeley Springs, West Virginia [39o37’32”N 78°13’37”W, Temp 74.3°F/23.5°C]. The waters here are known for becoming the source for the first privately owned hot spring spa, directly after the founding of the United States. President George Washington purchased the site from the Iroquois Indians. He had been introduced to the waters healing benefits in his youth and had subsequently used them often to heal his solders after battle. The waters are lightly mineralized, principally infused with carbonates, sulfates and trace minerals, with a geothermal temperature of 74 degrees. It is used predominately for rheumatism, arthritis and skin diseases.
Thermopolis, Wyoming [43°38’44”N 108°12’53”W, Temp 72-133°F/22-56°C] sits alongside of Yellow Stone, the first National Park selected specifically for its geothermal sources. The town is rich in healing mineral water sources that were long used by the Shoshone and Arapaho Indian Tribes. Yellow Stone National Park, Hot Springs State Park claims to have the largest mineral hot spring in the world, also has numerous thermal springs that people from around the world come to bath in. In Thermopolis, there are eight hot springs that emerge at 180 degrees, with 27 minerals including bicarbonate, sulfate, chloride calcium, magnesium, and sodium, with over 2400 mg. of dissolved minerals per liter. These waters are used commonly for arthritis, rheumatism and stress.
Calistoga, California [38°34’53”N 122°34’58”W, Temp 180°F/82.2C°C] was used for centuries by the Wapoo Indians and was subsequently developed as the first major spa town in California in the 1870s. These waters which emerge at 180 degrees are high in sulphur and there are significant quantities of volcanic mud that are used in treatments. There had been 30 resorts in Calistoga at its peak; today there is only four that use the mineral waters.
Desert Hot Springs, California [33°57’40”N 116°30’29”W, Temp 85-200°F/29- 93°C] is the healing water home to the Cahuilla Indians, and has been a mineral water spa destination since the 1950s. It is unique in that the water is drawn from two geological water sources, an ancient deep coldwater table and a thermal lake. The minerals include sulphur, sodium chloride, bicarbonate and silica which are used for arthritis and joint pains.
Sources: Balneological Use of Thermal Water in the USA. John W. Lund
Healing Springs. The Ultimate Guide to Taking the Waters. Nathaniel Altman