August 14, 2009 Features & Images » Feature Story

The secrets of our springs 


Hot springs are a hot topic in this neck of the woods. We've all heard mention of them, typically in hushed tones, people talking about their latest excursion into the backcountry for a soak "somewhere up past Pemberton."

B.C. is actually relatively rich in springs when compared to the rest of Canada, and here in Sea to Sky we have a few to pick from. Aside from bigger, popular sites like St. Agnes Well (also known as Skookumchuck), Sloquet and, of course, Meager Creek, there are also lots of little, lesser known springs scattered throughout the region. Ever heard of Placid, No Good, Glacier Creek, or August Jacob's (Franks)? Didn't think so.

There are anywhere from 110 to 126 hot and warm springs that are known within the entirety of Canada. Of those, 86 are here in British Columbia, and they range from the partially and fully developed commercial sites of Harrison Hot Springs to undeveloped wilderness springs - some of which aren't suitable for bathing but are nonetheless sought out by avid hot springs enthusiasts, just for the thrill of the hunt.

Of course, Canada's numbers pale in comparison to the thousands that exist in other countries. Japan (which is just about half the size of B.C.) boasts 22,000 springs, while Italy, Turkey and Greece are also known to have a rich and healthy hot spring culture.

The science behind the springs

Glenn Woodsworth, a noted geologist and research scientist with the Geological Survey of Canada, wrote the book on the topic of hot springs - quite literally.

He first became interested in hot springs while working throughout the province as a geologist.

"It basically comes out of my geology and backcountry experience, which is strong in mountaineering and coastal explorations," he explained.

Woodsworth actually authored the first guide to summiting the Stawamus Chief and took over the project of "Hot Springs of Western Canada" from his predecessor, a former prospector named Jim McDonald who published the original version of the book back in the '70s.

Today, Woodsworth is putting the finishing touches on the third edition of what has become the bible for hot springs enthusiasts here on the West Coast. He's been collecting information and tips from fellow soakers since the second edition came out in 1999 and has most recently been making trips to many of the larger springs he mentions within, ensuring that his information is accurate and up to date. Talk about painful research.

Woodsworth explains that hot springs are located on geologically active areas, and in North America most are found in the mountain belt that runs from Alaska to Central America, over top of the "Ring of Fire" that encircles the Pacific Ocean.

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