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Can You Swim In Any Hot Springs? (A Complete Guide)

To be specific, the answer here really is no! Not every hot spring you can swim in. Some are just too hot for humans. Generally, the pools can reach temperatures 140 degrees Fahrenheit and higher. Ideally, temperatures should be between 95 degrees and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. As a hot spring reaches 122 degrees Fahrenheit, take caution. Fifth Waters and Boiling River Hot Springs are highly suitable for swimming within the U.S.

Hot springs occur naturally globally, on every continent. The indigenous people used them for centuries. There are thousands of hot springs in places like Australia, Iceland, Turkey, Japan, New Zealand, Antarctica, Peru, Canada, the United States, and the list goes on. 

A japanese women relaxing in the natural hot spring. Feeling calm, peaceful, and relaxed.

In this article, readers will discover a few of the most popular hot springs in the U.S, the dangers linked to hot springs, astonishing facts, and the difference between natural and artificial hot springs. 

Popular Hot Springs Across The Globe

There are two separate ways in which hot springs form: water directly heated from the Earth’s core, known as a geothermal spring, and magma flowing close to the surface of the Earth’s crust, making contact with water underground. 

  • Banjar Hot Springs, Bali – has three hot springs ranging from 1 meter to 3 meters deep with average temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Cascate del Mulino, Italy – These waters cascade down a waterfall, and the closer you are to the falls, the warmer the temperature of the water. The temperature is approximately 99 degrees Fahrenheit, and the depths are between 18 to 22 inches. 
  • Banff Upper Hot Springs, Canada – The beautiful Canadian Rockies form the backdrop for these hot springs. The temperatures range between 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Pamukkale, Turkey – 17 hot springs formed by white limestone and saturated with calcium are here. The pools are shallow, no more than a few inches deep. The temperatures range between 95 to 212 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Blue Lagoon, Iceland – This hot spring is rich in minerals like sulfur and silica. It is approximately 4 feet 7 inches deep, so children are required to have an adult present. The temperature ranges between 98 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit. 
  • Ma’ln Hot Springs, Jordan – The water of these springs has a temperature of 154 degrees Fahrenheit and consists of calcium, magnesium, and potassium. 

6 Popular Hot Springs In The United States

Before stepping into a natural hot spring, use a thermometer to check the water temperature, whether you have visited one of these springs previously or not. If you do not have a thermometer, check the temperature by dipping one finger or toe before jumping in. 

Most of these hot springs can be accessed with rafting or kayaking, with Rafting and kayaking can access most of these hot springs listed below. Some hiking as well, as the hot springs do not directly connect to the water source.

Related: Swimming In Amazon River? (Ins & Out)

Hot Springs State Park

Hot Springs State Park in Thermopolis, Wyoming. Terraces with minerals

This aptly named park lies in the town of Thermopolis, Wyoming, and offers four mineral hot springs at a temperature of approximately 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The pools fed by the Big Spring are both indoor and outdoor and feature a beautiful landscape of Rainbow Terraces. The Big Spring is not a soaking site but handles 1,500 gallons of water per minute at a depth of 130 feet.

A treaty signed by the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone tribes and the U.S government stated at the time of purchase that the mineral hot springs would be at no cost to the public. Anyone can access the springs to wade while watching the bison roam the terrain. 

There is a free Bath House at the park where the water temperature is 104 degrees Fahrenheit, suitable for therapeutic bathing. The opening hours are 8 am to 5:30 pm Monday to Saturday and noon to 5:30 pm on Sundays.

There are also private bathhouses that charge a nominal fee for access that visitors can enjoy. These are clothing-optional facilities.

Star Plunge is a popular site for families, as it features two large mineral pools and water slides. The state park also features the Teepee Fountain and Bighorn River swing bridge as popular tourist attractions. 

Radium Hot Springs

Along the Colorado River, southwest of Kremmling lies Radium Hot Springs. A local hot spot (pun intended) that is free. They cherish it because of the spectacular surroundings and mineral-enhanced pools. It takes roughly 20 minutes to hike to the springs and experience the breathtaking view off the 45-foot cliff. 

Also, you can access the springs via kayak or rafting if hiking is not your passion. A rocky shore provides access to the waters, where 15 feet in diameter hot spring awaits. This hot spring is free and receives a lot of traffic.

You can swim in the rock-walled pool here, where the spring mixes with the water from the river giving it a temperature of around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Visitors should wear clothes when swimming in the pool. Leashed pets are allowed but not in hot springs.

Fifth Water Hot Springs

Fifth Water Hot Springs offers numerous soaking pools, but you have to put in some leg work to access them. There are 2.5 miles of hiking between the trailhead and Diamond Fork Hot Springs, as it is also known. But, the trek is worthwhile for the fairytale setting at the finish line.

Located in Diamond Fork Road, Springville, Utah, along the Fifth Water Creek, this free site features picturesque waterfalls and numerous soaking pools with tantalizing turquoise water. 

The water temperature varies depending on where you are in the springs or if the pools’ water flow is regulated. However, at the source, it reaches a steaming 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Several soaking pools are available for your pleasure, where clothing is optional. 

The best time to visit is early during the morning or during the weekdays to stay clear of the crowds. But be warned, a slightly sulfurous smell emanates from the pools, and be sure to wear shoes when going between pools as broken glass might be on the trail. 

Casualties and Fatalities

A female became immobile when a boulder became loose and struck her in the back while soaking in the spring in June 2019. [source]

The discovery of a man’s body occurred in October 2020. Authorities ruled out overdose and foul play, stating that he likely died from drowning after passing out from dehydration. [source]

Big Bend Hot Springs

Just a couple of feet away from the edge of the Rio Grande river, you can find the hot springs. The surroundings are unique and remote in the Trans-Pecos region in Texas, the location of the hot springs. 

Visitors will require to hike to the hot springs as it is not accessible by car. The water temperature is approximately 105 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Big Bend is a soaking-only spring as swimming is inadvisable. So that everyone can respect each other, no oils or soaps are allowed in the springs. 

Sometimes you might have to dig away some debris, mud, or rocks to create an adequate spot to dip in the hot spring after flooding by the Rio Grande covers it. 

Boiling River Hot Springs

The location of this spring is the Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, well-known for the geysers and thermal basins. 

Opting to swim in this hot spring is at your own risk as no lifeguards are present except in the designated swimming areas. Established hours for the swimming area exist and should be adhered to for safety concerns.   

No shampoo, conditioner, soap, or other chemical is allowed, regardless of whether biodegradable. No one should carry plastic containers, bottles, or cans in the designated swim area. It is a requirement to wear bathing suits when accessing the hot spring.

Goldstrike Canyon Hot Springs

This free spring is an oasis of pools found about 30 minutes from the boisterous Las Vegas strip. Located in Lake Mead National Recreational region, Goldstrike Canyon, Nevada. 

There is a blatant difference between the strip and the tranquil calm of the canyon. To access these serene 70 to 144 degrees Fahrenheit springs is not a simple task. After navigating strategically placed ropes and maneuvering around rocks the size of houses, you can celebrate with a dip in the pools adequate for soaking.

The dispersed pools in the canyon are suitable for soaking but not for swimming. Swimming in the Colorado River would be a better option. 

Visitors should be mindful of hiking through extreme heat to reach the bubbling waterfalls, as many have died from heatstroke. 

Best Hot Spring For Swimming & Water Activities

Based on the list above, the best hot spring for swimming would be the Boiling River Hot Springs, for the simple reason that it has designated areas for swimming and is large enough to accommodate such. The best one for water activities would be the same Boiling River Hot Springs as it is an actual river that mixes with the thermal springs, making it adequate for water sports such as canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.

Risks Associated With Hot Springs

Japanese hot spring, open-air bath

Several natural hot springs are ideal for only soaking. Even though they consist of essential minerals humans need, ingesting the water is risky. They might contain bacteria, heavy metals, and pollutants. Below are potentially harmful effects individuals might encounter and precautions visitors to hot springs should take. 

Precautions:

  • Never soak while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. 
  • Depending on the temperature of the hot spring, limit swimming to 10 to 15 minutes with breaks for recovery.
  • Keep your head above the water.
  • Individuals living with diabetes, cardiovascular issues, and high or low blood pressure should seek medical advice before entering a hot spring.
  • If not tested, do not drink the water from hot springs. 
  • Avoid overheating.
  • Unless sanctioned by a health care provider, pregnant females should not use hot springs. 
  • Drink plenty of caffeine-free, non-alcoholic beverages or water to remain hydrated. 
  • Do not soak in hot springs alone.

Related: Swimming In The Great Salt Lake? (Safe or Not)

Dangers:

Benefits Of Swimming In Hot Springs

  • Muscle and joint pain relief
  • Relaxes muscles 
  • Detoxification
  • Rehabilitation after injury from accidents 
  • Strengthening of the immune system
  • Relief of arthritis, rheumatism, and osteoporosis pain
  • Improvement of sleep and blood circulation 
  • Revitalization of nails, hair, and skin 
  • Enhancement of skin conditions like acne, eczema, hives, and psoriasis
  • Relieves stress
  • Calming the body and mind 

Artificial versus Natural Hot Springs

The difference between natural and artificial hot springs include: 

A Natural pH Value

The typical pH value of tap water is 7, but natural hot springs have higher and lower pH values. Those with higher pH values exceed 8.5 and have a purifying and detoxicating impact on the skin. Those with lower pH values are under three and have a disinfecting effect on the skin. 

Higher Levels of Salt Content

Some thermal waters contain brine, a combination of salt and water. This combination cannot occur in tap water. Therefore natural springs have more buoyancy than artificial ones. 

Unique Experience

Taking a bath in nature has an exceptional experience. The warmth of the Earth and the aerosols that drop when the water evaporates enhance the feeling. There are also no chemicals in the water to stabilize the pH value.