A series of geothermal springs along the Breitenbush River, Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs is located in the Willamette National Forest, just about 600 feet away from the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center.
The previously well-known resort, now Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs is abandoned and only ruins are a reminder of the good old times. Currently, there are two big swimming pools left along with ruins of a concrete building and a few small concrete tubes.
Regardless of lack of maintenance Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs is very popular. There is a number of reasons for its popularity.
One of the reasons is the site location. The hot springs are located in close proximity to the Salem Metropolitan Area. It takes about an hour to drive from Salem to the relaxing geothermal bath with fantastic views of the scenic river and old-growth forest.
Another reason of Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs' popularity is fee-free and easy access. If you suddenly got a desire to relax in hot mineral water, you can just drive to the Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs and enjoy it. You can’t just go to the Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center which is located up the river simply because even a daily visit has to be reserved in advance.
Of course, there are also downsides to Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs which will be covered shortly.
Lower Breitenbush is accessible by the 0.5-mile trail from the parking area. The trail brings you to the river and once you get there, turn left and go upstream to the hot springs. The trail itself is pretty wide so it is hard to get lost and signs will help you stay on the right track in places where the trail splits into more than one direction.
If the water level is low, some visitors leave their vehicles on the other bank and cross the river.
Caution. It doesn't safe to ford the river during high water and spring runoff!
Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs consists of two big concrete pools, a few small concrete tubs, and a few rusted bathtubs near the river.
The very hot, up to 150°F (65°C), water is transferred from the source by a few hoses. The temperature in the tubs and pools varies. If the temperature is too hot for you, you can divert hoses. Generally, the closer tubs to the source the hotter water. Due to lack of maintenance, big pools look unsightly. Unclear water, walls and the pools floor are slippery, which indicates the presence of bacteria and algae. Small tubs are in better condition since it is much easier to clean them before your soaking.
Unfortunately, Lower Breitenbush got a serious problem with some visitors littering and leaving trash. Please don’t leave any trash behind! Pack it out. If you have an extra bag, pick the trash that others have left.
Brief History of Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs
The river and hot springs were named after a hunter Lewis Breitenbucher who found and explored this place in the 1840s. In the late 19th century, the hot springs became a popular destination to enjoy the healing properties of mineral-rich water.
Until 1904, Lower and Upper Breitenbush were a single site. As a result of property division, President Theodore Roosevelt granted Upper Breitenbush to Claude Mansfield. Lower Breitenbush became a federal property under the USDA Forest Service management. In the 1910s, the Forest Service leased Lower Breitenbush to Mark and Ada Skiff in order to build a resort.
The resort was constructed and soon became popular among local residents and travelers. There were three dozens of cabins, a hotel, restaurant, store, campground, bathhouse with pools and steam sauna, and even its own small electric station. Also, a footbridge was built visitors to get across the river.
After a few serious floods in the 1970s, the infrastructure of both Breitenbush Hot Springs was partially destroyed. The new owner of Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs was unable to rebuild the resort. Forest Service took a lease away from this owner. As a result, Lower Breitenbush was never restored.
Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs | Facts
Location: 10 miles northeast of Detroit • Cascade Mountains • USA
Open: 365 days a year
Service: No services
Hiking distance: 0.5 miles
Road access: Any vehicle
Managed: US Forest Service
Elevation: 2,160 ft (658 m)
From the interstate Highway I-5,
- Take exit 253 in Salem for OR-22
- Go on OR-22 east for about 48 miles to Detroit
- Turn left onto Highway 46 (Breitenbush Rd), and follow about 9 miles to NF-2231
- Turn right, cross a single-lane bridge, then turn left
- Continue 1 mile on NF-890 to the parking and trailhead on the left.
Trailhead is located on the left side of the parking area.
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