• Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs was a popular resort in the past
• There is a series of geothermal springs emerging 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.
A well-known resort from 1910 to 1970, now Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs is abandoned and only remnants and ruins of the pools and buildings remind us of the 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 still very popular. There is a number of reasons for its popularity.
One of the reasons is the location on the bank of the scenic river surrounded old-growth forest. Also, the site is located in close proximity to the Salem Metropolitan Area.
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. A visit of Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center which is located nearby should be reserved in advance.
Of course, there are also downsides to Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs that 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, bear 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 to 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 consists of a series of geothermal springs emerging along the river at temperature about 150°F. There are two big concrete pools, a few small concrete tubs, and a few rusted bathtubs at the river.
The water from the source is transferred by a few hoses. The temperature in the tubs and pools varies. If the water is too hot for you, you can divert hoses and wait until it cools down. 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 bathing.
Unfortunately, Lower Breitenbush got a serious problem with littering. 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 area 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 ( Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center now) 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, a restaurant, a store, a campground, a bathhouse with pools and steam sauna, and even its own small electric station. Also, a footbridge across the river was built.
After a few serious floods in the 1970s, the infrastructure of both Breitenbush Hot Springs was partially destroyed. A new owner of Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs was unable to rebuild the resort. The Forest Service took a lease away from him and as a result, Lower Breitenbush has never been restored.
Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs | Facts
Location: 10 miles northeast of Detroit • Oregon • USA
Accommodations: Camping is allowed
Hiking distance: 0.5 miles
Road access: Any vehicle, chains are required from November 1st to April 1st
Elevation: 2,160 ft (658 m)
Directions to Lower Breitenbush Hot Springs
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 Road), and follow for 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 your left.
Trailhead is located on the left side of the parking area.