Ritter Hot Springs is located 10 miles west of Highway 395 on the bank of the Middle Fork of the John Day River, between the Umatilla and Malheur National Forests. Since its discovery in the 1850s by European settlers, Ritter Hot Springs has remained popular and loved for its scenic beauty, remote location, and fascinating history. People have been coming to this remote "ghost town" for more than 160 years to relax while using the healing properties of the mineral-rich water.
The historic bathhouse and source of the hot springs are located across the river and accessible by a footbridge. Cross the bridge and hike up a hundred yards. Soon you will see a rustic concrete structure with four private enclosed compartments painted in blue and reddish-brown. One of them is open towards the sky and enclosed from all other directions. Used a hundred years ago, these cubiform tubs are still available for relaxing soaking. They are big enough for two-to-four guests.
The geothermal water at 106°F comes out of the source and flows by gravity to the private tubs. Clothing is optional in the private area. Before heading to the private soaking tub, check in the office if one of them is available.
An Olympic-size swimming pool near the historic hotel is the center and main feature of the Ritter Resort. The hot mineral water is transferred across the river from the source. The pool temperature is kept 80-85°F that is perfect for summer swimming and soaking. With the rapid flow and high water alkalinity, no chemical treatment is needed. Swimming suits are required in the pool. The pool is handicap accessible with assistance.
The outdoor powerful shower, next to the river, offers an excellent massage of your neck and shoulders. The water is piped directly from the source.
Ritter Hot Springs offers a day-use option for a fairly good price. If you can not find the property's manager, pay your pool fee by leaving cash in the box.
There are a few overnight options that include a room in the rustic resort, cabin, RV or tent camping behind the hotel. Reservation in advance is highly recommended.
Neither store nor restaurant is available on the property. Bring your own food. Microwave, refrigerator, freezer, gas grill are available for resort guests. No alcohol is allowed.
Ritter Hot Springs is a seasonal facility, open from Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The pool is closed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday in favor of Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath observance.
Discovered by William Neal McDuffee in the 1860s, Ritter Hot Springs originally called McDuffee Hot Springs. The hot springs discovery was related to an accident that happened with McDuffee. During the winter months, he fell through the ice on the frozen river. The freezing water temperature would kill him but it was a lucky day for him. He spotted steam, rising from the hot springs, that were located near the river. Soaking in the hot water helped him to survive.
Later, McDuffee claimed the land around the hot springs and established a resort. One of McDuffee's original cabins is still there. Years later, the first owner of the hot springs was sent to prison for murdering a man on the property.
In 1910, the spring's name was changed to Ritter in honor a Baptist minister Joseph Ritter, who had a ranch nearby and established the first post office in the region.
The first wooden buildings were constructed in 1886 but a few years later destroyed in the fire. Surprisingly, but the General Store, built in 1894, still stands as historical evidence of the old time, time of the gold rush, American settlers, and cowboys.
The two-story hotel was built in 1905 and included eight rooms on the first floor. The second floor was a meeting and dancing hall.
Ritter Hot Springs | Facts
Location: 65 miles north of John Day • Eastern Oregon • USA
Open: From Memorial Day to Labor Day
Development: Olympic-size pool, private soaking tubs
Clothing: Required before 9 pm; optional after 9 pm
Service: Dressing rooms, showers, picnic, and kitchen facilities
Accommodations: Hotel, cabins, and campsites
Hiking distance: Short
Road Access: Any vehicle
Elevation: 2,500 ft (762 m)
- Take Highway 395 near Pendleton
- Travel 77 miles to milepost 77B and then turn west onto Ritter Road
- Follow 10 miles on Ritter Road, cross the bridge and after 0.2 miles, turn right onto a gravel road and drive to the destination.
Address: 40035, Ritter Road, Ritter, OR 97856