Body and Soul
(page 5 of 5)
HEALING WATERS OF THE WOOD RIVER VALLEY
Public Soaks for Public Health
When Guyer Hot Springs Hotel and Bath opened on July 4th, 1882, three miles outside of Ketchum, it was the Wood River Valley’s first true “resort.”
Unlike Sun Valley today, where the main attractions are snow and sunshine, the offerings at Guyer Hot Springs Hotel and Bath were steamier: a naturally-heated plunge bath and a swimming pool on a gorgeous piece of property in the Warm Springs area filled with cherry, apple, pear and plum trees. Apart from the grounds’ natural beauty, the secret to Guyer’s success was no mystery: the hot springs held healing waters. And resorts like Guyer advertised as much. The medical establishment of the 19th century praised geothermal baths for their medicinal benefits, despite almost no serious investigations, claiming that the mineral-rich waters could treat cases of rheumatism, skin and blood diseases, and even nervous disorders. Ketchum’s original tourist attraction, consequently, was more than a garden paradise and a grand time. It was a “curative” retreat, the centerpiece of which was the water, superheated along fault zones miles underground and still steaming at the surface.
The historical use of water therapy is nearly universal. Archaeologists have found evidence of bathing rooms at the ancient Greek palace of Knossos dating back to 1700 B.C.E., and in Japan the “onsen,” or hot spring, has been a part of society for a millennia, even finding acceptance as a form of treatment at many of the national hospitals. More recently, the therapeutic use of mineral waters through immersion, known as “balneotherapy,” has undergone increased medical consideration.
Whether or not hot springs can treat one’s health problems, their good-time value is undisputed, and nothing calms the mind like a warm soak on the banks of a wild river.
With more soakable hot springs than any other state, Idaho is ripe with such healing waters and well-suited for some unofficial balneological research almost any day of the year. -Alec Barfield