Sunday, August 30, 2009

Camas Hot Springs ...

Southwestern Montana was once home to a number of wonderful old resort hotels built at the sites of naturally occurring hot springs -- places where visitors could both relax, and bathe in the supposedly-healing mineral waters. Though a few of them are still left, most have been gone for decades ... grand places like the Broadwater in Helena, and Hunter's Hot Springs east of Livingston.

One of the last places in Montana to be known for its healing waters was the little town of Hot Springs, in northern Sanders County. The Symes Hotel was built there in 1929-30 as a destination for bathers, but local tourism really took off after World War II, when the confederated Salish & Kootenai tribal governments built the ultra-modern Camas Hot Springs bathhouse at the edge of town. The building had separate floors for men and women, each offering a variety of mineral water and mud-bath treatments.

The Camas bathhouse brought a brief boom to the town of Hot Springs, though tourism faded in the late 20th Century as the popularity of mineral-water therapy declined. The bathhouse closed in the mid-1980s and now sits abandoned, though small outdoor pools on the grounds still see some use. And the Symes Hotel remains open to serve the handful of spa pilgrims who still visit the town.

Today's photo is an old postcard view of the bathhouse, probably from the 1950s or so.

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