Little Known Facts about Hot Springs in the Columbia Valley

November 14, 2019

Little Known Facts About Hot Springs in the Columbia Valley

Many visitors to the Columbia Valley arrive after a breathtaking drive through the Rocky Mountains. Their journey taking them through Banff National Park and Kootenay National Park, past some of the most impressive natural beauty you can witness from a roadway. While not a long drive, craning your head back and forth looking at all the mountains can leave you ready to kick back and relax. It’s a good thing you’re in the Columbia Valley – home of some of the best hot springs in British Columbia.

It’s no secret that upon arriving in the Columbia Valley visitors begin to feel restored. This region of southeastern British Columbia has a long history of relaxation and rejuvenation experienced from the restorative properties found in the many hot springs. The fact that two communities have hot springs in their names, Fairmont Hot Springs & Radium Hot Springs, should be reason enough to make your next hot springs road trip – a visit to the Columbia Valley.

Sinclair Canyon - Radium

Hot Springs To Discover

Both naturally sourced and odourless, Radium Hot Springs and Fairmont Hot Springs are some of the finest hot pools in BC. They are open 365 days a year and more than a million gallons of water flow in and out of the facilities daily.

During a recent extensive renovation, the Radium Hot Springs took steps to reduce their carbon footprint by recycling their water, using geothermal energy to heat the building as well as accessibility ramps to keep them clear of snow and ice. The water is then purified and released back into nearby Sinclair Creek.

Throughout the region there are many undeveloped hot springs, however, if you’re wondering where to find them you’ll have to make friends with a local, which shouldn’t be hard to do.

How Hot Is The Water?

The hottest collection box in the Fairmont Hot Springs often reaches temperatures of 112 degrees Fahrenheit, 117 being the highest recorded temperature. Cold spring water is used to cool both the dive tank and lap pool.

At its’ source Radium Hot Springs water is 44° C (114° F).

Radium Hot Springs - 1928

Rich History

The first written history of what is now referred to as Fairmont Hot Springs dates back to the 1800s when the Ktunaxa and Shuswap First Nation discovered the natural hot springs. In the 1920s the bathhouse was built, alongside 12 baths that were dug to accommodate the influx of guests traveling on the newly built Kootenay National Parks road.

In the early 1900s, visionary John Hankey bought the Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch from its original owner, Sam Brewer. Hankey re-named it the “Fairmont Hotel Springs” and offered accommodation for $2 per day, which included the use of the hot springs. 

In the early 1900s, visionary John Hankey bought the Fairmont Hot Springs Ranch from its original owner, Sam Brewer. Hankey re-named it the “Fairmont Hotel Springs” and offered accommodation for $2 per day, which included the use of the hot springs. 

Historic Fairmont Hot Springs

In 1841, the first recorded guest, Sir George Simpson, visited the Radium Hot Springs as part of his “round the world” trip. As a result, one of the passes between Banff & Kootenay was subsequently named Simpson in his honour, and a monument resides there today. The original concrete pool in Radium was built in 1914. A more elaborate bathhouse was then built in 1927, which later caught fire and burnt down in 1948. It was replaced with the existing structure, now a federal heritage building, in 1951.

The Banff Windermere Highway

1923 was a busy year for the Columbia Valley, along with the official opening of the Banff Windermere Highway, surveying for a small townsite next to the Radium Hot Springs began, better known as Radium Junction. The first public pool was built in Fairmont, it was 40 feet wide and 60 feet long.

Radium Hot Springs

Fast forward to today

Between 2016 and the summer of 2019, Parks Canada invested over $9.5 million to restore and improve the Radium Hot Springs pools facility for current and future generations of visitors to enjoy. This investment included five multi-staged projects that focused on repairing the facility’s structure. This work was the single largest investment in the facility since it opened in 1951.

In January 2019, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort began it’s first major renovation to the pool in its 60-year history, concluding in June of the same year. The renovations reflected the incredible mountain vistas surrounding the property.

In addition to the new poolscape, upgrades completed include:

  • A zipline over the lap pool
  • Expanded pool decks, naturally heated by the hot springs water
  • Two new diving boards
  • A mountain-inspired water feature
  • New piping and infrastructure
  • New sustainable lightning


While you’re visiting, take the time to chat with one of the lifeguards – chances are their roots grow deep in the community as well. Over the years, both Fairmont and Radium Hot Springs have had team members that started their careers as lifeguards and now have children and grandchildren joining their ranks.

Our promise is true – when you’ve finished your soak, and your Columbia Valley vacation concludes you will leave feeling restored and relaxed. Most of all you will feel like you’ve made friends with the locals and learned something new!

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