Most people, if they’ve heard of California’s Napa Valley at all, associate the region primarily with its wine grape production, however, long before commercial viticulture and the success of an abundant wine industry the area was identified by geothermal springs and aquifers, filling pools with super-heated water as well as a bottled water business.
Calistogans have been enjoying these natural wonders for more than 150 years, but there’s evidence that the Wappo, the indigenous people of the Napa Valley, bathed in the springs for centuries, using the hot mineral water and mud for soothing aches and pains.
Gold Rush tycoon Sam Brannon introduced commercialization of the geothermal baths when in 1862 he offered the public a hotel, cottages, steam room, mud baths and even a racehorse track.
When invited to join our son, daughter-in-law and infant grandson to relax a couple of days at Indian Springs Resort in Calistoga, we didn’t hesitate.
Indian Springs sits on part of the original Sam Brannon enterprise.
Robert Louis Stevenson, a visitor to the resort around 1880, wrote in his “Silverado Squatters,”
The whole neighbourhood of Mount Saint Helena is full of sulphur and of boiling springs…and Calistoga itself seems to repose a mere film above a boiling, subterranean lake.
The heat source comes from a magma chamber linked to the area’s volcanic activity, resulting in water scalding to the touch, but classified as low to moderate in temperature–for a geothermic aquifer!
It’s still hot! Surface temps are typically near 212 Fahrenheit and beneath the surface closer to 300.
This curved hillside bowl was formed by a volcanic blow out occurring millions of years ago. The ash used in the spa’s mud baths was deposited then.
The precise makeup of the underground system is not yet fully understood, but I can attest to the fact it is fully relaxing!
The opposite of a home jacuzzi or hot tub, the water doesn’t need to be heated, but instead cooled enough for guests to take a relaxing dip. The temps during our visit hovered around 104 relaxing degrees.
High concentrations of boron, chloride and fluoride, plus low concentrations of sulfate, iron and bicarbonate crystallize into beautiful jagged and colorful shards resulting in clogged pipes requiring continual maintenance.
Calistoga has much to offer in relaxation. It is a charming town and offers a pace completely unlike my every day experience.
Calistoga sits 75 miles north of San Francisco and 425 miles north of Los Angeles.
It’s worth the drive (or short air flight) to unplug and breathe lighter.