One of the best natural features of Montana are the region’s hot springs. In the last 20 years, hot springs have made a come back. Older resorts have also under gone major renovations. Not only are the spots popular with locals, but an increasing number of visitors to Southwest Montana are discovering the pleasure of getting into hot water in these beautiful surroundings.
Native Americans bathed in the hot springs for years prior to the arrival of European settlers. Tribes considered many springs to be sacred ground.
The first explorers to discover hot springs in the region were Lewis and Clark. Clark’s diary contains the first recorded descriptions of a hot springs in the Rocky Mountains: “we passed several springs which I observed the deer, elk etc. had made roads to, and below one of the Indians had made a hole to bathe. I tasted this water and found it hot and not bad tasted. In further examination I found this water nearly boiling hot at the places it spouted from the rocks. I put my finger in the water, at first could not bear it in a second.”
The discovery of gold in the 1860s prompted a period of discovery and development for area hot springs. Gold miners would soak in the hot water, and local physicians prescribed daily soaks as cure for disease.
The era of hot springs resorts lasted approximately 30 years. Several of the resorts were destroyed by fire and one was severely damaged by an earthquake.