A combination of articles written in 1984 by Tammy Stephens and 2018 by Paul Hufziger.
Nearly everyone around here knows where the hot springs are, and nearly everyone has been there for a swim in the nice warm water, but do you know any of its history?
Joseph C. Rich, oldest son of Apostle Charles C. Rich, was one of the early pioneers of the Bear Lake Valley. He married Ann Eliza Hunter, daughter of Edward Hunter, third Presiding Bishop of the L.D.S. Church. This couple was behind development of the hot springs, located on the northeast shores of Bear Lake.
They had lived in the other places in the valley, but after 1888 they decided to move from Montpelier and homestead a “tract of land on the northeast shore of beautiful Bear Lake, where among other attractions, there were some natural hot springs.” Joseph referred to it with twinkling eyes, “Wait till half the world and the Rich family to boot start coming here to get their baths.”
Ann Eliza suggested that people would get at least as dirty after their bath, going home on the dirt roads as they were to begin with, to which Joseph replied, “Yes, my dear, but think of the fun they’ll have. They’ll want to come back as soon as they start to itch again.”
So, although Hot Springs was still raw, they were thinking positively about its future as a public bath, and Joseph seemed to be one of those rare people who could get things done without money. Hammers pounded and saws cut while men worked on the new house and the bath house. Other men dug trenches for the pipeline to bring the hot water into the usable position.
Mrs. Ethel Bates was the original owner of the historic grand, old hotel that was first built on the site in 1911. The original hotel on this site was a sight to be seen, located on the lake, with beautiful views. Guests could relax on the porch and take in the serenity of Bear Lake.
In 1939 the hotel tragically burned to the ground in an accidental fire. The fire started from a stove in the wash house and spread quickly to the main building. Many local residents had relatives that responded and served on the fire crews that fought this fire. In spite of volunteers that responded quickly, the building and contents were a total loss. Some of the surrounding buildings, including a pool, were not damaged. The original concrete steps and a few pillars were all that remained after the fire and are still visible today.
In 1950, Lorenzo and Ruth Hemmert purchased the property. Lorenzo Hemmert said they used huge poles, 20 feet long, and with an auger, made pipes for the water to flow through, since the mineral water rotted metal pipes faster than they could lay them.
With the bath house completed and gardens planted, fruit trees growing, and outbuildings finished, Hot Springs became a beautiful utopia, a paradise to those who had worked so hard for its completion.
“Frequently on a summer morning, the members of the family living at the foot of Hot Springs Mountain might glance toward the long, sandy turnpike, swinging west around the end of the lake, and see a cavalcade of boys riding bareback—some riding double, swooping down on them from the west. Soon, there would be splashing and yelling in the bath house until the rafters shook. Other people came also with teams and white-top buggies, or single rigs. And some used heavy wagons equipped with two or three spring seats. They usually had a bundle of hay for the horses, and large picnic dinners packed in the bread pans and baskets.
“Those who paid their frugal quarters for the privileges of the bathhouse and the picnic grounds added material sustenance to the family... It was an amazing life, with days when it seemed that half the population of the valley was there; and other days so lonely the cry of a hawk or the gabbling of a flock of wild geese were the only sounds that broke the silence.”
Another memory related by Mr. Hemmert was that the original Hot Springs pool, wood lined, had no filter and consequently there was always a layer of fine mud sediment about three or four inches thick on the bottom. There was also a long hitching post out in front, where teams and saddle horses stood with feed bags, allowing them to feed while their owners enjoyed the pool.
An Oasis: Mr. Hemmert said that there used to be a collection of canes at Hot Springs, left by people who came in with a cane and left feeling so pain-free that they didn’t need a cane to walk out.
Ann Eliza had trouble getting water to her garden and trees, even with a small reservoir, which proved inadequate. Joseph came up with a good idea: “It became a standing joke, and a very practical one, for several summers that young men visiting Hot Springs to pay their attentions to Susanne, Sarah Jane, and Libby were to put to work carrying water from the pump to the new shade trees. And younger boys, even relatives, who came to Hot Springs for free baths, often found it necessary to carry their stint of water for Aunt Eliza’s flowers and trees.”
“Hot Springs was no longer a desert, or an undeveloped homestead. It was an oasis, featuring one of the most attractive homesites in the Bear Lake Valley.” The boys, Joe, Jr., and Standley, started a business selling ice-cream, candy and soda water.
There was even, at one time, a steam boat on the lake which would take passengers from one community to another, or just for rides on the lake.
A hotel was built at the Hot Springs. Part of the foundation and the porch are still standing. The hotel was, for the time, quite a fabulous place, serving dinners with the best of them, making it possible for the people to stay over and take advantage of the healing powers of the water for days, if they wanted to do so.
A new pool made of cement was built in later years, on the south side of the one now standing. It was one step nearer to the one we have now. It was this pool that was at Hot Springs when the present owners, Lorenzo and Ruth Hemmert, bought it, and they built the present pool in 1960, just north of the other one, when they filled it in when the new pool was finished.
Mr. And Mrs. Hemmert, who just had their 61st wedding anniversary June 15, have had the Hot Springs for 34 years, since 1950.
According to Mr. Hemmert, there have been many changes take place since he was a young sprout spending time at the Hot Springs, the biggest change being in swim-wear.
He said the girls used to swim in a suit which looked like a dress—knee length with short puffed sleeves and pantaloons underneath. Now, he continues, sometimes the girls wear almost nothing.
Mrs. Hemmert said that about 75,000 gallons of mineral water flows through the pool every day. She said they know how much because it takes one full day to completely fill the pool, and that is the capacity.
The water is constantly circulating, flowing in from the spring and flowing into the lake. There is a large filter system and also, an automatic chlorinator. She said that they try to limit the number of people in the pool to not over 80, but there have been a few times where there have been more. Then, they do not have as much fun, and it becomes a big job to keep tabs on everyone.
The Hemmert's declare that these 34 years have been very enjoyable years. They have made many friends from all over the world. They get mail from everywhere, and people who have been to the Hot Springs come back whenever they can.
They try to keep a wholesome atmosphere where the young people can come to enjoy a good time, swim, play pool games and enjoy good food. Although the Hemmert's are not able to take care of the busy life as they have done for so many years, they are pleased to have their daughter, Lorena Mattson, who has been taking over for them. They appreciate the help they have received from their family.
Mr. Hemmert said that there are two hot springs, a north and a south, which he has brought together in one line to supply the water for the pool, and as long as these springs give forth, the Bear Lake Hot Springs will be there for the enjoyment it has been these many years and will be for many more.
Everything changed on April 20th, 2018, when the property was sold to a land developer. The proposed Lakeview Subdivision, is a luxury gated community that is now in the crucial planning stages. Most of the existing buildings and infrastructure may be excavated and a completely new community will be built on the 22-acre site. This project could provide much needed employment opportunities for many, including; contractors, landscapers, maintenance crews, housekeepers, and will most certainly bring additional revenue to most all other businesses in the area. Private, and seasonal vacation homes are becoming the new normal for this lovely lake. Property values have climbed dramatically over the years, well beyond what anyone had ever dreamed. Public access to the Idaho portion of the lake is now limited to North Beach Bear Lake State Park and Bear Lake State Park, both located in St. Charles, Idaho.
*Quoted Material comes from a book, “Joseph C. Rich, Versatile Pioneer, On the Mormon Frontier,” by Ezra J. Poulsen.