The Hot Spring:
Breitenbush Hot Springs is an example of a private pay-for that is used in a very positive way. The hot 180 degree F water flows out of several springs and artesian wells along the Breitenbush river totaling 900 gallons per minute. The water is used not only for soaking but the entire place is powered and heated geothermally. This includes the large lodge used for meals and other stuff and all the rentable cabins (which usually are so hot you need to open a window).
Three areas are maintained for soaking using flow through hot water so that chemical treatment is not required by the state permit. One area is called the sacred meadow where there stone and mortar pools are located. All the pools are kept around 103-106 deg F, and the farthest largest pool often has no talking allowed so people can have a quiet soak overlooking the river.
Another soaking area includes four circular concrete tubs that each face the cardinal compass directions. Each pool is gradually hotter ranging from around 100 to about 110 deg F, and circular wooden cold plunge is right next to the four hot tubs. This area is great for the hot/cold therapy, but not everyone moves pools, some just pick the temperature they like and don't move. These pools are also cleaned every day during the meals, so don't try to get a private soak while everyone else is eating because these pools will be empty.
The last soaking area is a sauna with a cold plunge outside. The sauna is located over a 180 deg F spring where a slated floor alowes steam to enter the wooden box. Small windows can be opened or shut to heat or cool the room, and a cold water hose is located inside also to cool off while in the steam bath.
Breitenbush began just as many hot springs in the western US as a large resort that flourished throughout the 1930's and 1940's, and then began to decline. By 1972 it was closed to the public until it was purchased in 1977 by a hippie from Oakland, CA who devoted the property to holistic learning and rebuilt it to its former glory. In 1985 it was sold to the volunteer owned cooperative that owns it today and is devoted to a self sufficient community built around personal growth. The community's statement of purpose is "To provide a safe and potent environment for people to evolve in ways they never even imagined".
This holistic community has created a peaceful retreat with a lot of devoted soakers, but sometimes it can be a bit too much. The desire for a place to teach holistic learning as made it more difficult for someone who just wants to relax and enjoy a good sweat. There are a lot of rules and it is almost assumed you are there to learn about spiritual practices and stuff. It is a wonderful retreat but we wish there were fewer rules! We believe in holistic living, but we also believe that soaking is a personal thing and you can't tell other people how to enjoy nature's gift of hot mineral water.