Cougar (Terwilliger) Hot Springs

General Description: Hot water flows from a small cave into several large pools with gradually lowering temperatures and federal drug dogs sniff your car while you soak.
General Location: Outside of Eugene in the Central Cascades
Pool Type: bedrock and logs
Pool Temps: Very Hot (104° - 106° F), Hot (102° - 104° F), Slightly Hot (100° - 102° F)
Accessibility: A 0.3 mile path from a parking area off a paved road (just far enough you don't hear anyone break into your car or the federal drug dogs sniffing it)
Restrictions: Day use only, and a Northwest Forest Pass required to park in parking area, and a 5 dollar day use fee to use the springs
Elevation: 2000 feet.
Distance from road: 0.30 mile.
Map Reference: Willamette National Forest Map, or Cougar Reservior OR USGS 7.5 minute quadrangle

The Hot Spring:

  Terwilliger Hot Springs (aka Cougar due to the proximity to Cougar Reservoir) consists of a series of five large pools cascading down a forested valley.  The spring emerges out of a small cave (barely big enough for one person to get a little steam bath) at 116 degrees Fahrenheit and flows into the upper and hottest pool.  Each volunteer built pool fits about 8-12 people and has a granite slab bottom with rock and log walls.  The pools are few degrees different varying from 108 at the top to 95 at the bottom and there is a little cold creek that fills a bucket to use as a cold shower.  Pathways and stairs have been built around and between the pools. Above the pools is a changing area with a covered bench and hooks to hang your clothing.  You can generally reach the springs all year round however in the winter the spring may flow colder, and with the addition of snow melt even the upper pool can be too cold.

  Many people consider Cougar to be the best hot spring they have ever visited but despite how wonderful these hot springs sound they are our least favorite hot spring.  We actually hate this spring and discourage anyone from spending time here.  This is because of the highly seedy nature of the place, and the large presence of police.  It is an example of what can happen when a hot spring becomes a party spot.  The popularity has made it so vandalism is very common in the parking area, and violence is not uncommon.  Also the police frequent the parking lot with a drug dog and will wait all day to search the vehicles that the dog smells something in.

  There are also many regulations!  You can not park or camp within two miles of the trail head to the springs.  It is closed at night and is patrolled a lot with a very big fine if caught parking within the restricted area.  A 5 dollar daily use fee for every person is also required and collected at a kiosk at the trail head (this was burned down last time we were there).  No alcohol permitted at the spring either however you can be nude but not within the roads visibility.  With all these restrictions and the danger of your car getting broken into or searched while soaking, we have decided not to soak here anymore.

  Cougar Hot Springs does not have a long history due to its remoteness.  It became popular almost immediately after the Cougar Reservoir was built and the paved road that goes within 0.3 miles of the springs.  From the 60's through the 90's Terwilliger was a party destination with a tent city rumored to have up to 1000 semi-permanent residents in the forest surrounding it .  The partying became too much for the Forest Service in 1998 after a man was killed in 1996 because of a disagreement over late night loud music, and the 1997 Rainbow Gathering nearby which increased the numbers of visitors.  Several meetings were held to figure out what to do with the springs and that is when it was closed at night and a fee was implemented to help pay for maintenance.  This is also when Friends of Cougar Hot Springs (now part of hoodoo) was formed to work with the Forest Service.  So I guess these efforts have helped temper the seedy nature making the springs safer than in years past, but it has also brought a stronger police presence.

 

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WE went there for 2 days last

WE went there for 2 days last week. Water was about 102* in top pool. Very nice. We spent most of the time in the 3rd pool after soaking in the top for a 1/2 hour. I was was suprised to see so many people at this time of year.

We will go back in the Summer for more soaks and some hiking and climbing.

Deer creek was just luke warm.

Thank you for all your

Thank you for all your helpful info and the background details. Once you've soaked in a primitive hot spring with perfect temps (I love a 111 degree rated hot spring), no seedy parking lot and no fees, it's hard to ever go somewhere like Cougar.

I don't really know that you

I don't really know that you are basing this review on reality. I have been to several dozen hot springs through out the west. I have never in several years seen any kind of law enforcement at the parking lot area. Also, the fee kiosk is in full view of the parking area and vandalism is highly unlikely now. The water is high quality and the vibe has always been quite and laid back. I don't go on weekends, but I go often enough to know this review is whack. 1997 Rainbow gathering? Give me a freaking break. 17 years ago. That the reviewer even mentions this shows the level they are coming from. Check this spring for yourself.

Friends of Cougar Hot Springs

Friends of Cougar Hot Springs was a cooperative nonprofit loose group of people who loved and cared for the springs for many, many years successfully, helping it stay the peaceful magical healing spot it has been for the last 7000 years. There was a caretaker who lived in a cabin above the springs and it was kept a family-safe and gentle place, and my children have been raised going there. It was only after the caretaker passed away, and the Bush era Forest Service kicked out Friends of Cougar Hot Springs and replaced them with a commercial fee based situation that things went downhill. Friends of Cougar Hot Springs was NOT folded into Hoodoo, a commercial ski resort that manages local camping grounds as well. (Cougar has since passed into other corporate hands). Still, it is one of the most heavenly places on earth. If you go there and dont like something someone is doing (drinking beer, smoking, cussing), just ask politely. The springs mellow everyone out. Try learning some sacred native american chants and just sing them there, that changes the vibes quickly.

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