Breitenbush Hot Springs

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Coordinates: 44°46′53″N 121°58′33″W / 44.78143°N 121.9758°W / 44.78143; -121.9758

Lodge at Breitenbush Hot Springs

Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center (pronunciation: BRIGHT en BUSH), commonly called Breitenbush Hot Springs or simply Breitenbush, is a worker-owned co-op featuring holistic and spiritual retreats. It is surrounded by the Willamette National Forest in Breitenbush, Marion County, Oregon, United States, 10 miles (16 km) east-northeast of Detroit along the West Cascades Scenic Byway and 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Mount Jefferson. The closest metropolitan area, Salem, is approximately 60 miles (100 km) to the west. The retreat center is located at the site of the Breitenbush Hot Springs, which drain into the adjacent Breitenbush River.

Geothermal springs[edit]

Cabins at Breitenbush Hot Springs, circa 1930
Breitenbush Hot Springs Hotel, circa 1955

Breitenbush Hot Springs has natural geothermal springs, and was a frequent gathering place for local Native Americans.

The geothermal hot springs result from precipitation onto the surrounding Cascade Range. Analysis of the mineral and chemical content indicates an average subsurface temperature of 356 °F (180 °C) and a migration time of several thousand years.[1]

The water's long contact with aquifer rock at such temperatures saturates it with dissolved minerals such as sulfate, calcite, analcime, anhydrite, chalcedony, microcline, muscovite, quartz, wairakite, and the elements potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and lithium. The surface temperature of the springs is about 180 °F (82 °C)—the lower temperature due to heat transfer to cooler rock near the Earth's surface.

Buildings on the property are heated by two geothermal wells. To prevent mineral precipitation in the pipes, the wells are fitted with heat exchangers using closed loop water circulation. The drilled wells are approximately 500 feet (150 m) deep and produce circulating water at about 190 °F (88 °C) which is distributed by means of iron radiators or radiant flooring in most buildings.

Retreat Center[edit]

Inside the Lodge at Breitenbush Hot Springs

Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center is known for hosting many counterculture, holistic, spiritual, and New Age workshops; most are open to the public by advance reservation. The current retreat center has been in operation since 1981. Guests visiting the center receive access to the hot spring fed pools and tubs, as well as a steam sauna. The soaking areas are all clothing optional, while clothing is required in all other camp areas.[2]

There are a total of seven pools in two main soaking areas for guests. The Sacred Meadow overlooks the Breitenbush River and an opposing forested ridgeline. The meadow contains three rock-lined pools that can accommodate six to ten people each; these pools receive water from natural hot springs aquifers in the hillside. Behind the Lodge and closer to the river are four hot tubs which lie in a concrete patio, each comfortably seating four to six people. These are known as the Spiral Tubs, and they receive their mineral water supply from a nearby geothermal well. The Spiral Tubs also include a mineral water cold plunge: the mineral water having been cooled by means of copper pipes submerged in river water. Temperatures for all the hot tubs are regulated, and range from 100 to 110 °F (38 to 43 °C). A small wooden house with a slatted floor is positioned over a hot springs creek, creating a sauna that seats up to twelve people.[citation needed]

There are more than 20 miles (32 km) of hiking trails, a lodge, rustic guest cabins, tent platforms (in summer), a meditative labyrinth, a sanctuary, a gift shop, and a conference center. Guest services are available.[citation needed]

According to its members, sustainability is an important consideration with regard to the co-op's operation.[3] The co-op generates its own electricity by means of hydropower (diesel generators serve as back-ups); high wattage appliances (such as hairdryers, irons, personal heaters) are not permitted. The surrounding mountains prevent operation of cellphones and reception of non-satellite radio and television. Geothermal energy heats most buildings; Breitenbush is the largest private geothermal facility in the Pacific Northwest. The on-site kitchen serves only vegetarian meals. Alcohol, recreational drugs, and pets are not permitted.[citation needed]


After being encountered by trappers arriving from the Hudson's Bay Company, Breitenbush was homesteaded by Claude Mansfield. The homestead patent was granted on August 16, 1904, by Theodore Roosevelt. John Minto, who led a surveying expedition along the Santiam River in 1874, named the area "Breitenbush" after Lewis Breitenbucher (of Dutch origin, alternately spelled "Breitenbusher" thereafter[4]), a one-armed hunter living in the area. Although Minto incorrectly remembered the hunter's name when mapping the area, 'Breitenbush' has remained in use.[5]

In 1927, the site was purchased by Merle Bruckman, who constructed a resort and operated it for twenty years. The ownership changed following that, and the resort closed in 1972 after two devastating floods.[citation needed]

In 1977 Alex Beamer purchased Breitenbush Hot Springs, intending to host a full-time community to operate the resort. The desire of logging interests to harvest Breitenbush timber posed a threat to the site that continued until the Clinton Forest Plan of 1993 designated it a late successional reserve.[6] In 1985, Beamer sold the facility to the community which began hosting guests, shortly thereafter.[7]


The resort is structured as a worker-owned cooperative whose workers and their families live in community year-round on the 154-acre (0.62 km2) site. The permanent community has 50 to 70 individuals. New members are approved by the co-op's Board of Directors after a year of work and purchasing an equity share.[7] The community is supported entirely by revenue from its retreat center operations; adult members are expected to contribute by participating in day-to-day operations of the business. Pay is minimum wage, but housing, utilities, and food are provided.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michael Manga, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, California. "Using Springs to Study Groundwater Flow and Active Geologic Processes" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "Sustainability at Breitenbush". Breitenbush Hot Springs. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
  4. ^ "Louise King Breitenbusher (1841-1867) - Find A..." Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  5. ^ "Breitenbush Hot Springs". Retrieved 2017-11-08.
  6. ^ Tim McDevitt & Michael Donnelly. "A Natural History of Breitenbush". Retrieved 2006-08-08.
  7. ^ a b "The Breitenbush Community—Who We Are and What We Do". Retrieved 2006-08-08.

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