The Blue Mountain Springs, the long-time landmark in the upper John Day valley some 12 miles southeast of Prairie City, is known for its hot mineral springs, swimming pool, and lodging.

Over the years men and women have frequented these waters that have seemed curative and regenerative. No doubt the Indians found them likewise before the coming of the white settlers. Whatever, since early days this place has been a cultural and physical imperative for native and tourist alike.

The innumberable combinations of natural minerals, gases, and salts bubbling up in the different springs always seemed to offer a feeling of well-being, whether in bathing, swimming, or drinking. The popular theory is that minerals and salts suspended in water flush out the kidneys, quicken circulation, ease the heart, free stiff joints of rheumatism, arthritis, and general fatigue. How much of it is true is difficult to prove.

The water rises here from deep earth strata along faults and fissures and leaves the ground at the temperature of 143.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 62 degrees centigrade. Besides the minerals in the water that offer curiosity and study, in more recent years geologists have been studying the natural hot springs in the West because they contain micro-organisms that they think have forms that are relicts of man's primordial past when the earth was much hotter and the presence of organisms like bacteria and algae indicate that life was possible under these conditions.

The following letter is a living testimony on how the hot springs helped a person. The letter was addressed to Mr. Eugene Ricco.

My Dear Sir:

... Mr. Stanton, the architect for the Blue Mountain Hot Springs is sick and I haven't been able to see him to witness my letter or statement about the hot water and what it did for me.

I have taken the water sample to the Charleston Laboratory and they want to know how complete of an analysis you wanted. I suggested that they write you a letter and explain it to you.

I am enclosing a picture of the Blue Mountain Lodge as it looked when I arrived there April 18, 1945 and also a picture of the completed work taken on September 20, 1945. Everybody was pleased with outcome including the owner Mr. Tuttle, my boss, Mr. Stanton, the architect and myself as supervising the architects.

You know I received a reward for my part in this work, besides my pay.

When I went up to do this work at Blue Mountain Hot Springs, I didn't feel too good. I had been troubled with arthritis in my hands, feet, legs, arms and shoulder for some time - about eight years or more. I normally weighed 165 pounds and when I went on the job up there I weighed 142 pounds. Anyway, after about six weeks on the job I noticed I was feeling better and my joints didn't hurt as much. I had been drinking the hot water from the spring from then until fall or September. I sure filled upon the hot water and cold water from the irrigation ditch from Rail Creek. I expect I drank about a gallon or more of hot water each day. That fall and before, the swelling in my hand and my hurting joints had all gone away. I helped the caretaker of the ranch split his wood after living there a month. I went home without an ache or pain and I weighed 172 pounds. I have never had any arthritis since - that was my extra pay and bonus. I am grateful that I took on the supervisor's job at the Blue Mountain Hot Springs and I hope some other person with that trouble would try it out. I think it would work even if they didn't have the same kind of arthritis that I had. I never knew that there were so many kinds ...

When you get the analysis from the laboratory, I would like to have a copy if you don't mind.

Yours truly,
Charles R. Kaufman
Portland, Oregon

For those who are not satisfied with the description of hot springs as mineral water the following scientific analysis of the water has been included. The scale is based on parts per million (ppm).

Silicon - 81.0
Aluminum - 0.6
Iron - 0.05
Manganese - 0.03
Chromium - 0.02
Calcium - 3.0
Magnesium - 0.1
Strontium - 0.08
Sodium - 140.00
Potassium - 3.5
Lithium - 0.09
Ammonia - 0.44
Carbonic acid - 330.63
Carbon trioxide - 4.6
Sulfate - 6.4
Chlorine - 15.00
Fluorine - 11.00
Nitrogen oxide - 0.01
Nitrogen trioxide - 0.9
Boron - 0.9
Hydrogen sulfide - 0.9
pH (alkaline) - 8.18

Dissolved solids: Calculated (ppm) 418 ... Residue (180 degrees C) 456

The first homesteader or squatter who established his rights over the cherished property of the Blue Mountain hot springs during the 1860's seems to have been John Douglas and his Indian wife. Mr. Douglas was known also as a furniture maker for the early settlers. Many of the chairs were made from willow and had leather raw hide bottoms in solid or criss-cross designs. Black seemed to have been his favorite color although some of the chairs were left natural. During the 1880's the adjacent rancher Walter Wilcox recalled building the initial packlog house and wooden- enclosed swimming pool. Later owners were the Reveliers brothers and after them there was Palmer Reynolds and his sons Avery and Chester. There might have been intervening owners during this period.

The area became a camping place that provided nearby fishing, bathing, horseback riding, and huckleberry picking in season. At one time there was a hotel here, plus a dance hall, stable, ice house, and bath houses. The grounds had two small lakes that provided boating. Carnivals were known to have come here for festive summer occasions that attracted persons from miles around.

In 1945, it was purchased by Mr. E.C. Tuttle of the famed Winchester Firearms and Ammunition Company. It was remodeled and used for a vacation home exclusively for himself, family, and friends for his subsequent stay there.

In 1965, after the death of Mr. Tuttle and the settlement of his large estate, the property was purchased by Eugene and Helen Ricco. They in turn have made the scenic spot and facilities available again to outside guests. The lodge now uses the geothermal energy to heat the guest rooms.

1998 Roxann Gess Smith
All Rights Reserved

..... Return to Grant County, Oregon Home Page
..... Return to "A Place Called Oregon"