There are many stories in early chronicles which mention the Hot Springs. Like many Canadian natural attractions, Ainsworth Hot Springs was probably first discovered by native Indians. The Indians came up to Kootenay Lake in the late summer mostly to take advantage of the Kokanee Salmon run. Since this timing coincided with the ripening of the huckleberry crop, it would be natural to assume that after spending the days clambering around the hills these people would welcome a soak in the hot springs.
In 1882 George Ainsworth of Portland, Oregon, applied for a preemption of the townsite which is now Ainsworth Hot Springs. It was at first called Hot Springs Camp and had been founded on the strength of silver, lead, and zinc discoveries in the vicinity. Names like the Krao, Keyline, No. 1, Let-Her-Go-Gallager and Highlander were the foremost of an impressive list of mining properties.
During this time the Hot Springs itself didn't seem to be very high on the priority list of Ainsworth. It wasn't until the 1920s when the town was starting to decline as a mining centre, that an effort was made to develop the hot springs. The mining company that owned the property at that time decided to build a pool to be used primarily by the miners.
By the time the pool and caves were finished in the early 1930's the great depression was in full swing. A succession of lessees operated the pool and lodge through the 30s, 40s, and 50s.
In the 40s and 50s, mining activity peaked and production was the highest ever recorded, mostly due to improved machinery. In the later 50s, silver prices dropped and the mines were closed. The owners of the Hot Springs, Yale Lead and Zinc Co. Ltd, decided to sell their property in the Ainsworth townsite, including the pool, cave, and lodge.
Sam and Belle Homen purchased and operated the property in 1962. They retired in 1979 and the property was bought by their daughter Joyce Mackie and her husband Norm Mackie who continue to operate it today.
Ainsworth Hot Springs is located in the heart of the Kootenay wilderness on Highway 31, on the western shore of Kootenay Lake just 17 km (11 mi) north of Balfour and 20 km (12 mi) south of Kaslo. The village is set into the mountainside overlooking the vast expanse of Kootenay Lake and the Purcell Mountains.
The Hot Springs feature a unique horseshoe cave, where hot mineral water falls from the ceiling to form a waist deep pool, providing a natural steam bath. There is also a main lounging pool. Gallons of hot mineral water flow through the pools, changing the water naturally about 6 times a day. For the brave, there is a stream-fed cold plunge in which the temperature varies with the seasons. The pools provide the perfect place to relax and enjoy some of West Kootenay's majestic scenery: the Purcell Mountains and Kootenay Lake.
Kootenay Lake is the largest inland lake in BC and one of the cleanest and clearest. It's 156 km (97 mi) long and ranges from 2 km (1.2 mi) to 6 km (3.7 mi) wide.
For the more adventurous, Selkirk Wilderness Skiing, located in Meadow Creek at the north end of Kootenay Lake, offers the exhilaration of backcountry skiing and virgin powder on every run.
Year-round fishing is available at Kootenay Lake, where visitors can catch three varieties of trout (Gerrard rainbow, Dolly Varden, and Kokanee) and whitefish. The lake's largest catch is a 35 lb 12oz Gerrard Rainbow trout, and the world's largest recorded Kokanee at almost 10 pounds was caught here. The Kootenay area also has many creeks, small lakes, and rivers to challenge any skill level.
The West Kootenay region contains over 80 hiking trails, all of which provide hikers with spectacular mountain scenery, breathtaking glaciers, alpine lakes, flower strewn meadows, and incredible wildlife.
There are many logging and mining roads and hundreds of miles of trails in the high country for snowmobilers of all levels of experience.