Harrison Lake and Hot Springs Resort
By Cheryl Rhodes
When the name Harrison Hot Springs is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind is the luxury resort that features hot springs pools and hot tubs, but Harrison Hot Springs is also the name of the village, about an hour and a half drive east of Vancouver.
Miners discovered the hot springs in 1858 while on their way to the gold fields. After their boat capsized they thought for sure they’d freeze in the water but instead discovered the lake was warm. Giving credit where it’s due, the hot springs had previously been known for centuries by First Nations people and the Coast Salish tribe often traveled by canoe to this location because they believed in the healing powers of the hot springs.
The village was originally named St. Alice’s Well after one of the daughters of Sir James Douglas, British Columbia’s first governor. After the Canadian Pacific Railway included a stop in Agassiz, a short carriage ride away from the hot springs, a small hotel establishment was built and it became known as the St. Alice Hotel and Bath House in 1886. Eventually the village name was changed to Harrison Hot Springs, after Benjamin Harrison, a former deputy governor for the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The original St. Alice Hotel was destroyed by fire in 1920 and rebuilt a few years later with a name change to the Harrison Hotel, and this is where the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa is now located.
The village is located on Harrison Lake, a popular spot for kayaks, canoes, fishing, and jet skis. To check out the source of the hot springs, walk along the lakeshore, past the resort, and continue on another 300 metres. Even though the biggest attraction to the area might be the hot springs, visitors also come to enjoy activities on the lake, hike at Sasquatch Provincial Park, or attend Sasquatch Days and the Harrison Festival of Arts.
There are several hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts in or near Harrison Hot Springs, many of them using some or the village’s entire name in the title of their business. This can be confusing upon arrival only to discover you’ve made reservations elsewhere.
There is only one hotel in the village with swimming pools and hot tubs filled from the hot springs source and that is the Harrison Hot Springs Resort & Spa. The hotel has expanded since being rebuilt in the 1920’s and includes cottages in the back lot, dining facilities, and the Healing Springs Spa for massages, facials, manicures, and other spa treatments.
Camping enthusiasts can find a spot at one of the campgrounds in the village or head to Sasquatch Provincial Park, a few minutes north of Harrison.
Soak in the hot springs
Don’t go to Harrison Hot Springs with the idea that you can sneak into the resort’s pools for free. The resort does not sell day passes either. Hotel guests are given a room card that unlocks the doors and gates heading to the pool and hot tub areas, and day guests of the Healing Springs Spa are able to use the pools. For everyone else there is a public hot springs pool on the main street – admission $9.
The water from the hot springs resource is cooled and chlorinated for the pool users at both the resort and the public pool. The pool temperature is around 38 to 40 degrees Celsius, or around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. It is believed that the minerals in the hot springs provide healing qualities such as removing impurities from the skin, liver, and bowels. And it also feels good to soak aching bones and muscles in the hot water.
Travel on Highway 1, Trans-Canada Highway, and take Exit 135 for Agassiz. Follow the signs to Harrison Hot Springs, about a 10 to 15 minute drive from the highway.
Published: March 14, 2014
Cheryl Rhodes writes from Surrey, British Columbia where she lives with two dogs and three horses. She’s the author of 5 novels and a cookbook, and enjoys traveling, photography, swimming, geocaching, reading, and writing mysteries. Visit her at www.cherylrhodes.com