Bagby Hot Springs are natural springs found near a tributary of the Clackamas River almost 70 miles southeast of Portland. To have a soak you must first hike 1.5 miles into the woods along the banks of Shower Creek. When you arrive you’ll find a number of bathhouses — most for two people, a couple for groups. Clothing is optional (in the private tubs). Alcohol is forbidden. They are open 24 hours a day. And they’re free to visit.
According to the history books they were discovered in 1880 by a prospector named Robert Bagby. The original bathhouse was built there in the 1920s, but in 1979 it burnt down after visitors left candles unattended. The Forest Service and a group of volunteers known as the Friends of Bagby worked to rebuild and manage Bagby, but unfortunately crime, littering and vandalism just increased.
Visit there now and you’ll discover a lot of people with passion for the place. Volunteers still care for the grounds but law enforcement officials have also increased their presence.
The Forest Service, which manages Bagby, is restoring the bathhouses again in hopes of attracting a private company to run it. They accepted bids until the end of business on November 24th. And they’re expecting to announce a decision about the future of Bagby late December. Friends of Bagby are calling for increased public consultation before any decision is made.
Have you visited Bagby Hot Springs? Oregon Field Guide did. Check out their show here:
What do you hope for the future of these hot springs? Have you ever loved a public place so much that you volunteered your time to care for it? Is that how public land should be run? Or should it be handed over to private companies to manage?
- Malcolm Hamilton: recreation manager for Mt. Hood National Forest
- Amy Harwood: program director for BARK
- Daniel Stevens: formed Friends of Bagby and built many of the wooden tubs that exist there now
- Michael Rysavy: executive director of the Northwest Forest Conservancy
- Chuck Shepard: owner and CEO of Hoodoo Family Recreation
More Think Out Loud
OPB | April 16, 2015