NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.

Soak In A Little History at Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, VA

By: Michelle Harper

Soak In A Little History at Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs, VA

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs VirginiaImagine this: You are Thomas Jefferson, its 1776, and you have just completed writing the Declaration of Independence. What are you going to do now?
"Forget Disney World, I am going to Jefferson Pools."

Well, that's not quite how it happened. Actually, it was about 42 years later in 1818 that Thomas Jefferson found his way to Warm Springs, VA to soak his weary body in the healing waters of the Gentlemen's Spa. It was then that he discovered what many have known for thousands of years - the constant temperature of 98 degrees and the unique mineral content of the springs provide a natural remedy to whatever ails your body and spirit.

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs VirginiaIn the interest of equal opportunity (and luckily for us ladies), a women's spa was built in 1836 and those same healing springs continue to flow today to sooth any travelers, male or female, lucky enough to find this little known treasure. In fact, these days, in addition to "Taking the waters" visitors can also opt for a massage featuring ginseng roots hand gathered from the area. The massage is the perfect complement to a good soak and the best way to turn those taught muscles into spagetti.

VirginiaWind paid a visit to Jefferson Pools on a weekday when no one seemed to be around, which provided the perfect opportunity for a tour of the facilities. We barely made it into the park when we first began to understand how that Warm Springs was more than just a name for the area. Kent reached down placed his hand in a stream that connects the men's and the women's bathouses and noted that the water, instead of feeling cool, was just like warm bath water. It was about that time, when we were overcome by the second most notable impression of the area - the unmistakeable smell of sulphur emanating from the springs. There was little doubt that these were not your run of the mill springs.

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs VirginiaWe were greeted by the care taker who offered to show us around. He took us inside the Gentlemen's Spa, an octagonal building, which happens to be the oldest spa structure in America. Once inside, there was no mistaking the purpose of the place as the building was dominated by a large deep pool formed from natural rocks about 120 feet around in the center of the structure. The water was very clear, and after a closer inspection we noticed lots of bubbles rising from the stones that form the bottom of the pool. We could hear the relaxing sounds of bubbles breaking the surface and the sound of rushing water from a waterfall as the water left the building.

We noticed a walkway around the pool with changing rooms off to the side. Although one doorway looked like a changing room, the guide informed us that down below was a place where you could sit and have the water fall on you. Unable to resist, we went down the stairs for a closer inspection. It was extremely damp, the sound of rushing water was very strong and the air felt very clean. Just standing nearby was invigorating.

Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs VirginiaBack up in the main room, we looked up at the roof and noticed that at its peak it was open. In fact, the roof only actually covers the changing rooms and the walkway around the pool. For the most part the roof over the pool is nothing but the rafters. At first this seemed odd but after some thought, it made perfect sense. Given the temperature of the water, it would probably never get very cold in the building, and without the open roof it would likely get unbearably hot in the summer. The gases coming up from the pool base might get a bit intense as well without the extra circulation. As for rain or snow, that wouldn't really matter since if you were in the pool you'd be wet already. Besides what could be more natural than looking up into a clear blue sky on a beautiful morning while soaking in a nice warm tub of bubbling water. Sigh........."Calgon Take Me Away!"

Just as a side-note, because the men's and women's spas are separate facilities, The Jefferson Pools are bathing suit optional so it gives a whole new meaning to "ride free".

Hours of operation: June to October 10am - 6 pm
November to May: Please call (540)839-7547 for hours of operation.

Directions: I-66 west to I-81 south to Staunton, then Route 275 west to U.S. 250 west, Route 42 south to Goshen, then Route 39 west to Warm Springs.

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