Americas

The Water of the Gods

I could literally feel my heart growing with gratitude. I remember thinking it was going to explode out of my chest. I was completely drunk off of the atmosphere at Norris Hot Springs, Water of the Gods, out in the seemingly middle of nowhere Montana. I was nearing the end of my 11,000 mile road trip around the U.S.A. when I made a completely random stop into Bozeman, MT to visit an old friend, Rose Garden.

I had been updating my Facebook page and blog throughout the entire journey and as soon as Rose noticed I was in Missoula, MT, she insisted I visit her. It was basically right on my way, as I was cruising east along I-90. She has been hanging out in Montana for the last five years and wanted to take me somewhere cool and memorable. It didn’t take her long to decide on the hot springs.

I had no idea what I was getting into. The ride out to Norris from Bozeman took about 40 minutes, and I was completely stunned by the scenic drive. The Rocky Mountains surrounded us and I felt as though the vast openness of big sky Montana was going to swallow us whole.

Open year-round, with only a small contribution asked for at the door, this place was completely worth every one of the few dollars I spent to get in. The 30 by 40 foot pool is completely natural, chemical-free, spring water. The fur wood planks, purchased locally, were used to build the pool right over the source of the spring, which flows at a steady 60 gallons per minute. With a natural temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit, the pool’s engineers designed a system of sprayers that circulate the water and cools it to a comfortable temperature at right around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool is drained each night and allowed to refill with new water each morning and is closed every Monday and Tuesday for a thorough scrub down.

There were so many cool features to this lovely spot. They had conveniently placed changing rooms around the pool. Rose and I changed into our suits and purchased a couple of local brews from the bartender. They had a great selection of local, organic beer and wine. We opted for a couple Salmon Fly Honey Ryes and hopped into the amazingly refreshing hot spring for a relaxing soak.

I noticed a large dome-shaped stage to the front of the pool. We arrived just in time for a mellow, folksy acoustic guitar set. I nearly lost my mind when a woman joined this lovely man to sing a John Prine and Bonnie Rait cover — Angel from Montgomery — my all-time favorite folk song. There was an intoxicating, deliciously heady vibe that filled the air and I could literally feel my heart growing, as I was so grateful to Rose Garden for taking me to America’s best kept secret.

The initiative that the owner and staff of the hot springs take to implement an environmentally friendly, sustainable atmosphere was present everywhere. Upon arriving, the greenhouse and gardens are beautiful, the kitchen is powered by solar panels and they even have a safe driver program which includes a free soak pass to any designated driver of carloads of 3 or more.

The Hot Springs in Norris have been around forever. It was occupied by ancient Indians that roamed the land, and in the 1900s it was a popular destination for train travelers and used as a bathing spot by miners and railroad workers. From 1972 to 2004 it was owned by Doris from Norris, who played a vital role in creating the spring’s popularity amongst locals and tourists alike. The present owner, Holly Heinzmann, purchased the spring from Doris and has been responsible for putting up the dome stage, adding the gardens and the most recent addition, The 50 Mile Grill. This grill cooks up wonderful offerings, all from within a 50 mile radius of the spring. There are tons of vegan and vegetarian options as well as locally raised, grass-fed meats. Fresh Norris hot springs also takes care of those with a sweet tooth, as they have homemade organic cookies, as well as popsicles, brownies, and ice cream.

There is literally something for everyone at the Water of the Gods. Locals can bring their children for a free soak on Wednesdays or Thursdays. After 7pm there is local live music. I imagine this place is wonderful on the weekends, after a hard week of work, just sitting and soaking your bones. This was one of the most magical places I visited on my tour of the states. If you catch me daydreaming, this place is what I’m envisioning.

After leaving, I felt, in fact, like a Goddess.

Christina Berube
Christina Berube is an aspiring chef, photographer, blogger, travel writer, and hula hoop dancer. Her travels have taken her to several cities in Europe, Islands in the Caribbean, Canada, and most recently a cross country trip from Maine to California. You can follow her personal blog for more exciting stories: http://hippygoluckyhoops.blogspot.com/

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