All About Idaho Hot Springs

Idaho has the most usable hot springs out of any state in the nation; with about 130 soakable out of 340. However, Nevada has the most hot springs overall, but the majority of them are not soakable. The water is hot because it is heated from within the Earth's crust, forcing it up to the surface where pools are developed or form naturally near the outflow.

Ninety percent of Idaho's 340 hot springs are the result of leftover energy heating water near fault lines. This energy is leftover from a 17 million year old meteorite collision that occurred in present day southeast Oregon. The collision dramatically altered the once lush environment into the high desert landscape that is familiar to us today.

Black basalt currently visible along Interstate 84 between Boise and Idaho Falls remains as evidence of the collision, as is Craters of the Moon National Monument. The migrating hot spot created by the impact of the meteorite was once underneath Craters of the Moon, just as it is now under Yellowstone National Park.

The other 10 percent of Idaho's hot springs are from water being heated by active volcanoes, typically at or around fault lines.

Two Types Of Hot Springs

Public Natural Hot Springs - These springs are typically on public land and are considered a somewhat 'rustic' or 'wilderness' style of soak, although sometimes improvements made to the pools can yield to a commercial look and feel.

Commercial Natural Hot Springs - These springs are typically on private land and usually require a fee of some sort to access.


Linda said...

Hot Springs Guy,

While the Yellowstone Hot Spot may in fact have been active for about 17 million years, yours is the first statement I've seen that it's the result of a 'meteorite collision'. That would seem to be one theory, not a fact. An interesting theory, nonetheless; have you a link?

Hot spots are normally defined as stationary points on the earth, over which continental plates sometimes pass. I liken this to slushy ice in a stream, passing over a protruding rock. The ice hits the rock, cracks, parts, slides around relative to itself...

Looking at a map of hot springs to the west of Y'Stone, one sees the wake of the hot spot. Idaho gets the northern tier of hot springs, and Nevada the southern wing. Of course, it's the hot spot which is stationary, and the continental fragments which are moving.

Next topic: The road north from Warm Lake -- Is it to be paved?

HSG said...

Hi Linda,

You bring up some excellent points! However, the meteorite collision is what created the hot spot that is in fact responsible for Yellowstone. While my post portrayed the hot spot as migrating, it is in fact stationary. It is the tectonic plate that moves over the hot spot and the overlaying land above that make it seem in motion. I was trying to keep my explanation relatively simple as to not confuse the reader, which I ended up doing anyway!

Here's where the hot springs explanation comes in. The impact of the meteorite was deep, in fact so deep that it remains stationary while the North American tectonic plate shifts above it. As the plate slowly moves, the hot spot periodically erupts volcanic lava - leaving a traceable path of volcanic activity. This path of volcanic activity is not only responsible for Yellowstone, but for almost all of the hot springs activity in Idaho. Other evidence the hot spot has left behind include Craters of the Moon and the basalt lava flows visible throughout southeast Idaho, most notably off Interstate 84.

I hope you can see now how my explanation, although confusing, was actually fact and not theory. In regard to your question about the road north of Warm Lake; the South Fork Salmon River Road is already paved. It is my assumption that they are making road repairs and widening the road where appropriate.

Thank you for your comment!

Print Source: Roadside Geology of Idaho, Mountain Press Publishing Company, 1995
Note: There are also various sources available online as well

Mike G said...

Hello again,

I understand hot spots. I've also wondered if meteors could be involved in their origins. However, when looking around the internet, I find only mentions of a 'theory' that the Snake River plain is meteor-caused.

"Bolide Hypothesis
The book "Roadside Geology of Idaho" (alt and Hyndman, 1990) attributes the origin of the Snake River Plain-Yellowstone Hot Spot to the impact of huge meteorite or "bolide." There is no geologic evidence for this rather outrageous claim. The bolide hypothesis is based on circumstantial evidence and provocative inference; it is hypothesis, not scientific fact."

I like as much as anyone the dramatic notion of a meteor's momentum churning up the Earth for millions of years. I'll keep my eyes open for more evidence. But clearly, not everyone in the field of geology is buying it.

Great website, by the way. Have you heard of anyone hiking in to Barth HS, on the Main Salmon? Boaters stop there, and the pictures look great.

P.S., I'm Mike. Linda is my housemate. I don't know whose name will appear this time, nor (apparently) how to control that.

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