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Tuesday, June 8, 2010

9 Awe-Inspiring Hot Springs

Find out which healing waters are richest in history, minerals and more

By Brynn Mannino

from WomansDay.com


Hot springs—leaks within the earth’s geothermal crust from which hot, mineral-rich water pours—exist all over the globe. And though it hasn’t actually been proven that they cure diseases (as some are reputed to), hot springs are generally known for their de-stressing and muscle-soothing properties. However, there are a handful of bubbling pools that are so awe-inspiring—whether it’s the view, the water color or frequent animal visitors—that they’re in a league of their own.

Most Dangerous

As melting snow pours out of the 8,500-foot-high Twin Lakes in Long Valley, California, it joins forces with the Hot Creek State Fish Hatchery and flows down from the Hot Creek Springs. Problem is, since May 2006, the springs have been sporadically spurting hot, sediment-filled water as high as 6 feet above the stream. The site has been a longtime recreation escape for fishing, hiking, bird watching and more, but some areas have been closed to the public while the water’s geothermal activity is monitored. Photo courtesy of the United States Geological Survey.


Most Fleeting

The Steep Ravine Beach Hot Springs in Mill Valley, California, are quite possibly some of the most fleeting (and secret) in the world. Believe it or not, the springs are hidden below the ocean at the shoreline’s tidal zone and only revealed during low tide, which occurs four to five times a year (at the winter and summer solstices plus a few other occasions). So if you go, it’s probably a good idea to take a guide; the pools can be hard to find on your own. Photo courtesy of John Weiss via Flickr.


Largest Pool

At 529 feet long and 100 feet wide, Colorado’s Glenwood Hot Springs, originally termed “The Grand Spring” by the Ute Indians, form the largest natural hot spring swimming pool in the world. The 104°F pool water contains sodium chloride, potassium sulfate, calcium sulfate and calcium bicarbonate (known for healing dehydrated skin and soothing sore muscles). The pool is continuously filled by the Yampah Spring, which has a daily flow rate of 2.5 million gallons of water. Photo courtesy of Passion for Pics.


Highest Hot Springs in Tibet

Yangbajing, near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, is host to a group of famous hot springs, which dot a green valley encircled by snow-capped mountains, and sit at altitudes reaching 15,000 feet. Filled with salty minerals even on the most frigid days of winter, the hot springs maintain a temperature of nearly 90°F. Photo courtesy of China Fact Tours.


Largest in the United States

Located in the Midway Geyser Basin in Yellowstone Park, the deep Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the U.S. (and third largest in the world). The “boiling lake,” as early explorers described it, measures 300 feet in diameter and is famous for its rainbow of colors—usually orange and red in the summer, dark green in the winter—which are the result of an interaction between the heat and the bacterial film that lines the edge of the spring. Photo courtesy of Yellowstone National Park.


Largest Known Calcium Carbonate Spring

Located in the northwest corner of Yellowstone Park, Terrace Mountain is the largest known calcium carbonate–depositing spring in the world. The terraces are formed from the mountain’s daily outpouring: Two tons of calcium carbonate–rich water flow from the Norris Geyser Basin each day, which turns into limestone, attributed to the ever-expanding size of the travertine hill. The process releases energy that’s said to help fuel other geothermal areas within the park. Photo courtesy of Bernt Rostad via Flickr.


Most Photogenic

Considered one of the nine “hells” or springs of Beppu, Japan (others include a mud spring, white-foam spring and crocodile-breeding spring), the Chinoike Jigoku or “blood pond hell” is known for its red water, made so by iron. Considered the most photogenic of the “hells,” the spring has been around for 1,300 years. The temperature is near 172°F, which makes it perfect for your viewing, rather than bathing, pleasure. Photo by AFP/Getty Images.


Coolest Animal Bathers

Located in the valley of the Yokoyu River in Yamanouchi, Japan, are several steaming, bubbling hot springs. What sets the Jigokudani Monkey Park springs apart from all others is its frequent bathers—specifically furry, red-faced Japanese Macaques, commonly referred to as snow monkeys. Despite its relatively remote location, roughly 90,000 visitors trek through the woods each year to visit the park, which boasts at least 250 monkeys. Photo by Getty Images.


Highest Temperatures in Europe

The Aquis-Granum Springs in Aachen, Germany, are famed for both their extensive history (Charlemagne and Casanova both allegedly bathed there) and their record-breaking temperatures. At 165°F, the thermal springs in the area are among the hottest in Central Europe. Based on a small amount of documentary proof, the Romans are credited with finding and naming the springs, which can now be visited in two prime locations: Carolus Thermen complex and the bathhouse in Burtscheid. Photo by Bernd Stuhlmann.

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