An iconic bathhouse at Bagby Hot Springs has been closed and will be demolished this summer due to “extensive rotting” in its floors, the U.S. Forest Service announced.
Bathhouse 2, made famous because visitors could soak in cedar logs in five private rooms, has long been a centerpiece of the hot springs nestled in Mount Hood National Forest south of Estacada.
Originally built in 1985, the ramshackle building often billowed with steam as 136-degree water rolled down a handcrafted chute and into rooms with an open view of old-growth forest.
But the constant interplay of hot water and a rainforest environment took a toll, and this fall engineers discovered rotten wood in floors supporting the heavy log tubs.
“Our primary concern was that people soaking would break through the floor and fall quite a long way,” Clackamas River District Ranger Jackie Groce told the Statesman Journal. “The extent of the rotting meant there was no quick fix.”
Groce responded by shutting down Bathhouse 2 — the doors are boarded up and signs warn visitors not to enter. They’ll demolish the structure entirely next spring or summer.
In the meantime, Bathhouse 1 and 3 remain open. They only provide public soaking — no private rooms. But the long-term plan is to come up with a “more sustainable long-term design for the entire site,” Groce said.
“At this point, we haven’t settled on any specific design,” she said. “After we decommission Bathhouse 2, we’ll pull together a team to really look at what people like about Bagby, what kind of experience they’re seeking, but also think about what a sustainable structure looks like.”
A big part of the problem at Bagby is that many of the buildings and soaking tubs are built of wood that’s prone to breaking down in the harsh environment. Vandalism also has long been a problem.
The wooden buildings contrast with other public hot springs around Oregon that often have simple rock pools.
At the same time, it’s the funky wooden buildings that give Bagby its unique appeal, including the type of private rooms found nowhere else in Oregon at public hot springs.
“I’m not sure wooden structures are the most sustainable in the long-term given the environment, but we’re open to ideas and we’ll look into whatever options that we hear people are interested in,” Groce said.
How to visit Bagby
Bagby Hot Springs is located in remote forest between Estacada and Detroit.
It requires a 1.5 mile hike to reach and is open year-round, but can also be dangerous to reach in the winter after low-elevation snow blocks the remote Forest Service roads.
A $5 fee is required and a litany of rules for hot springs use are posted at the trailhead.
Provided snow isn't blocking your path, the trail is beautiful winding through lush Cascadian forest with massive trees and almost nonstop views of the Hot Springs Fork of the Collawash River. The trail is wide, level and well-maintained.
At the hot springs compound, there are now two soaking areas in an upper and lower location. It mostly consists of large group soaking tubs set amid lush old-growth forest.
Bagby is often crowded on weekends, and anyone visiting should be prepared to wait for hot springs use, especially now that there are fewer options.
A nice waterfall and backcountry camping areas are about a quarter mile away. No camping is allowed within the hot springs compound.
For more information — and to check conditions before visiting — call the Clackamas Ranger District (503.630.6861)
Zach Urness has been an outdoors writer, photographer and videographer in Oregon for 11 years. He is the author of the book “Best Hikes with Kids: Oregon” and “Hiking Southern Oregon.” He can be reached at zurness@StatesmanJournal.com or (503) 399-6801. Find him on Twitter at @ZachsORoutdoors.