Harrison Hot Springs
So easy to get there, so hard to leave
Harrison Hot Springs is, without a doubt, one of the most fascinating and romantic places in the world. Situated at the south end of beautiful Harrison Lake in British Columbia's Coastal Mountains, this perfect setting lingers in my memory and keeps pulling me back. At the turn of the century when the 'rich and famous' arrived at the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel, they stayed four to six weeks because the journey was so difficult. Today, the journey is easy, but four to six weeks would still be ideal.
The two hot springs are located at the southwest end of Harrison Lake. Long before the white man knew of their existence, the springs were revered by the Coast Salish people who travelled by canoe to benefit from their healing waters, so rich in minerals. In fact, the pools are nicknamed 'Potash' and 'Sulphur.' People with rheumatism and arthritis have great faith in the hot pools.
Windsurfers Love It
It wasn't until 1858 that the white man discovered the springs. The story is told that three miners, returning from the gold fields at Barkerville, crossed Harrison Lake during a storm. As they neared the southwest end, one of the canoes overturned in the apparently frigid waters of the glacier-fed lake. The unlucky prospector was astonished to find that the water was warm. In any other part of the lake, the temperature averages a cool 8 C. Ever since that incident, the pools have been a popular stopover for weary travellers.
Though the town has less than 1,000 inhabitants, there is no shortage of excellent restaurants. Accommodations range from world class to a place to pitch a tent or park an RV.
Harrison, fed by the glaciers of the Coast Range, is the largest lake in southwestern British Columbia. It is 60 km in length and great for all kinds of water activity - boating, fishing, canoeing, water skiing, swimming and cruising. Windsurfers love it because strong thermal winds can easily create waves over a metre high, For swimmers who prefer warmer water a lagoon has been built. Boat launches are located neat Rendall Park within the village, at Green Point day-use area in Sasquatch Provincial Park and Kilby Park Boat Launch. The public pool filled with mineral waters from the springs, rent lockers, towels and swimsuits.
The surrounding mountains are known as Sasquatch Country, where sightings of the legendary apelike creature, twice the size of a man, have been reported dozens of times. More likely to be found are jades, garnets, agates, fossils and gold. In late summer and fall shen the Fraser River is low, exposed gravel bars between Agassiz and Hope yield 600 varieties of rocks. The area is renowned among rockhounds.
In 1885 the railroad reached nearby Harrison Mills and soon after the luxurious St. Alice Hotel and Bath House was built, accommodating 160 guests. The best room in the hotel rented for $8.00. The St. Alice Hotel burned to the ground in 1920. Very little was saved but the management of the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel has been busy collecting interesting memorabilia and stories that reflect its history.
One such item is an attractive mug with the picture of the St. Alice Hotel and on the bottom, the date "1909...made in Germany." It is neither a coffee mug nor a beer stein but a special cup given to guests for drinking from the hot springs.
The present Harrison Hot Springs Hotel was built in 1926. It was opened and managed by Madame Marguerite De Gusseme until 1943. From then until 1946 it served the military as a WWII convalescent centre. Recently the Hotel renovated its lobby by adding a 22-seat Miss. Margaret's Cafe, named in honour of this fabulous lady. Mackenzie King was a frequent visitor to the hotel, and reports indicate the Prime Minister thought Marguerite was special, too.
Clark Gable Golfed Here
The internationally renowned hotel is famous for its warm hospitality, comfortable surroundings and gracious lifestyle. One of the nicest features of the hotel is the staff, remarkable for their long-term tenure. Each one seems to take unusual pride in the hotel and feels personally responsible for the comfort and pleasure of the guests.
A map of the grounds exists somewhere and the hotel manager would love to find it. Apparently, all the trees were planted by dignitaries and at one time a small plaque identified the person. Unfortunately, none remain. The only ones known for certain are the oak trees along the Esplanade (the street along the waterfrront) which were planted by Clark Gable, a regular visitor to Harrison Hot Springs Hotel.
Another story of interest is one told by the chef who worked at the hotel from 1936-1939. The King and Queen of Siam (Thailand) were guests at the hotel and he was responsible for their special meals. On leaving, they gave him a $500.00 tip. Not bad for 1936!
The hotel pools are wonderful. The combined waters from the springs are cooled from 72 C to 39 C and piped into the hotel's two outdoor and two indoor pools as well as the baths of the health spa. Guests are invited to enjoy the indoor pools 24 hiours a day.
The first stage of a new spa project has just been completed with the addition of 6,000 square feet of outdoor pools with cascading waterfall, rock formations and plantings to simulate a typical West Coast setting. With the mountains in the background, the picture is complete. At night, the trees are beautiful with hundreds of tiny lights.
Wassail Ceremony
When the spa project is completed, the focus will be on wellness - a state of mental, physical, spiritual and emotional well being. This historic hotel will soon reposition itself as Western Canada's landmark health and lifestyle resort.
Dinners in the Copper Room are elegant, the sevice impeccable and the food excellent. Dance the night away in a setting that transports you to another world, It is a journey back to the days when fine dining and ballroom dancing were the hallmark of the great hotels. Couples come from all across Canada and the U.S. to celebrate honeymoons, anniversaries and special occasions.
It is just three kilometres to the hotel's 9-hole, PGA rated Oak tree Golf Course. The lush landscape is delightful. Built in the valley, it is easily walked, but carts are available. Guests staying at the hotel, get a 20% discount with a mid-week package.
Harrison Hot Springs Hotel has popular two and three-day packages for Robbie Burns, St. Valentine's, Easter, Christmas, New Year, weekends, full mid-week, golf getaways and honeymoons. On Christmas Day the Wassail Ceremony with Yule Log and Holly, has been celebrated every year since 1936.
Harrison Hot Springs is one of the world's special places. Mountains protect it from all sides and the snowcapped peaks in the distance add to the beauty. This pristine environment is great for the soul. As night falls and the stillness of the wilderness sets in, you know you have come to the end of a perfect day.

When You Go
How to get there: From Vancouver Airport drive south on Highway 99 to 10. East on Hwy 10 to Trans Canada East to Agassiz-Harrison turnoff.
Biking: Excellent trails. Rentals available.
Wilderness tours: Salmon, eagles, wildlife, historic sites.
Fishing: Charters available.
The Bridal Falls: 15 minutes from Harrison.
Hemlock Valley Ski and Recreation Areas: The best downhill and cross-country skiing in the Fraser Valley. Equally beautiful in spring and summer with wild alpine flowers and views of Mt. Baker and Mt. Garibladi.
Hope Slide: Site of a gigantic landslide which buried the highway with 45 metres of rock.
Weaver Creek Spawning Ground and Chihalis fish Hatchery.
Agassiz-Harrison Museum: L ocated in the oldest wooden railroad station in B.C.