Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center (pronunciation: BRIGHT en BUSH), commonly called Breitenbush Hot Springs or simply Breitenbush (or even "The Bush" by locals), is a worker-owned resort community featuring holistic and spiritual retreats. It is surrounded by the Willamette National Forest in Breitenbush, Marion County, Oregon, United States, 10 miles (16 km) east-northeast of Detroit along the West Cascades Scenic Byway and 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Mount Jefferson. The closest metropolitan area, Salem, is approximately 60 miles (100 km) to the west. The resort is located at the site of the Breitenbush Hot Springs, which drain into the adjacent Breitenbush River.
The hot springs stem from precipitation on the surrounding Cascade Range. Analysis of the mineral and chemical content indicates an average subsurface temperature of 356 °F (180 °C) and a migration time of several thousand years. The water's long contact with aquifer rock at such temperatures saturates it with dissolved minerals such as sulfate, calcite, analcime, anhydrite, chalcedony, microcline, muscovite, quartz, wairakite, and the elements potassium, sodium, magnesium, calcium, and lithium. The surface temperature of the springs is about 180 °F (82 °C)—the lower temperature due to heat transfer to cooler rock near the Earth's surface.
Heat for the buildings is from one of two wells. To prevent mineral precipitation in the pipes, the wells are fitted with heat exchangers using closed loop water circulation. The drilled wells are approximately 500 feet (150 m) deep and produce circulating water at about 190 °F (88 °C) which is distributed through radiators in each building.
Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat and Conference Center is known for hosting many counterculture, holistic, spiritual, and New Age retreats; most are open to the public by advance reservation. The current resort has been in operation since 1981; it includes springs and affiliated spas and sauna, which are all clothing optional.
Spread across a meadow overlooking the Breitenbush River and the thickly wooded evergreen hillside are three rock-lined pools that can accommodate six to ten people each; closer to the river, four tiled hot tubs lie in a concrete patio, each comfortably seating four to six people. The temperatures of the hot tubs are regulated, ranging from 101 to 109 °F (38 to 43 °C). A small wooden house with a slatted floor is positioned over a hot springs creek, forming a sauna that seats up to twelve people.
Other features include more than 20 miles (32 km) of hiking trails, a lodge, rustic guest cabins, tent platforms (in summer), a meditative labyrinth, a sanctuary, a gift shop, and a conference center. Guest services include massage, yoga classes, meditation, EDGU, and other healing arts programs.
According to the resort's operators, Breitenbush is focused on sustainability. The resort generates its own electricity (hydropower with diesel back up); appliances such as hairdryers are not permitted. The surrounding mountains prevent operation of cell telephones and reception of non-satellite radio and television. Geothermal energy heats all buildings at the resort; Breitenbush is the largest private geothermal facility in the Pacific Northwest. The resort serves only vegetarian meals (vegan on advance request). Alcohol, recreational drugs, and pets are not permitted.
Occasionally the resort is closed for organized group events. It also closes midweek and some weekends during the late fall, winter, and early spring. Demand is high during the summer—advance reservations of several weeks are frequently needed. Day use, including meals, may be arranged on short notice if the resort is open.
After being encountered by trappers arrived from the Hudson's Bay Company, Breitenbush was homesteaded by Claude Mansfield. The homestead patent was granted on August 16, 1904, by Theodore Roosevelt. Breitenbush was named for one-armed Dutch explorer Peter Breitenbusher.
In 1927, the site was purchased by Merle Bruckman, who constructed the resort and operated it for twenty years. Over the years the site changed hands, closing in 1972 after two devastating floods.
In 1977 Alex Beamer purchased Breitenbush Hot Springs, intending to host a full-time community to operate the resort. The desire of logging interests to exploit Breitenbush timber posed a threat to the site that continued until the Clinton Forest Plan of 1993 designated it a Late Successional Reserve. In 1985, Beamer sold the facility to the community which began hosting resort guests shortly thereafter.
The resort is structured as a worker-owned cooperative whose workers and their families live in community year-round on the 154-acre (0.62 km2) site. The permanent community has 50 to 70 individuals. New members are accepted by community consensus after a year of work and paying a deposit. The community is entirely supported by revenue from resort operations; adult members are expected to contribute by participating in the resort's operation. Pay is less than at similar resorts, but housing, utilities, and food are provided. Member turnover is high, but comparable to other resorts.
- Bagby Hot Springs, a less developed hot springs not far from Breitenbush
- Michael Manga, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, California. "Using Springs to Study Groundwater Flow and Active Geologic Processes" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-08-08.
- "Sustainability at Breitenbush". Breitenbush Hot Springs. Retrieved 26 July 2012.
- Fainberg, Denise. Restored, Naturally. New York Times. 20 Oct. 1996.
- Tim McDevitt and Michael Donnelly. "A Natural History of Breitenbush". Retrieved 2006-08-08.
- "The Breitenbush Community—Who We Are and What We Do". Retrieved 2006-08-08.
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