Thomas Jefferson himself once soaked in the soothing waters of Bath County’s legendary hot springs, declaring the warm mineral pools the best in the country.
In 1818, Jefferson spent three weeks at the resort hotel The Homestead, visiting the springs on the property several times a day to treat his rheumatism. Also referred to as the Warm Springs Pools, the pools were later named for the third president and have drawn people from around the country for centuries – including guests of Fort Lewis Lodge. We’re located just over the mountain from this historic landmark.
The Jefferson Pools include two main buildings – the octagonal Gentleman’s Pool House, built in 1761, and the circular Ladies Pool House, added in 1836. The Gentleman’s Pool, inside a white, wooden house that is said to be the oldest spa structure in the country, holds about 43,000 gallons of constantly flowing spring water, which originates in the Allegheny Mountains.
The crystal-clear, effervescent waters have a high mineral content, making floating easy (the available foam pool noodles help, too), and stay at 98 degrees year-round. The bathhouses are airy and are open at the top as a natural way for the steam to escape the bubbly water.
Legend holds that the hot springs were first discovered by Native Americans, and later became the playground for the well-to-do. Today, visitors can “take to the waters” with the whole family or during adult-only, swimsuit-optional times. It costs $17 for an hour’s soak.
The bathhouses, sadly, are in need of repair and are on Preservation Virginia’s list of Most Endangered Historic Sites. A grass-roots group called Friends of the Pools has been trying for the past few years to get the bathhouses restored and maintained to their original splendor.