The History of Takhini Hot Springs
An Explorer's Guide to Whitehorse, Yukon
Now called Takhini Hot Pools, their website is TakhiniHotPools.com.
- "It used to be called Jim Boss' Bathtub. In fact, the famous Indian Chief whose village stood on the marge of Lake LeBarge actually had an old bathtub there at the Takhini Hot Springs years ago, and as the story goes, he made a trip into the site once each winter to take a nice hot bath." (Whitehorse Star, July 26, 1971)
- 1902: Original Application to Government for lease, by Mr. William Allen Puckett and Mr. A.R. Gordon in December 1902. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- 1907: Land purchased at $2.00 per acre by Mr. Puckett and Mr. S.A. Simmons. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- 1907 - 1935: Owned by Mr. Puckett. Spelling of the name was "Tahkeena". He owned a roadhouse - which became a popular place for parties - a few small cabins, two barns, and a store beside the Dawson Trail. Across from the roadhouse was a N.W. Mounted Police station. The coach stopped here before it continued to and from Whitehorse. During this time there was no Mayo Road or Hotsprings Road so people had to take the Dawson Trail for 14 miles to the Takhini River, a boat 15 miles up the river to the spring landing, and then 1 1/2 miles by foot to the Spring. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- "Bill Boland first staked the hotsprings area and for some years, sightseeing tours were taken into the springs by Cam Smith and Monty Chambers. The guides used to tell the tourists they were 'truth springs' and one drink from them meant you would tell the truth for the rest of your life. That didn't impress one young lady in a tour one day... she told the guide 'Then you've obviously never taken a drink there!' After that, he just called them 'soda springs.'" (Whitehorse Star, July 26, 1971)
The Weekly Star - Friday, May 3, 1907
Boil out! Get the tin cans, pewter and moose blood out of your system but do not go to Tenakee, Hoonah, Harrison, Green River or Arkansas to do it. Patronize home industry and go to the Whitehorse Hot Springs just discovered staked and recorded on the left limit of Takhini river and only three miles below Puckett's roadhouse. Three hours by boat from Whitehorse but only 30 minutes when the Puckett-Simmons Hot Water electric line is completed.
The spring, a regular Ponce de Leon fountain of perpetual youth, is there and from it is gushing a constant flow of 100 cubic inches of water, two sluiceheads of water of Hunker, Bonanza, Burwash, Swede Creek or any other self-respecting mining locality. The temperature of the water is 120 degrees above zero, just hot enough to sort of parboil a Yukon pioneer. The water is believed to possess medicinal properties such as will cure every ailment in the human category from gout down (or up rather) to chamber maids knee.
Messrs. W. A. Puckett and Stephen Simmons, wellknown roadhouse magnates, have filed on the springs' property and will shortly erect a sanitarium or two for the benefit of those who need treatment. There are two of the gushing fountains in close proximity and so far as curative, health giving, life-prolonging properties are concerned, Herb Wheeler gives it as his opinion that each is better than the other. A short distance below the main spring, the one that gushes forth on the mound, is a large deposit of red powder that might be canned and sold as Cayenne pepper. But this is a matter for future consideration.
However, the fact remains that boiling springs have been discovered and located near Whitehorse and it is confidently believed by those who have visited them that they will prove of great value to the locators.
- August 16, 1907, Whitehorse photographer and miner E. J. Hamacher made the first of several trips to the hotsprings with friends, with his gasoline launch. (The Weekly Star)
The Weekly Star, August 23, 1907
Recent Discovery Told of by Mr. Hamacher.
Photographer E. J. Hamacher has favored us with the following description of the Takhini hot springs, the property of Messrs. W. A. Puckett and S. A. Simmons.
The springs are distant from Whitehorse about 30 1/2 miles, 14 miles to the mouth of the Takhini River, 15 miles up that stream to the springs landing and one and a half miles from the river northward to the springs.
The springs are located in a beautiful spot almost level but sloping gently toward the river. The water boils up from a bowl-shaped basin, overflows it at one edge, and runs over the sloping ground until it reaches a deep canyon through which it makes its way toward the river. At the foot of this canyon is a large crescent shaped slough or lake which has an outlet to the river.
The volume of water which flows from the spring would fill a six-inch pipe and its deposit below the springs show large quantities of iron and lime. The temperature of the water is about 120 degrees, Fahrenheit.
- January 17, 1908: Assistant Gold Commissioner R C. Miller and Ole Dixon walked from Whitehorse to the hot springs. "They both express the belief that the springs will be all-right and will, when accommodations are supplied, be very popular as a resort for other people with feet, rheumatics and all complaints of like nature. The two wayfarers walked about half way home Sunday when they were overtaken by a stage." (The Weekly Star)
- July 23, 1909: "Dan Gillis and 'Cam' Smith will visit Takhini hot springs Sunday, making the trip in the former's new gasoline chew chew boat." (The Weekly Star)
- 1940 - 1948: Mr. Bill Rowland is the new owner. He built two green houses and the first pool out of wood. The American Army used the springs during the war as recreation while building the Alaska Highway. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- August 8, 1947, a Notice of Dissolution of Partnership, Richards vs. Rawlings, was published, in connection with the operation of Takhini Hot Springs. (The Whitehorse Star)
The Whitehorse Star - Friday, September 19, 1947
SEALED TENDERS will be received by the undersigned up to 12.00 o'clock noon, Wednesday the 15th day of October, 1947, for the purchase of the following assets:
Bath house, log construction 12'x24'
Swimming pool, log construction 30'x60'.
Three green-houses each 12'x48'. (One of double glass construction.)
Tool shed 7'x7' wood frame and canvas top.
Old bath-house 10'x8'. (Frame construction.)
Cabin, log construction 10'x12'.
Cabin, log construction 12'x16'.
180' 3" Iron pipe installed to Hot-springs (surface).
320' 2" Iron pipe installed to Hot-springs (surface).
3 2" Gate valves installed on pipe.
Hot Water Heaters (Gas-drum) installed in the three green-houses.
Heater, Large Gas drum.
5 Mattresses (Single)
4 Beds Iron (Single).
5 Blankets (Single)
1 Wooden Bath-tub.
1 Wood heater, 18"x30"
All of the above is situated on 50 acres of land known as Takhini Hot Springs. This sale does not include land, but shall include application to purchase from the Dept. of Mines and Resources the fifty (50) acres of land surrounding the Hot Spring.
All tenders to be accompanied by a certified check of 10% of the bid and made payable to H. H. Cronkhite, Deputy Clerk of the Court Receiver.
H. H. CRONKHITE,
Deputy Clerk of the Court, Receiver.
The Whitehorse Star - Friday, November 17, 1950
Takhini Hot Springs, the Spa of the Yukon, has been sold by Mr. T. C. Richards to Mr. Carl Springer, well known Canadian Mining man.
Although we have no direct statements from Mr. Springer, we have been informed that the new owner intends to develop this playground A hotel, summer cabins and the construction of a large new swimming pool are said to be contemplated for the site. New roads are also said to be slated for construction into the Springs.
- July 13, 1951: "NOTICE. The swimming Pool at Takhini Hot Springs, located where the Takhini River joins the Yukon River, is unsanitary and is not to be used as a public swimming pool. Authority: Section 4, Subsection (V) of the Yukon Health Ordinance. Chief Sanitary Inspector, Yukon Health Department."
- October 28, 1952, Takhini Hot Springs, Ltd., was incorporated. "The objects for which the Company is incorporated are to acquire and purchase for the purpose of development and exploitation of Takhini Hot Springs, situate near Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, to carry on the business of hotel, restaurant, cafe, tavern, refreshment room, tourist lodge, camp and resort and lodging-house keepers, caterers for public amusement and recreation and any other business which can conveniently be carried on and for such other purposes germane to the carrying out of the foregoing..."
- May 30, 1953: due to several cases of poliomyelitis (polio), Takhini Hot Springs is among the many facilities ordered closed, under the Yukon Health Ordinance. Movies, concerts, and other indoor gatherings within 5 miles of the centre of Whitehorse are also banned, and Grades 1-8 at the Whitehorse School are closed.
- August 28, 1953: "Youth Drowns At Hot Springs Thursday. Edward Raymond Haydon, age
20, drowned at Takhini Hot Springs Thursday evening. Haydon, in company with several other youths, had gone to the Springs swimming and evidently returned to the water to swim alone. When his friends called to him, he did not answer and was found drowned."
Edward Hayden (note correct spelling) was buried at what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery, but his grave is not marked.
- September 9, 1953, Mr. and Mrs. J. B. "Bon" Kunze" first appear in The Whitehorse Star in connection with Takhini Hot Springs.
- June 28, 1956, the Whitehorse Gym Club is going to be offering free swimming lessons for people of all ages at Takhini Hot Springs, and is asking for volunteers to drive people to the springs. "The classes will continue as long as finances last."
- July 19, 1956: "Man Drowns At Takhini. Edwin Meyers McKay, foreman with the Prodor Construction Company Limited, drowned at Takhini Hot Springs in the early hours of July 18. Mr. McKay came here two years ago from Alberta. He is survived by his wife and three-year-old son Billy, a brother Morris all living in Whitehorse. His mother Mrs. Johanna McKay lives at Teslin and he is also survived by another brother and sister. No inquest will be made on the death, Funeral arrangements are being. made by Wallden Funeral Home. Services will be held July 21."
Edwin Meyers McKay was buried at what is now called the Pioneer Cemetery.
- August 2, 1956: "Johnny Bartol's swimming classes will begin again next Tuesday due to the re-opening of the Takhini Hot Springs."
- August 23, 1956: "Editor, Whitehorse Star,
Sir; It may be of interest to the people of this city that Ernie of the '98 Bar and the Klondike Taxi Service have kindly offered the free service of driver and car to take the kids to their swimming lessons at Takhini Hot Springs. Mr. Johnny Bartol will greatly appreciate any more offers of this kind. Don't let the kids down. Folks, let's all get together and help. Mrs. King and Johnny are doing such a swell job. That is all for now.
Your Man About Town
The Whitehorse Star - Thursday, September 13, 1956
About 500 children took advantage this year of the swim classes offered at Takhini Hot Springs by Whitehorse Gym Club. In July 73 girls and 143 boys took the classes. The following month 144 girls turned out and 143 boys. Many of the children had to be left behind because the club was unable to round up enough transportation for all those who wanted to take the classes. Total expense for July including car costs to the club amounted to $75.70. Costs in August totalled $99.60.
The club, sponsored by John Bartol, extended thanks to all those who assisted with the project and especially to Lions Club member Dave Porter, Jim Good, Ernie Armitage, George Clark and '98 Taxi, Ronnie Murdoch of Inn Cabs, Hans Black, CNT people for the loan of two cars, Val Bay and Frank Humpwood.
- June 20, 1957: "LAC Raymond G. Turple was drowned Saturday night at Takhini Hot Springs. A memorial service was held the Airforce chapel Monday at 7 pm. His body was flown out Tuesday morning to Edmonton. He will be buried near Montreal. LAC Turple is survived by his wife Gloria and two children, aged three years and six months. His family have been living near Montreal." The airman had just been posted to the Whitehorse RCAF base 10 days earlier.
- October 31, 1957: "Until further notice closing hours at Takhini Hot Springs will be 12 midnight weekdays and 3 am Sunday morning." (The Whitehorse Star)
- January 30, 1958: "H. Gordon Cooper of Takhini Hot Springs was a visitor during the past week. It was his first visit for a number of years." (The Whitehorse Star)
- April 24, 1958: "Announcing Reopening of Takhini Hot Spring April 25."
The Whitehorse Star - Thursday, May 29, 1958
By Helen Bogart
Discovered centuries ago by Yukon Indians, Takhini hotsprings are as popular with modern Yukoners as they were for the original inhabitants of the territory. At one time the route of the springs followed the Yukon River to its confluence with the Takhini, then up the Takhini to an overland trail which wound to the springs from the north.
Many residents still make the trip but they're not headed any further north. Takhini is a favorite outing spot for many local people - particularly since recent changes and improvements have been added.
After the gold rush when the Dawson trail was built, a better road was made into the springs, closely following the first Indian trail. This road continued on the fan marker at Lake Lebarge. When the Whitehorse-Mayo highway was completed, the old route from the north was abandoned for the present road.
A succesion of owners have managed the hotsprings. During the early 1940s Bill Rolling and T. C. Richards had a partnership and later mining magnate Karl Springer bought an interest. In 1952 a new partnership was formed when Hugo Seaholm, Bon and Ed Kunze took over. About two years ago the hotsprings changed hands again, the latest owner being Harry Gordon-Cooper.
At the time the Kunze brothers and Mr. Seaholm managed the springs, there was a log pool for swimmers. Built by a previous owner, the pool was about 400 feet from the springs themselves. Water at 117 degrees was piped through a six-inch pipe to the pool. According to former manager Bon Kunze, only about one degree of temperature is lost coming down through the pipe. He can remember swimming at Takhini when it was 40 below and swimmers had frost on their heads as they splashed in the hot water.
Log foundations of the original pool were used for the present building at the hotsprings, when the new pool was built. Continuing to improve the place are the new owners Clara and Harry Gordon-Cooper, who have installed modern beach equipment at the pool. A recent painting spree by Mrs. Cooper also smartened the interior of the building.
Before taking over the hotsprings, Harry worked with the government, first in Forestry and later with Water Resources. He and his wife came to the Yukon nine years ago and except for two years in Vancouver from 1953 to 1955, the couple have lived in Whitehorse since that time.
He came to this country originally as a bush pilot and sold his aircraft to Yukon Airways and became a partner in that firm. In those years - 1948 and 1949 - the Mayo road was not yet built and the partners flew extensively down river.
Other partners were Clyde Wann, Norman Hartnell, Bud Harbottle and Ronnie Greenslade. They subsequently amalgamated with George Milne's Whitehorse flying school to become Whitehorse Flying Service and, later, sold out to PWA.
Born in Alberta, he was raised in Vancouver and during a varied career has been a sailor, a professional dancer and a Pro Rec instruction. His wife Clara was born in Medicine Hat, Alberta and lived most of her life on the prairies. With them in the Yukon are their two children, Carol, 11 and 3-year old Derek, whose nickname is "Toughie."
With warmer weather coming up, the Coopers look forward to a busy summer at the hotsprings. In addition to the appealing warm water, they offer visitors snacks of hamburgers or hotdogs. Even for the non-swimmers, the 19-mile trip to Takhini hotsprings makes a nice afternoon jaunt. Energetic people who like walking can find several interesting trails to follow in the vicinity, including the old trail branching north to the Dawson overland route.
The Whitehorse Star - Thursday, July 17, 1958
As Whitehorse residents fearfully watched the northern sky Monday night, the advancing wall of smoke brought personal disaster to Harry Gordon-Cooper at Takhini hotsprings, Joe Kawchuk at Mile 936 on the highway and three Indian families living at Mile 955. Completely destroyed in minutes were all buildings at Mr. Kawchuk's farm and at the well known hotsprings. With his wife and their young son, Mr. Cooper was forced to leave Takhini with only the clothes they were were wearing. Caught in the same rush of flames was a group of forestry men who had to spend the night in the river.
Helping the Indian families to move from their homes at Mile 955 was local resident Ted Anderson, who heads the Indian Advancement Assocation here. These families were burned out by the blaze which started 100 feet from Mile 956 Maintenance camp, later joining the Mendenhall fire to create one of the worst nights for fire fighters in Yukon.
- September 1958: "Camp Retains Name. Mr. Gordon-Cooper, who operated Takhini Hot Springs some 16 miles from Camp Takhini, complained in May 1958 that considerable confusion resulting in harm his business was being caused by the camp name. The Minister National Defence issued instructions that new name should be selected for the camp.
In July, a forest fire completely destroyed the hot springs development and surrounding forest. The fire has rendered the site almost valueless as a tourist attraction for some years to come.
When it was ascertained that Mr. Gordon-Cooper did not intend to rebuild and the Territorial Government had no objection to the camp retaining the name, authority was requested to retain the name Camp Takhini for the Military Camp."
- May 12, 1960, large display ad: "Until Further Notice. Takhini Hot Springs Will be Closed for Swimming every night at Midnight."
- August 24, 1961, another comment in The Whitehorse Star that makes it sound like Takhini is a great distance, not 19 miles: "Rev. and Mrs Henry Hartmann and family left early Friday for a vacation of ten days at Takhini Hot Springs. They reserved a cabin there and will camp there and around Whitehorse during their trip."
- April 9, 1964: In October 1963, an Exchequer Court was appointed to hear a case initiated by Harry Gordon-Cooper, charging the Crown with negligence that resulted in a wildfire that destroyed his business at Takhini Hot Springs. The lawyer was able to prove that Mrs. Louie John, wife of a civilian Department of National Defence employee, had built a campfire on July 8, 1958, and it had gotten away, starting the Mendenhall forest fire. The judge ordered the Crown to pay more than $50,000 in damages: "To Harry Gordon-Cooper, owner of the property at the time, damages of $40,840 were awarded. Takhini Hot Springs Ltd, to whom Mr. Gordon-Cooper surrendered his equity after the fire were also awarded $10,000."
The Whitehorse Star - Thursday, April 5, 1965
The names in the guest books add up to over 7,000, now... from Juneau, Edmonton, New Mexico, California, Dallas, Kimberley, Utah, Scotland, Sault Ste. Marie. Name it, and there'll be someone from that place who has visited Takhini Hot Springs in the Yukon.
Bon and Thelma Kunze have a pile of guest books filled up now, and will open a new one again this summer when the visitors drive up the Mayo Road off the Alaska Highway a few miles, for a dip in their pool. "We're coming back" they write, over and over again. And they do.
"We will surely recommend this place" is another oft-repeated comment. They do that too, and word-of-mouth approval passes swiftly through the highway campgrounds and overnight stops. The friendly welcome the tired and dusty travellers receive is most frequently commented on, in the visitor's book.
Through the years, local residents have come to accept the miraculous bubbling of mineral springs, but it is still one of the marvels of the northern trip to thousands of tourists. They find it hard to understand that such an attraction is not government-owned and operated.
Burned-out by the disastrous forest fires six years ago, the buildings and pool have been slowly and steadily restored and enlarged by Bon Kunze. Log cabins and picnic grounds add to the inviting set-up.
- December 15, 1965, Thelma Rickert Kunze, 59, died of cancer at the Whitehorse General Hospital.
- June 6, 1966: "TIME TO TAKE OVER
It's summer again and more and more of our visitors will be making their way up the Mayo Road to visit the Takhini Hot Springs.
They'll be disappointed when they get their first look at the place. Someone will have to explain to them that a forest fire swept through the area several years ago and burned out everything which had been built up over the years... what they see is a reconstruction job, proceeding slowly, carried out by a private owner as time and money permit.
Why is it private? we doesn't the government operate the hot springs? Surely this must be the only place in the world where such a natural phenomenon is not being developed with public funds! We heard some years ago that the owners approached the Territorial Government offering to sell the property; the feeling at the time was that the price was a bit steep.
We don't know what the asking price is, but we think somebody should sit down and work out a deal. This is a natural resource, and that's a specialty these days with the government experts. Let's develop the place, invest some money, operate it on a public basis, make it a Forestry Campground, make it a National Park, but build it up for the people of Canada." (Whitehorse Star)
- April 21, 1969: "LINDA and ED BRENNAN are back from Newfoundland with their baby
boy, who is a real "Newfie" since he was born there while his parents were visiting his grandparents... they'll be operating the Takhini Hot Springs for grandpa BON KUNZE." (Whitehorse Star)
- June 26, 1969: "Ed and Linda Brennan are now managing the Takhini Hot Springs. They've been adding a campground space and picnic facilities, and are carrying on a continuing program of renovations."(Whitehorse Star)
- July 3, 1969: "Green growth is gradually cloaking the forest fire damage of ten years ago out at Takhini Hot Springs and once again it is becoming a popular spot for visitors and Whitehorse people alike... There is space for tourists to stop in the campground overnight, and several small cabins available... the pool looks pretty to dusty drivers and their families... LINDA and ED BRENNAN are operating the Hot Springs this year."
- May 31, 1971: "Carmacks Boy Drowns at Takhini
Roger Charlie, the ten year old son of Sam Charlie of Carmacks, drowned Sunday afternoon at Takhini Hot Springs near Whitehorse. No one witnessed the incident.
The boy, who is a resident of Coudert Hall in Whitehorse, was with a group of 26 students and two supervisors from the hall swimming at the Takhini Hot Springs about 3:30 Sunday afternoon.
The group departed about an hour later after which a Whitehorse man, Dale Gordon McRann, 20 spotted the boy's body in the bottom of the pool at the deep end.
He recovered the body and with the assistance of two men with life guard training, William Iceton, 22 and Jared Storey, 20, both of Whitehorse, applied artificial respiration, to no avail.
The boy's body is being returned to Carmacks for burial.
Coroner C.E. Hannah and the RCMP are investigating."
In June, a coroner's jury recommended that any pool open to the public and charging admission have a qualified lifeguard on duty during the hours the pool is open. Among several other recommendations, organizations should have a procedure for testing which children can swim; enough supervisors should be present to ensure the safety of the children; a formal system for counting the children should be established; and a phone should be installed. "Linda Brennan said they had tried to discourage the group coming from Coudert because Sunday is usually a busy day in the pool and they prefer having large groups come at another time." (Whitehorse Star, June 10)
- June 7, 1971:
The Whitehorse Star
Recently I had occasion to visit the Takhini Hot Springs and was rather upset by what I found there. I am told that conditions have improved from what they used to be, but they are still less than good. There appears to be little or no form of filtration. The floor of the pool is chipped and broken in several parts - one of our party cut his foot rather badly on a broken projection - and has green slime making it rather slippery.
There seems to be no official life-guard on duty - everyone is responsible for themselves or their own party. Nor are there any lockers for clothing or valuables - paper bags suffice for the latter. Parking facilities also leave a lot to be desired.
I am told that this is a privately-operated pool. Surely something can be done to improve the amenities in what must surely be a paying proposition, being open all the year round. In a recent copy of the Star there is a report of a young lad of 10 having been found drowned in the bottom of the pool, yet it is reported that no one saw what happened.
I do not know the background to the Hot Spring situation, but I do know what I have seen. Such a Hot Spring must be a tourist attraction yet the location is far from being attractive. Can not something be done to make this asset safer, cleaner and with improved facilities to give better value to both the resident and the tourist?
Peter L. Kidd,
- June 10, 1971: "A new pool is under construction at present, with a special design in mushroom shape to assist in keeping non-swimmers out of the deeper end. Other new facilities planned this summer include changing rooms, new restaurant and additional cabins and recreation area." (Whitehorse Star)
- July 24, 1971, the completely rebuilt Takhini Hot Springs opened. Several contractors ran congratulatory ads in the July 26th Whitehorse Star, including Seidler & Associates engineering, General Enterprises, Beaver Lumber, Don's Backhoe, Decora Landscaping, and Canada Flooring.
- April 20, 1972, Takhini Hot Springs Ltd. applied for authority to operate a 48-passenger bus to transport people to and from the hot springs.
- 1977 - 1999: Erwin and Mary Kreft are the new owners. They built the first Hotsprings well house with a chlorine system. They also built the first cold water supply system for toilets, kitchen, laundry room, etc. They raised the barn, fences, fields to produce hay and many additions and renovations to main building and other existing buildings. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- 1999 - 2014: Takhini Hotsprings Ltd. purchases the hot springs. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)
- 2014 - Present: Andrew Umbrich and Lauren O'Coffey lease the hot springs and change the name of the business to Takhini Hot Pools. The property, however, remains named Takhini Hot Springs. (from TakhiniHotPools.com)