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Chena Hot Springs Still Providing Medical Miracles a Century Later

Published On: Nov 15 2013 02:22:12 PM AKST

Chena Hot Springs has drawn thousands of visitors to this isolated resort east of Fairbanks since it's discovery more than a hundred years ago. (KTUU-TV, 7-16-13)


You could call Chena Hot Springs “Alaska’s Fountain of Youth.” For generations people who have flocked here claimed the water from the springs cured them of muscle aches, pains and even more serious ailments.

The first documented discovery of the springs occurred in 1905, when officials with the U.S. Geological Survey noticed steam rising from the hills east of Fairbanks. It’s been said, however, Alaska Natives had discovered the healing powers of Chena Hot Springs years before.

In the early 1900s, a Canadian man tried to homestead the property but was turned down by local opposition. 

“The Supreme Court ruled that this could be a homestead, but that no other hot springs after 1927 could be privately owned, so there are lots of hot springs,” said Chena Hot Springs proprietor Bernie Karl. “After 1927 they had to be owned by the state of federal government.”

Since the early 1900s, people who made the trek to Chena have testified about its magical healing powers.

“Well, it actually makes you feel 10 years younger because you absorb all the minerals in your body,” adds Karl, who purchased the springs in 1998.

The water also helped grow Chena Hot Springs into one of the most visited resorts in the world, in the summer and winter.

“We’re able to do a lot of things with water, like growing food, making electricity, making hydrogen, making refrigeration, and we’re pushing the envelope at all times trying to make things better,” Karl added.

Karl harnessed the geothermal energy under these springs to supply power to his resort, making it nearly self-sufficient.

“We have a hydroponic set up, so our plants are grown without any soil, so we house everything in an artificial media,” said Greenhouse Manager Jamison Manning. “We can use three different water soluble fertilizers that will plump up that fruit or vegetable product.”

Everything from the hay the farm animals eat to the farm animals themselves are raised and consumed at Chena. Karl expects the abundant flow of water from the springs to continue, almost forever.

“70, 80 million years, but let’s just say it’s only 10 million years, but from our research we will not change the temperature of this resource 1 degree from where we have it now,” he said.

About 200,000 visitors pay to use these springs every year, recently it was voted as the number one rated place in the world to view the Northern Lights.

Contact Adam Pinsker