I visited Miette Hot Springs in September 2015. This is the closest hot spring to where I live and I enjoy travelling to the area during the fall season. The weather is a bit cooler, but one doesn’t have to contend with snow on the mountain roads…or, at least, not too much snow.
On previous visits, I hadn’t realized there’s a trail along Sulphur Creek from the Miette Hot Springs parking lot. I highly recommend this hike; there is a partially paved path leading to the ruins of the Miette Aquacourt and, a bit further up, the source hot springs.
On reading the tourism displays provided along the path, information provided by staff at the hot springs pool, and some research completed at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum & Archives, it appears the source hot springs were first used by local First Nations communities who, in turn, introduced them to members of the Hudson’s Bay and North West Companies during the 19th century. A crude pack trail was created in 1910 providing visitors with access via foot and horseback. By 1919 a log bathhouse and two sweat houses had been built by coal miners working in the nearby community of Pocahontas. Construction of the Miette Aquacourt, access road, parking lot, and campground was completed in 1938. This facility was quite popular and remained open until September 1984. Miette Hot Springs pool, in its current state, opened in 1986.
The archives at the Jasper-Yellowhead Museum mostly contain photographs and newspaper clippings of the log bathhouse in 1919-20, the building of the Aquacourt in 1938, and the building of the current facility in 1986. There is very little archival documentation between these points in time. Since 1986, the only archives available relate to the community’s concern about the privatization of the hot springs.
Andy Klimach, the current Museum Manager at Jasper Yellowhead Museum & Archives, was very helpful. When I expressed my frustrations at failing to find information on First Nations cultures as it relates to hot springs, he reinforced my understanding about the lack of documentation of the history and culture of these communities. He also mentioned that, in the past, many First Nations communities have been very protective of this information. I was reassured, however, that bit-by-bit some of these communities are finding value in sharing their histories and cultures. Andy is currently working with a community in the Grande Cache area, a community that was originally located in Jasper but driven away by European settlers. This work will culminate in the presentation of artwork and documentation in the future.