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People have been going to hot springs for centuries; some in search of the eternal fountain of youth and others searching for cures for whatever ails them. The healing water of Chena Hot Springs has been compared to mineral waters found in hot springs in Bohemia.
The water is composed of a variety of different, identified minerals. Many people believe that by bathing in the water, skin conditions such as psoriasis, muscular pains, and arthritis may be relieved. The water may be beneficial for some circulatory disorders and attract lots of people with bronchial disorders who claim the combination of steam and minerals provides breathing relief.
Chena’s recorded history dates to the early 1900's but there is evidence indigenous people used the water as well. The water boasts usage by people throughout Alaska, the Lower 48 and International visitors and dignitaries from every corner of the globe. The waters are timeless but the resort began when weary gold miners discovered that soaking in the "oh-so-warm" waters helped their aching bodies.
Why is there hot water at Chena?
The Chena geothermal system is fed by water which circulates deep underground over a period of thousands of years, picking up the natural heat from the earth, and then ‘short circuits’ back up to the surface through cracks and fractures in the granite rock underneath the hot springs area. Granite rock fractures or breaks very nicely in all directions, as opposed to layered sedimentary rock that just tends to break horizontally. This allows the hot water to quickly find its way to the surface from a great depth (~3000 feet).
Why does the hot water smell funny?
While the water is stored underground, it comes in contact with a number of different minerals and rocks. Some of these minerals become dissolved in the hot water and this is responsible for the smell. In particular, humans are very sensitive to the smell of sulphur and can recognize it in concentrations as low as 1 part per million. The Chena waters have 1 part per million of sulphur and overall have a very low total dissolved solids or trace minerals in the water compared to other geothermal sites. This is because even though the residence time of the Chena waters of several thousand years underground seems like a long time to us, its really only been a blink of the eye in geologic terms. Most geothermal systems have much "older" water. In addition to the Sulphur content, the Chena water also contains Sodium, Floride Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium, Boron, Lithium, and Chloride. Many people believe bathing in waters containing these and other trace minerals can be therapeutic and this is why many health spas are associated with hot springs around the world.
Is the water safe to swim in?
The indoor pool and hot tubs at Chena have chlorinated geothermal water, which effectively kills all bacteria, just like in any other swimming pool in the U.S. The outdoor Rock Lake is completely natural and is regulated as a "flow through hot springs" under Alaska Statute 44.46.028. Under the Statute, Chena is required to test the waters regularly and submit those samples to the State of Alaska to ensure the lake is free from dangerous levels of disease causing pathogens or chemicals. Water is constantly being drained from the Lake and it naturally refills, with a turnover of 2-3 times the volume of the lake each day. We also completely drain the Lake once a week and pressure wash the Rocks and sand to deter algae growth. Despite these precautions and because the water is untreated there are some bacteria present in the water. For this reason, if you have any cuts or scrapes we request that you refrain from using the natural Rock Lake. Additionally, children seem to have a lower tolerance to these bacteria due to their still developing immune systems, and as such we do not allow children under age 18 in the Rock Lake. They are welcome to use the indoor pool and the hot tubs.
REV April 5, 2014 7:30 PM DF