At the northern base of Sulpher Montain you will find the Cave and Basin natural thermal springs. Established in 1885, it was the foundation for Canada's first national park. The geothermic waters within the basin and cavern attracted explorers to descend into the the cave by it's only entrance, a skylight in the top of the cavern. Using a fallen tree, they scouted what would become the areas first popular attraction. It's warm bubbling waters were rumored to have healing properties, and as the crowds grew, so did the facilities surrounding the cave. A tunnel was constructed allowing easier access to the underground grotto and by 1914 a beautiful stone bathhouse and naturally heated pool were completed to accommodate increasing numbers of revelers. The pool itself was renovated in the mid 80's and closed in 1992.
The photos displayed around the site depicted visitors swimming and enjoying the waters almost exactly 100 years ago. It really threw me for a loop. I love to envision the scene as though I was standing in the exact spot, a century into the past. I wouldn't have had long hair but instead a short, boyish bob cut tucked under a swim cap, sporting black stockings beneath a body concealing blob of a swim dress. Oh poor women. In fact, the guide informed us that men and women weren't initially allowed to swim together in the pool, but were made to take turns, ladies in the basin, men in the pool. Luckily, as society relaxed so did the strict rules on gender and apparel. By the mid 70's it was all wild dark chest hair and bikini clad sun burnt bodies. It took us a while to find a happy medium, didn't it? I hope one day this attraction will be restored, as currently the pool is covered up awaiting funding to renovate and maintain it's operation.
Of course, all this fun does have a negative impact on the ecosystem of the area. Soon after establishing the site much of the natural formations in the cave were removed or destroyed. A very rare endangered species of snail lives within the cave as well. Visitors are encouraged not to touch the waters inside the cavern or outside in the basin. It is almost always true that the hand of man does not have a light touch. I like to imagine that there are yet many hidden places such as this in the world and that if they are discovered, that we have learned from our past mistakes and will respect them from the start, rather than abusing them for pride or profit.
This tour was inexpensive ($3 per adult) and very interesting for me as a culture and history fan. Luke was interested in the cave, but disappointed that it didn't sprawl on like the ones we've visited in the black hills and Wisconsin. Eve was very put off by the smell of the waters - a stenchy sulfur laden rotten egg smell which we got used to, but she reminded us loudly and often that it "smewls like forts!" and asked fun questions like "Ewwwwe - Mommy you plopped?" Charming. We tried to take a little break for a snack to cheer her up, but needless to say, she wasn't interested.