Morton’s Warm Springs, Glen Ellen

We found this place through another blog: Marin Mommies and after a day of ziplining, it seemed like a more practical and less extreme approach to our summer adventure theme. It also happens to be between Santa Rosa and San Francisco and was a great place to stop on the way back to the city.

From the looks of it, this swimming pool has been around since the dawn of time. While missing the classic pillar shapes of the 20s and 30s, and the square practicality of a pool that was constructed in the 40s or 50s, it has the shape, surfacing, and patterns of a pool built in the 80s. Or rebuilt because according to their website, Morton’s Warm Springs has been a fixture in the lives of locals for over a hundred years. Before that, it was a seasonal camp for the Wappo Indians… and even before that: a swamp.

Along the Sonoma River, you’ll find older structures from (presumably) when the destination was called Los Guilicos Warm Springs Resort. Three geothermal features feed Morton’s Warm Springs: two artesian wells and a shelter-covered spring. The temperatures range between 84°F and 87°F depending on the source. The pool itself feels rather cold (about 84°F). (Source: California Department of Conservation)

I read elsewhere that the pool is fed by 50% springs water and 50% tap water; but, the CDC states, “a well about 55 meters (180 feet) deep and 31.8 cm (12.5 inches) in diameter supplies warm water for filling two swimming pools, irrigating the picnic grounds, space-heating the structure on the premises, and supplying the domestic water supply to 20 nearby residences under the auspices of the Los Guilicos Water Works.”

Also, a handful of sites state the pool is chlorinated… but I’m suspicious. After a bazillion years as a swimming pool operator and many more as a swimmer, I can tell the PH of a pool by touching the walls, the type of chemicals (chlorine, bromine) by smell, and how “dirty” the pool is by smell and how much bonded chlorine is left on my skin/suit. This place didn’t have the telltale smell, feel, and look of a liquid, powder, salt or gas chlorine pool. So, either the staff are extremely skilled at balancing pool chemicals or there are none.

Either way, it’s still a great place to swim, and remarkably clean.

While in the Santa Rosa Rural Cemetery, I had the unfortunate luck of being bitten by a wasp on my calf. It hurt, then burned, and started to swell. We joked that the next stop was a mineral springs pool so I could soak my leg and use the healing properties of the water to get rid of the pain.

We may have joked about this… but when we got to the springs and after I stood in the water for a while, it was actually helped. The pain and swelling stopped and the bite completely disappeared. There may be something to this healing thing after all.

A couple of things to note about the facility:

➤ Contrary to what other sites say, there are no lockers on site. I think they’ve been removed.

➤ The $20 fee is for the entire park. Once in you have access to the pool, grassy picnic areas, barbecue pits, hiking trails, sporting areas, and Sonoma Creek (where the springs originate).

➤ The food is reputedly really bad. Bring your own and enjoy a nice picnic on the grassy slopes.

➤ The presence of birthday parties may mean you may not be able to access the creek that runs by the pool (unless you can blend in with a party).

➤ The pool is open only during summer (May –> September).

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