As part of our Omni Homestead experience in Hot Springs Virginia, we headed to the nearby Jefferson Pools in Warm Springs (just down the road), which is a mystical and magical place where you can soak in naturally warm waters. It’s more than a soaking bath however as it boasts so much history that you’ll feel as you’ve gone far, far back in time.
The Jefferson Pools are actually part of the Omni Homestead although it’s roughly a 15 minute drive to get there from the main resort. Two major springs from the Allegheny Mountains flow through the property which feed the Jefferson Pools; the springs are naturally heated and do not require any chemical treatments.
Unaffected by changes of the seasons, the waters remain at a natural body temperature all year and flow at the astounding rate of 1,700,000 gallons per day. The waters have an unusually high level of mineral content and are sulfur based, unlike the Omni Homestead pools, which are magnesium based. The water is so crystal clear that a book can be read through them.
What makes them so historical and legendary is the fact that they are named after Thomas Jefferson, who sojourned here in 1818 to spend a few weeks to heal his aching body. Originally there was only a Gentlemen’s Pool House and it was there, Jefferson soaked three times a day, proclaiming the spring waters to be “of the first merit.”
Today, the Jefferson Pools consist of two main buildings, which allow for men and women to have their own oasis to heal and relax, however when we were there, only the original octagonal bathhouse was open and both men and women were allowed to share the space. Given that it was so cold on that January afternoon, I was thrilled to have more people to huddle with despite the fact that it boasts 98 degrees F year round.
Since it was January and off-season, we were only joined by one solo female soaker and without a single word spoken, we casually floated around the octagon spa pool on brightly colored styrofoam noodles for a couple of hours. I could see my breath several times as I fought to keep my entire body submerged.
The structure itself nearly remains unchanged. Amenities are so basic that there wasn’t even a toilet to use when we were there. There are small alcoves around the pool to change and to keep your clothes, but privacy is limited as a draw curtain is the only thing that separates your naked body from the body of water itself.
Later when we were done, I darted up the nearly 125 year old wooden steps to the alcove where my thin skimpy white towel was waiting. Despite the cold and the lack of amenities or heat in the changing rooms, the experience was remarkable. Given its history and age, it wasn’t hard to feel as if you had indeed, gone back in time, to Virginia life in the 1800’s.
Built in 1761, the Gentleman’s Pool House is the oldest spa structure remaining in the United States and holds 40,000 U.S. gallons of constantly flowing water. The pool is similar in size and shape to the nearby mineral springs – about 120 feet in circumference with approximately 43,000 gallons of constantly flowing spring water. In 1836, the circular Ladies’ Pool House was constructed to give the ladies their own pool.
Local legends say that Native Americans journeying through the valley discovered these magnificent crystal springs hundreds of years ago, and archaeological evidence seems to confirm that this area has been used by humans for at least 9,000 years.
The first recorded survey of the area was done by Thomas and Andrew Lewis. Thomas Lewis and his son obtained 140 acres of the land, including the warm springs. Andrew Lewis was an early partner of Thomas Bullett, who procured 300 acres including the hot springs and built the first hotel in 1766 on the site of The Omni Homestead Resort.
If you want a unique and transformative healing experience, give the pools at the grounds at Omni Homestead and the Jefferson Pools a try. If you don’t want to drive between Omni and the Jefferson Pools, there is a complimentary shuttle bus that leaves on the hour.
The Jefferson Pools
11 Bath Street
Warm Springs, VA 24484