Ahtanum Soda Springs
By Robert E. Pace
|Soda Springs recreational area - 1885
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In the "good old summer time" in the Yakima Valley when temperatures could climb over 100 degrees, the early pioneers of the valley had a place to go. A place where the green-sloped mountains and the running brooks dashing down from the eternal snows to cool the atmosphere and make life once more bearable; and those who once visited the famous Ahtanum Soda Springs will think several times before their minds will conjure up any more delightful place to spend the summer vacation than this. That, anyway, was the view of one reporter in 1903.
Soda Springs had long been a popular recreational spot to the early settlers for camping, picnicking, hunting and fishing since the early 1880s. One reason for its popularity was the fact it was located closer and easier to get to than the mountain resorts which could take several days travel to make the trip.
The springs, located 25 miles from the railroad, drew visitors from all over the valley. Although the spring water had a very unpleasant taste, visitors would taste the water, at least once. It was the cool summer breezes and the shade of the forest that brought as many and 200 to 250 people there on a summer weekend.
The resort itself, at first, consisted of a cluster of tents, erected over wooden floors with partial walls. These were replaced later with small cabins equipped with the barest essentials for living, a stove and bunks was about all they contained. A large house served as a hotel and picnic areas were scattered among the trees. Transportation from North Yakima was available only by horse drawn wagon. Hay for the animals and firewood was available at the camp for a reasonable price.
In the early 1900s, a man by the name of H.D. Baylor held the lease to the land where the springs were located. He made sure that the springs and the land surrounding them was well kept and neat in appearance to afford an inducement for campers to spend a few weeks there pleasantly during the warm days of the summer months.
By 1920, transportation throughout the valley was getting easier. The roads were better and auto travel was becoming the norm. Greater distances could be covered; even on a weekend travelers could reach the higher streams and lakes that surrounded the Yakima Valley. It was for this reason that Soda Springs, as a destination point, fell out of favor. The resort continued for a few years, but no one could make it as successful as it once was. The hotel, abandoned for years, burned in the 1930s and the property slowly reverted back to the low forestland it once was. Today there is very little trace of the resort or any evidence of the weekend outings that so many people enjoyed.