Every day I drive by or walk near Murrieta Hot Springs, once home of the Luiseno Indians and the village of Churukunuku (sp?). When I was writing for the Californian newspaper one of my “In Touch” columns was about Murrieta Hot Springs and the healing power of the springs from days past when Indian tribes, not always in harmony, would lay down their weapons to heal their wounds. Once, when I stayed up all night reading about the history, mythology and tragedy of the local Native Americans, I walked to the creek where the village once was. I tripped over a shiny, black obsidian arrowhead. Never before, and never since, have I seen anything like it, although I am told by a local historian that the the creekbed is artifact-laden.
In 1916, the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce created a brochure that stated: “The Murrieta Hot Springs have become famous…many rheumatic invalids have been carried on stretchers to the springs, unable to walk or even to feed themselves, and after a few weeks of mineral water and mud baths, have been able to walk, unaided by crutches, the five miles to the station.” Franklin Roosevelt came here to heal his paralysis, Charlie Chaplin and many of the early Hollywood stars came here in the 1900s as well as throughout the century.
During the 1980s the spa at Murrieta Hot Springs was one of the most frequented in North America. It was open to everyone and people from all over the world came. The Alive Polarity group taught yoga and exercise classes, cooked delicious vegetarian meals in the lodge, and offered healing treatments in the mudrooms and spa.
Local residents give testimony to the curative and healing effects of the mineral-rich baths. The water, which comes out of the ground at one hundred and forty to one hundred and sixty degrees Fahrenheit after traveling through the Elsinore fault, is believed to get its healing properties largely from its ionization and rich mineral composition.
Murrieta Hot Springs as a holistic health retreat was unique in several ways: The magnesium-rich mineral baths were uniquely effective in detoxifying the body, providing pain relief, and restoring mobility. Many physical therapy clients used the warm mineral pool as their primary treatment modality and a fibromyalgia support group also used the healing waters.
In Europe today doctors prescribe specific hot springs depending on a patient’s particular illness. They do not question the powerful healing effects of mineral water. Why don’t American physicians do the same? There are hot springs everywhere in Amercia. Who is using them?
Why aren’t the hot springs open to the public? Calvary Church bought the land for a retreat center and bible college in 1995, promising neighbors it would continue to be available for them. The springs were the reason that the town of Murrieta started, and flourished to its present size of 100,000. The hot springs have been an irreplaceable part of the Murrieta area, both in terms of their therapeutic value to the many people who have used the waters for health reasons and in terms of the springs’ heritage as a recreational landmark for the whole community. At a time when all communities need an economic boost, the hot springs and guest accomodations and entertainment seem like a good way to bring in revenue, are possibly healthier than wineries and definitely healthier than casinos.
But to end where I began this flow of thoughts: Harbin Hot Springs may be a destination for me as there is a Contact Improvisation dance workshop there in September. Wheeler Hot Springs is near Ojai, CA and I saw signs for it on the way to Santa Barbara last week. Last night’s dream may become reality for me, and my wish is that Murrieta Hot Springs becomes open to all.
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