By Larry D. Olsen
The original spring came out of the ground close to the bank of Salmon Falls Creek. It was difficult to catch and use the water, so in the 1930s the original owners of the land dug a deep hole wide enough to drop two old car bodies in to cap the spring. A well was then drilled through the car tops and a pipe installed. This forced the water to the surface and gave it a little pressure.
A house was built, chicken coops and sheep dipping became the principal use of the water, which heated the coops and killed the ticks on sheep. Watermelons were grown on the flat area around the springs and soon gained the reputation as the best-tasting melons in the valley.
Eventually the spring and buildings were abandoned and became part of a larger ranch belonging to a Mr. Green. The buildings of slab wood and tarpaper soon blended in with the sagebrush and tall grass.
In 1957, Dean M. Olsen, my father, stumbled onto the spring while hiking in the canyon. He immediately sought out Mr. Green and made arrangements to purchase the land, a total of 76 acres. My father had a vision. He sold his grocery store, the Drive-in Market, in Jerome, Idaho. In 1958, as a senior in high school, I helped him build the first proto-type bath up by the old spring. In the next year he built the first six baths and a small home adjoining them.
The first day in business (1960) brought in $2.50 @ fifty cents a bath. Word spread and in the early 1960's he found it necessary to build the big outside pools, followed shortly with baths 7 through 15. Dean's vision paid off as he made a living sufficient for his needs.
Meanwhile, I graduated from college, became a professor and started wilderness programs throughout the west, always with my eye on Miracle Hot Springs as the home place!
In 1977 my father asked me to take over so he could retire. I moved my family of 8 children to Idaho and we immediately found out just how much it really took to maintain the quality and reputation that my father had built over the years.
In 1984 a great flood nearly wiped us out, covering everything in a thick layer of silt and mud. The old spring and pipeline were destroyed and we had to drill a new well, closer to the pools. It took two months to repair the damage.
This disaster gave us an opportunity to begin renovations. The first steps were almost exclusively underground as we dug up old lines and replaced them. Since 1984, my children and grandchildren and I have worked on renovations and serving at Miracle Hot Springs. That makes four generations of Olsens working here. Dean and Lola Olsen have both passed on, but their spirits are felt in the wonderful landscape and warmth of the water. Several of their grandchildren have said they thought they glimpsed grandpa sweeping the sidewalks on especially sunny mornings.