|Manley Hot Springs and
Tolovana Hot Springs Report
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[For private use only, not for re-publication in any mass media. Copyright 2005 by El Dorado Hot Springs. No part of this report may be reproduced in a public forum or printed in multiple copies without the express permission of Camilla Van Sickle & Bill Pennington.](Note: Phone numbers may have changed since this report was written.)
Manley Hot Springs was another high point of the trip to Alaska in the summer of 2004.
Located a few miles south of the Arctic Circle 80 miles up a dirt road northwest of Fairbanks, Manley is a town of fewer than 100 permanent residents; in summer, there are about 300 people there. When traveling to locations such as this, BE SURE to top off your fuel tank on the north side of Fairbanks -- it's 118 miles to the next fuel stop, which in this case is Manley. Also be sure your vehicle is up to the trip and that you have at least one good spare; on the trip back down from Coldfoot, we had five (count 'em 5) flat tires in one day on a new set of tires with less than 3,000 miles on them. Needless to say, we headed back to Fairbanks and bought a newer, much stronger set.
Manley Hot Springs long time owners are Gladys & Charles Dart who live right close to the springs; their log home, the greenhouse the soaking tanks are in, the rental log cabins (only $30 per night), and several other houses in the area are all heated by the flow from the two source springs up the hill; their temperatures are 126 and 138 degrees at the source but much cooler by the time they reach the soaking tanks. In bygone years, Gladys & Charles had two much larger greenhouses nearer to the source springs in which they grew vegetable all year long for sale in Fairbanks; as Gladys told us, "We sold everything we could grow -- it was non stop with that hot water and some artificial lighting."
The smaller greenhouse of today is filled with flowers and other plants, including grape arbors, adding a unique ambiance, albeit quite rustic; please don't pick any of the vegetation.Many of the plants stay alive all year, which is amazing considering the fact that the greenhouse is made only of plastic; it's difficult to imagine that when it's 40 below outside that it's warm enough inside, but it is, showing how well hot water can heat a building.
Inside the greenhouse are three large soaking tanks; most of the time, two of them are a bit too hot for us. Add to that the heat wave was still in progress and the greenhouse was quite warm inside. The third tank is fed by cold water and if one stops up the infeed to the cooler of the too-hot tanks and puts the cold water hose in, after a while it's a good soaking temperature and going back and forth between the hot tank and cool tank is enjoyable.
Things can be busy in summer, so it's a good idea to reserve ahead of time: Gladys & Charles Dart, Manley Hot Springs, POB 50, Manley Hot Springs, Alaska, 99756. 907-672-3231. Open all year. No credit cards accepted. Open all year. Elevation 330 feet.
No trip to Manley Hot Springs would be complete without a stop or a stay at Manley Road House, a short distance away from the springs, in the center of town where there's also an airfield, dry camping, boat and seaplane launch, post office, general store, fuel, and the power plant -- a large diesel generator (with backup), a common setup in remote areas. Manley Road House, as so many other places in Alaska, was built 101 years ago to accommodate the hoards of gold seeking prospectors who stormed into the state seeking wealth. The road house is a separate enterprise from the hot springs.
Owned by a very interesting man named Bob Lee; Bob is also the Postmaster and owns the general store/fuel station. Like so many other road houses sprinkled across the vast north, Manley Road House is the social center of town and the town's largest employer. It features great food, including reindeer sausage and salmon that melts in one's mouth. The dining room is filled with ancient and interesting artifacts while the saloon is more modern with the usual accoutrements. There's also a nice laundry room, upstairs rooms, and several cabins at the edge of the forest.
Bob Lee, Manley Road House, Manley Hot Springs, Alaska 99756. 907-672-3161. Credit cards accepted. Closed most of the winter -open only for limited periods during certain sled dog competitions. Hint: if you want to be sure you can reserve (with confirmation) a room or cabin while in town, be sure to call Gladys or Charles, or Bob as far ahead of time as you're able, because if there's a forest fire, one can virtually forget about finding a rental room because the fire fighters rent them all. It seems at least one fire a year is nearby.
Note that forest fires are allowed to burn in Alaska (and Canada); unless they endanger property, absolutely no effort is made to extinguish them or even contain them. Most of the fires are started by lightening, making them part of the natural scheme of things. Thus, some of the fires are huge, covering many miles of forest -- while we were there, 2.5 million acres in Alaska were ablaze with another 80 fires of undetermined acreage blackening vast areas of Canada. What this means is that these fires sometimes delay travel; the longest delay we experienced was about 18 hours.
A very interesting nude hot springs side trip is available on the way to Manley Hot Springs. For a remote, by-reservation-only soak deep in the forest, contact Tolovana Hot Springs LTD, POB 83058, Fairbanks, Alaska, 99708. 907-455-6706. www.mosquitonet.com/~tolovana It's an 11 mile hike in (watch out for grizzlies) from the road to Manley or one may choose to charter a flightseeing plane; then it's only a two mile hike. Or one may choose a guided dog sled, ski, or snow machine trip that leads right to the springs where two furnished cabins with wooden soaking tubs await intrepid travelers. No food or bedding is supplied. Open all year. Reservations a must. No credit cards accepted.
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