Lava Hot Springs
Pop. 521

Long before whites arrived in southern Idaho, Shoshone and Bannock Indians soaked in these warm waters located along the Portneuf River. Considering the water a gift of the Great Spirit, the tribes created a truce and used the area as a neutral gathering spot.

Eventually, the Hudspeth Cutoff along the Oregon Trail passed by, and the springs became a popular resting point along the trail. When whites began to actually settle the area in the 1880s, they christened the fledgling town Dempsey in honor of an Irish-born trapper who frequently camped in the area before migrating to Montana Territory. At that time, the area technically still belonged to the Bannock-Shoshone Indian tribes. But when the US government discovered that the area was quickly gaining popularity as a potential white Idaho community, 183 acres of land was purchased and ceded from the reservation, including the natural hot springs.

In 1911, Englishman John Hall platted out Lava Hot Springs, and the town was incorporated in 1915. Area recreation began immediately, and a log structure was constructed over a portion of the hot springs. As the site became more frequently used and more settlers were attracted to the area, mud baths and indoor-outdoor swimming pools were added and enclosed in the State Natatorium. In addition to the forty-five by ninety foot indoor pool, the elaborate building also contained sixty-two dressing rooms and a three-sided balcony capable of holding 300 spectators.

Since its official establishment, the community has catered to tourists and locals alike with its small-town resort atmosphere. With more than 20,000 people reportedly visiting the site in 1924, word spread about the area. The town and its natural relaxation properties continue to lure record numbers of visitors each year.

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