The Volunteer State is home to big cities like Memphis, Nashville, and Knoxville, as well as a slew of landmarks as it stretches widely into the midwest. Near the middle of the state, east of Nashville sits the town of Red Boiling Springs. This is one spot with a hot springs hotel and a chance to soak up naturally hot mineral water.
Armour’s Hotel & Spa – Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Armour’s Hotel & Spa is the only venue still offering mineral baths in a bathing house behind the main building. Located in Red Boiling Springs, Tennessee, Armour’s was first built in 1924, though it then went by the name Count’s Hotel. Armour’s Hotel and Spa While there …
Armour’s Hotel & Spa – Red Boiling Springs, TennesseeRead More
List of Mineral Hot Springs in Tennessee
The Armour’s Hotel & Spa is the one resort left in Tennessee that still offers guests to use its mineral water. Behind its main building is a bathhouse where you can schedule a time to soak. Spend the night in this historic accommodation, one of three original hot spring hotels in Red Boiling Springs.
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The Great Smokey Mountains flake the eastern edge of Tennessee in this wide state with a smorgasbord of recreation. While hot springs are not on most itineraries here, if you seek one destination out you can find them.
Tucked away in the Cumberland Mountains in Tennessee is a beautiful blast from the past. Hidden there, northeast of Nashville, is a small town called Red Boiling Springs.
The name itself is a bit misleading. The spring water is comfortably warm but not boiling. The natural mineral cocktail in the water tints it slightly red, and the movement and bubbles in the water make it appear as though the pools are boiling.
What’s especially important about these hot springs is that they’re a unique combination. There are five varieties of hot springs water, all with different mineral and sulfide contents. Nestle, one of the predominant food and drink distributors, has taken notice of this rare combination. The company began bottling the Red Boiling Springs, TN water in the early aughts.
History of Red Boiling Springs, TN
Red Boiling Springs wasn’t always its name, though. After its founding and before its heyday as a medical spa and leisure center, the town was called Salt Lick Creek. Rumor has it that Daniel Boone visited the creek in the 1700s and stopped to carve his initials on a tree by the water.
One of the pioneers of the town, a man with a severe malady that affected his sight, named Shepherd Kirby bathed his face in the springs. He claimed that the sulfurous water cured him on the spot. From there, the legend of the hot springs spread.
As the story circulated in wider society, hotels began to pop up to accommodate all the traffic to the healing site. This small town once hosted a dance hall, a swimming pool, several bathhouses for mineral dips, a skating rink, and a glut of dining options.
Hot Springs at Armour’s Hotel spa
If taking the waters is your main focus, you’ll have to visit Armour’s, one of the original resorts. There you can receive steam treatment, soak in clawfoot tubs, or benefit from massage therapy, all of which utilize the mineral water drawn from wells on the grounds. Because the water table has dropped since bathers in the roaring twenties visited, open water swims in the hot springs are no longer possible. Only water drawn from timeworn wells still contains the legendary mineral cocktail.
If you can’t get to Red Boiling Springs but want to experience the same blend of naturally occurring hot springs, your next best bet is a small hamlet in Germany. This sister city of Red Boiling Springs is the only other place on Earth where such varying mineral concentrations can be found in the water.
Historic Area Accommodations
Three of the historic hotel and resorts still stand. They are the stately Thomas House Bed and Breakfast, The Donoho Hotel, and, the only one still offering mineral baths on site, Armour’s. This is believed to be the only authentic hot springs water in all of Tennessee.
The Thomas House B&B, while not having hot springs, does showcase its ghostly atmopshere. Another overnight destination hotel in town is The Donoho. It’s known for its historic grounds and fine southern cooking.
Armour’s, which holds a spot on the National Register of Historic Places, used to have 32 rooms to rent (affiliate link). Now, the hotel boasts fewer accommodations since private bathrooms have been added and some individual rooms were converted to communal spaces. Unlike modern chain hotels, Armour’s features themed rooms with antique decor.
Two-bedroom suites are available, and Armour’s offers Deluxe rooms large enough to fit a queen bed and pullout sofa sleeper.
Other activities around town
The town of Red Boiling Springs has gained notoriety for a different reason since WWII caused the spa business to both figuratively and literally dry up. It was visited by the production of Paranormal State and is host to the legend of the ‘Bewitched Deer.’
Per folklore, archived in the town’s Kingsport Times in November of 1966, a man named Old John kept finding a beautiful white doe at the titular salt lick. He wasn’t able to bring the doe down until he shot it with silver bullets. Once he tracked it, bringing along neighbors since he was too afraid to hunt it by himself, he found the bloodied body of a well-known local witch.
Staff from The Thomas House says that visitors from the States and international travelers have come to stay at the resort hoping to catch sight of something otherworldly.
If you’re looking for something a bit more down to earth, the town of Red Boiling Springs also has Civil War Park, which commemorates the town’s involvement in a string of 1860s era hospitals and shelters.
Up the road a few miles is Falcon Rest Mansion and Gardens where you can stroll through the romantic arched walkways and rest in picturesque gazebos. Falcon Rest offers both a Victorian Tea Room for the lunch hours and an 1800s themed gift shop.
At Red Boiling Springs you come for the Victorian spa experience and leave with stories ranging from blissful days of relaxation to thrilling nights of paranormal sightseeing.