Selawik Hot Springs

Hot Springs big tundra 512

Hidden in a timbered valley near the headwaters of the Selawik River is one of Selawik Refuge's most interesting features: the Selawik Hot Springs.  Used for many years by local residents, soaking in the medicinal waters is said to offer physical rejuvenation and treatment for a wide variety of ailments.

The hot springs is accessible only during months of snow cover.  Most visitors arrive by snowmachine, traveling 50 rugged trail miles south from Shungnak or 60 miles north from Huslia.  Some Selawik residents still know the unmarked route to travel directly to the springs along the Selawik River.  Occasionally visitors arrive at the hot springs by dog team or skis. There are no roads, hiking trails, or air strips for summer access.  Information on winter trails is available on the Northwest Arctic Borough's website.

Hot Springs cabins
The Selawik Hot Springs has two public cabins and a bathhouse, all of which were constructed years ago by local residents. The Upper Kobuk Elders’ Council and the City Council of Huslia hold a special use permit for these facilities. The cabins and bathhouse are very rustic.

Elders of the upper Kobuk offer important advice about using the hot springs:

  • You have to watch how long you soak, no more than 15 minutes at first.
  • Drink a glass of the spring water before soaking.
  • If you begin to see small bubbles of hot air while soaking, you must get out to prevent getting burned.
  • The temperature of the soaking pool can be controlled by adjusting the inflow of hot and cold water from the streams behind the bathhouse.
  • Do not use soap, shampoo, or similar products in the springs or streams.
  • Do not travel across the big tundra near the hot springs (pictured at top of page) during stormy weather.
  • One of the cabins is for Athabascans and one for Inupiat, but either can be used if unoccupied.
  • Take out all your trash with you.  Leave a clean camp.

Hot Springs poolThe Selawik Hot Springs is also known as Division Hot Springs to geologists and as Unaaqtaaq, meaning “hot water,” to Inupiat.