Located 310 miles from Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the Kraus Hot Springs is one of the country’s most isolated geothermal mineral pools and offers visitors a serene setting to soak while surrounded by the pristine natural beauty of Nahanni National Park Reserve.
Only accessible via an extended rafting adventure along the Nahanni River, the Kraus Hot Springs requires an arduous rowing journey. However, thanks to the isolated nature of the pool, the Kraus Hot Springs are also some of the best-preserved primitive hot springs in Canada and offer visitors an unhindered immersion into the natural environment.
Along with experiencing one of the most exclusive hot springs in the country, visitors engaging the trek to the thermal pool will experience some of northern Canada’s most incredible natural wonders, including towering cliffs, mystifying rock formations, and even majestic waterfalls.
From how to reach this hidden away natural gem to the myriad of surrounding attractions and best accommodation options, this is everything you need to know before planning your expedition to the magnificent Kraus Hot Springs, Canada.
History of the Kraus Hot Springs
The Kraus Hot Springs is tucked away in one of the most isolated corners of Nahanni National Park Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and protected land affectionately nicknamed “Secret Paradise.”
Surrounded by 30,000 square kilometers of pristine protected lands, it is a wonder that this small hidden away hot spring was even discovered, let alone once the abode to year-round residents. However, during the mid-20th century, it was just that, and the hot springs even bear the name of these resilient individuals today.
From 1940 to 1971, Gus and Mary Kraus lived on the shores of the Nahanni River near the springs, with the latter earning herself the title “First Lady of the Nahanni.” During their time in the region, the couple garnered a reputation for themselves and their spring and were even visited by several notable figures, including Pierre Trudeau, during his expedition in 1970.
Two years following his visit, Trudeau established the Nahanni National Park Reserve. And while this newly protected land meant that Mary Kraus and her husband had to relocate to Little Doctor Lake, it also meant that this wonderous hot spring would be preserved for future generations to enjoy.
Now uninhabited for over 50 years, remnants of the Kraus residence can still be observed in the region. The couple’s original generator shack currently serves as the check-in station for tourists, while some of the exotic plants continue to thrive in Mary’s old garden.
Attractions Near the Kraus Hot Springs
Considered a secret paradise, the Nahanni National Park Reserve is one of the most picturesque corners of Canada. As such, it boasts several natural attractions and wonders for visitors to explore.
Primitive Soaking Pool
The most enticing attraction at the Kraus Hot Springs is the primitive soaking pool itself. Nestled along the Nahanni River, the hot spring is nine feet long and boasts warm and comfortable temperatures year-round.
While visitors are unlikely to have to share their soak with other guests thanks to the isolated nature of the site and the difficult journey to reach it, there is still plenty of room for groups to spread out and enjoy their own quiet moments of bliss.
Along with boasting breathtaking views of the surrounding scenery and comfortable soaking temperatures, the Kraus Hot Spring also features high concentrations of chloride, sodium, and sulfate, known for their curative properties to soothe worn muscles and repair skin. Unfortunately, this combination of minerals can also produce a potent sulfur smell.
The Nahanni River
The Nahanni River is a vast waterway that spans 563 kilometers across the southern Northwest Territories. And even if you don’t plan on paddling the whole thing, each section of the river seems filled with fantastic attractions and activities, including roaring rapids, towering mountain peaks, and plenty of wildlife dipping their way through the surrounding foliage.
Among some of the river’s most enchanting attractions is Virginia Falls. This massive waterfall plummets from a 30-story high cliffside and displaces 3 billion cubic feet of water daily.
The result is one of the most surreal wilderness waterfalls in the world, known for its earth-trembling power and sheer colossal size.
While the Nahanni River resides in the heart of the national park, there is something to be said about the surrounding landscapes. Luckily, visitors can access several hiking trails from the river’s edge that guide intrepid trekkers to some of the region’s most breathtaking vistas and tucked-away landmarks.
One of the most popular hiking trails in the park is the Sunblood Peak Trail. This adventurous trek leads hikers up the 1,450-meter-high Sunblood Mountain, where visitors can enjoy some of the park’s best views with Virginia Falls just below. The hike is a 16 km round trip and starts across the river from Virginia Falls Campground.
Another fantastic hiking area is Glacier Lake. Surrounded by lush foliage, this picturesque lake is encompassed by alpine Fairy Meadows and the towering peaks of the Cirque of the Unclimbable. It is an exotic location of quiet serenity and is only a 9 km hike from the South Nahanni River.
Accommodations Near Kraus Hot Springs, Canada
Visitors to the Kraus Hot Springs will be hard-pressed to find a luxury hot spring resort nestled along the wild shores of the Nahanni River. Luckily, the national park encourages wilderness camping and even features several primitive campsites scattered along the waterway.
While trekkers are, for the most part, permitted to pitch their tent anywhere in the park, it is crucial to note that there are some exceptions. One exception is actually in the area directly surrounding the Kraus Hot Springs, which is closed for camping in August and September due to the large population of bears that reside there during that time.
To begin and end their journey to the hot springs, visitors will likely want to book a cozy hotel in Yellowknife or the nearby Fort Simpson.
In Yellowknife, The Explorer Hotel and the Chateau Nova are fantastic hotel options for a full-service stay to prepare for and unwind after your journey. Meanwhile, the Bannockland Inn is the only hotel for guests in Fort Simpson.
Getting to the Kraus Hot Springs, Canada
The only way to access the Kraus Hot Springs is via a paddling expedition along the Nahanni River. Unfortunately, even this waterway can be challenging to access, with most trekkers opting to fly via a chartered floatplane from Yellowknife or Fort Simpson.
While the Yellowknife charter may be more convenient for many travelers, the park office for the Nahanni National Park Reserve is located in Fort Simpson and may provide further immersion and insight into the park.
While there are four typical drop-off locations along the river, visitors headed toward Kraus Hot Springs will want to depart from Virginia Falls, where they will begin their 147 km paddle to the thermal pool.
- Address: Fort Smith, Unorganized, NT X0G 0A0, Canada
- Season: October – July (Closed August – September)
- GPS Coordinates: 61.25050, -124.05017