Located in the John Day Valley on the bank of the Middle Fork John Day River, Ritter Hot Springs is a fantastic destination for all those who want a secluded and remote place to relax and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the high desert of Eastern Oregon.
The source of the natural hot springs is located across the river and can be reached via a suspension bridge leading to a hillside. After crossing the bridge, walk for about a hundred yards uphill to a concrete structure built from cinder blocks. The enclosed source of the springs is situated near the bathhouse. The geothermal water comes out from the ground at 109°F and flows to soaking tubs; tubs can hold two to three people.
Also, the hot springs water is piped across the Middle Fork of the John Day River into a swimming pool that is 40 feet wide, 60 feet long, with a maximum depth of 6 feet. The pool is maintained at a comfortable temperature of 80-85°F which is perfect for swimming and soaking during summer. There are a lot of toys in the pool for kids to play with. With the large flow and high water alkalinity, no treatment with chlorine is required.
Next to the river, you will find a single pipe wrench - a powerful shower that provides excellent neck and shoulders massages.
Ritter is open for day-use visitors and for overnight guests. The facility offers eight rooms in the rustic hotel with a shared bath, two cabins, RV and tent campsites. There are restrooms and a shower in the changing area for day-use guests. Ritter Hot Springs does not sell any food, so bring your own food. You can use a community kitchen with a microwave, refrigerator, freezer, and gas grill.
Ritter is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day each year.
The pool is closed from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday.
Ritter visitors can also enjoy activities in the surrounding area such as fishing, swimming, hiking, and rock collecting.
Rockhounders will be thrilled with the plethora of zeolites found in the area including heulandite, chabazite, analcime, stilbite, and apophyllite.
The hot springs were discovered in the 1850s by William Neal McDuffee. This discovery was related to an accident that could become fatal for him. He almost froze to death after falling through ice in the frozen river. The fortunate finding of steaming hot water nearby saved his life.
Shortly, McDuffee filed a land claim and established McDuffee Hot Springs Resort. One of McDuffee's original cabins still remains on the site. Years later, W.McDuffee shot a man on the property and was sent to prison.
The hot springs were renamed Ritter Hot Springs after Joseph Ritter, a famous person in the region. He was an owner of the ranch near the hot springs and established the post office in his house.
The first wooden structures were built in 1886 but later destroyed by a fire. Surprisingly that a building of the General Store, constructed in 1894, still stands as the historical evidence of the old time, the time of settlers and cowboys. The two-story Ritter Hotel was built in 1905. The first floor was used for guests' accommodation and the second floor was a place for meetings and dancing parties.
Ritter Hot Springs | General Description
Open: Memorial Day to Labor Day
Managed: Private Property
Location: John Day Valley
Development: Olympic-size pool and private soaking tubs
Services: Dressing rooms, showers, picnic and kitchen facilities
Activities: Swimming, soaking, hiking, fishing, rafting, and rockhounding
Accommodations: Historic hotel, cabins, and campsites
Distance from the parking: Short
Road access: Any passenger vehicle
Day-use fees: Yes
Popularity: Low to moderate
Elevation: 2,400 ft (732 m)
Ritter Hot Springs is located:
- 65 miles north of John Day
- 194 miles northeast of Bend
- 293 miles east of Portland.