Klickitat Mineral Springs History
Present day remaining old stucco building.
Photo by Lisa Conway
Hiker Joe Kelsey next to bubbling mineral springs.
Photo by Jim Denton
Bubbling mineral water from Klickitat Mineral Springs.
Photo by Pam Essley
Original buildings at the Dry Ice Factory, just north of Klickitat, WA.
Photo circa 1950, provided by Cheryl Steindorf
By Barbara Robinson
Have you ever seen the strange, old stucco building two miles north of Klickitat, WA, that looks a little like an Italian ruin? Have you ever walked the Klickitat Trail across the river from this building and discovered a wide, rocky beach with two old concrete pillars and bubbling water coming out of the top and wondered what they were? This is their story.
For several miles north of the present town of Klickitat, naturally carbonated mineral water bubbles to the earth’s surface. Members of the Klickitat tribe knew about and used the bubbly water from these springs for healing and sweat lodge ceremonies. Early pioneer settlers also drank and bathed in the bubbly waters for their health.
Mineral Springs Spa, constructed in 1890, was the first attempt to turn a profit from the carbonated mineral springs. Another health resort opened in 1902, but neither business lasted long. In 1908, the Klickitat Mineral Springs soft drink bottling plant opened, where sugar syrups were added to the naturally carbonated water to create different flavored drinks. The water was sold in the Northwest under various names such as “Klickitat Mineral Water,” “Klickitat Pop,” “Merry Mix,” “Whistle,” and “Mineral Ale.”
The Lyle-Goldendale Railroad, built in 1902, took the bottled “Klickitat Pop” to market. (That railbed is now the Klickitat Trail.) In the early Klickitat County days, there were no roads connecting Klickitat to Lyle or Goldendale. The curative properties of the mineral water were widely known, and for years the train would stop at Klickitat and let people off so they could take a drink from the spring nearby.
The train stop at Klickitat was originally known as “Wrights,” after the first settler family in the area. When “Klickitat Pop” became well known around 1909, the railroad took a “Klickitat” sign that had been at river mile 7.2 and put it up at the present town of Klickitat, and took the “Wrights” sign and put it at mile 7.2. That is how the town of Klickitat got its name.
In 1928, Warren Langdon bought the business and built a larger bottling plant where the stucco building is now located. His success was marked by a contract with Safeway. Unfortunately, the beverage did not hold its fizz on the store shelf, and when the Great Depression hit, the business failed. In 1931, R. B. Newbern, an expert on gases, wanted to use the very pure carbon dioxide gas responsible for the water’s bubbles for something else: dry ice. Dry ice is solid carbon dioxide, and it was a new commercial product in the early 1930s.
Over the next four years, Newbern spent $200,000 to construct a dry ice plant. Newbern’s Ice Plant included equipment and buildings on both sides of the Klickitat River with a bridge over the river connecting the operation. The business thrived, particularly during WWII. Among other uses, carbon dioxide was used for inflating lifeboats, preserving food sent to troops, and preventing gasoline fumes from exploding in gas tanks. The dry ice business continued successfully at this location until 1957, when the plant was moved to Kennewick, Washington.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has since acquired the land and removed all but one of the ice plant buildings. Two women in Klickitat had observed huge numbers of “swallows” — actually Vaux’s Swifts — using the chimney of the ice plant building as a night roost in spring and summer, and its preservation became a local cause.
To visit the remains of the dry ice plant site, take SR 14 to Lyle, Washington. Just east of the Klickitat River, turn north on SR 142. You’ll drive through the town of Klickitat, and after about 15 miles, look on your right for the old stucco building. You can drive down to it. Travel another mile on SR 142 and turn right on Horseshoe Bend Rd. Cross the bridge and go right on Schilling Rd. In about 100 feet, turn right into the trailhead parking lot for the Klickitat Trail. Go through the gap in the fence to the right of the gate, and follow the Klickitat Trail south along the Klickitat River for a mile to the rocky beach area. Here you can view the remaining mineral spring wells and sample their waters.
Barbara Robinson is the Klickitat Trail, Conservancy Vice President.
Sources: “So This Is Klickitat,” Selma M. Neils, 1967; “Klickitat Mineral Springs,” Tal Bratton and Joy Bratton Cook (Klickitat Heritage); “New Industry Born of Bubbling CO2,” H. Gardner Peterson
|Hike Along the Klickitat Trail
The Klickitat Trail is a gently graded rail corridor located in southern Washington State, just north of the Columbia River. Family-friendly hiking and biking can be enjoyed year-round on this 31-mile long trail that follows the banks of the Klickitat River before climbing into Swale Creek Canyon.
The trailhead is in Lyle, WA, and the trail heads north 16 miles along the Klickitat river, of which 11 miles is designated “wild and scenic.” A few miles past the town of Klickitat, the trail leaves the river and winds its way south through the beautiful and desolate 12-mile Swale Canyon. From Lyle to Klickitat, the trail is excellent for hiking, biking, and nature viewing. The stretch of trail through Swale Canyon is by far the most remote. This portion of trail will remain unimproved, and has numerous trestle crossings — be prepared for a rustic journey.
The entire trail is within the right-of-way of an abandoned rail corridor. The property was purchased from Burlington Northern by the National Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in the early 1990s and then donated to Washington State Parks.
Today, the lower 16 miles of trail are managed by the U.S. Forest Service, and the upper 15 miles are managed by Washington State Parks, with a volunteer cooperation agreement from the Klickitat Trail Conservancy.
It is very important to stay on the right-of-way, as there is private land adjacent to the trail in most sections. Although the trail is almost flat, it is an old railbed and often rocky, so wear sturdy shoes. Prepare for the weather, and be sure to bring water, food, hats, and coats.
For maps and detailed information, visit the Klickitat Trail Conservancy website: www.klickitat-trail.org.