(Bert Orleans, Ray Skoglund, Lloyd Johnstone)
Mount Layton Hotsprings
taken from The Northwest Star,
Written by Pam Whitaker
Hot springs. The word evokes pictures in our minds of geysers shooting out of the earth, billowing steam on frosty mornings, sulphuric stenches, or healing mineral waters.
Mt. Layton Hot Springs is the latter. At least, the sparkling mineral waters are purported to be healing – and steam billows from them, too, in cool weather.
The hot springs are located about two-thirds of the way down Lakelse Lake on the east shore beside Highway 37.
Water slides mark the spot, which is named for a mountain situated near Williams Creek on the Old Lakelse Lake Road. (Layton was the name of a man who lived at its base at the turn of the century.) It is the beginning of a natural resort, which, according to its owner, Bert Orleans, will be the only one of its kind in the world.
There were not always buildings there. Prior to 1910 it was a boggy, densely overgrown area where spruce trees and plants grew bigger because of the minerals and warmth, and crowded a little closer together. The area has a dozen individual springs of varying temperature and mineral content.
The subterranean heated waters are among the highest and purest known on the North American continent. There is no sulphur smell or scum. (Many individuals use it to water their houseplants with beneficial effect).
Before the first commercialization of the hot springs, man doubtless bathed there, although the pools were generally murky on the bottom and the main ones were too hot. An early Lakelse resident said that you sink up to a foot in some of them.
Bruce Johnstone, Terrace pioneer, was the first owner of the hot springs area. He pre-empted the property with a railway station in mind. According to Nadine Asante in the History of Terrace, the Kitimat Upper Skeena area was buzzing with railway talk in those days and the Kitimat Omineca Railway was slated to pass the eastern side of Lakelse Lake to its terminus in Kitimat. When the western terminus was changed to Prince Rupert by the Grand Trunk Pacific in 1908, Johnstone, undeterred, proceeded to build a hotel with dining lounge and twelve guest rooms which was open for business by 1910. Advertising his spa in the United States and the west coast, Johnstone kept the register of the small hotel full about seven months of the year.
This hotel was used as changing rooms when Johnstone built his second hotel on the lakeshore in 1929.
To provide the healthful mineral water from the springs for his guests, Johnstone ran an eight inch pipe one mile to the lakeshore hotel.
A young girl who worked at the second hotel recalls going into the old bathhouse and finding snakes curled up near the tubs for warmth! The original hotel burned to the ground in 1936 and the second in the fifties.
After a period of dormancy from 1936 until after the Second World War, the property which had been partially sold to others, was once again restored to the Johnstone family – Bruce’s son Lloyd brought it (Lloyd Johnstone was mayor of Terrace during 1972 and l973.) In 1958 he sold the property to Ray Skoglund.
Lloyd and his wife Lorraine reside at Lakelse Lake today, just half a mile from where Bruce Johnstore built his first hotel. Ray Skoglund had an operation at the hot springs for several years He had a good operation, Lloyd Johnstone said. He then sold it to a party from out of town and it changed hands several times. The provincial government eventually took it over and dismantled it. It had become run down and also was badly damaged by water in a 1978 flood.
Today the Lakelse hot springs property is owned by Bert Orleans of Kitimat He pretty well had to start over.
Presently in operation are a hot pool and warm mineral swimming pool with waterslides, motel, lounge and restaurant with banquet facilities.