A Mineral Lake in the Heart of Washington


The first sanitarium in Soap Lake was open to the public in 1907. Visitors came by train from all over the state of Washington and beyond to take water, mud and steam baths. Throughout the summer, as hotels, cabins and numerous cottages filled, many proprietors rented tents to the thousands of people who came to the lake seeking treatment for untold health maladies that were, at the time, considered untreatable. Remember this was at a time where people didn't have health insurance with Aviva or similar companies. So being ill was a scary prospect for many people and one that they often couldn't see their way out of.

In the mid 1930s word got out through veterans organizations that the lake could arrest the vicious onslaught of the dreaded Buergers disease, an insidious circulatory disorder suffered by many World War I Veterans. Eventually the federal government funded a study to determine if the lake could cure the disease. Study results were inconclusive, but by then, veterans had flocked to the town and were receiving relief. In 1937 the state of Washington funded the building of a hospital to treat the patients that suffered from the disease.

With the advent of penicillin and sulfa drugs and modern medical practices, Soap Lake’s prominence as a premiere health resort waned. By the 1980s the town had fallen in disrepair. Aging or absentee landlords offered some of the lowest rents in the county for the small cabins and cottages that were once the favored abode of summer visitors.

The town is experiencing a resurgence as more people turn to natural and healthier lifestyles. Many are discovering the laid-back atmosphere of the town, its thriving artists community, and the presence of sunshine, clean air and water. While no claims can be officially laid on the ameliorative effects of the water and mud, there is no shortage of visitors or residents who can share their own experiences or stories they have heard from others.

The history of the town since its heydays during the last century is lively and colorful. The documentary, Dirt Roads is an excellent portrayal of Soap Lake. It contains many first person accounts of what it was like to grow up in a resort town where people of many different ethnic backgrounds and with different health conditions came and experienced remarkable results from bathing in the lake and using the mud.