SADDLEBACK / SOUTH BEACH : SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO : Hot Springs to Be Historical Landmark
The San Juan Hot Springs will be dedicated as Orange County’s 38th historical landmark in a noon ceremony scheduled Monday - at the hot-tub haven, 12 miles east of San Juan Capistrano on Ortega Highway.
Nestled in the mountains abutting Cleveland National Forest, the hot springs were first documented by Spanish missionaries who visited the Mission San Juan Capistrano in the late 1700s. Local Indians believed the bubbling, 100-degree mineral water had spiritual healing power.
In the late 1880s a rustic hotel, cabins and a dance hall were built at the springs to attract travelers from the train station in San Juan Capistrano, who were lured by advertisements of the soothing waters.
The business remained in various forms until the 1930s, when the springs were fenced off to the public and numerous cement pools were destroyed. In the 1960s, the uninhabited area became notorious as a hangout for hippie bathers, who were often arrested for trespassing and indecent exposure.
Today, water from the hot springs is filtered and piped into 25 outdoor hot tubs, in a 24-hour business operated under a lease from county-run Ronald W. Caspers Wilderness Park.