Kraus Hot Springs is about 500 kilometers west of Yellowknife, in the Nahanni National Park Reserve, in Canada’s largest territory, the Northwest Territories. This Canadian national park, also known as a secret paradise, covers 30,000 square kilometers and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are other hot springs in the area and other beautiful natural features, including glittering alpine lakes, gorges, and waterfalls, but Kraus Hot Springs is believed to have the greatest views. Although this is one of Canada’s most difficult hot springs to reach, it is also one of the least visited, so you’ll have more of the natural beauty to yourself!
These Springs are a popular and much-anticipated rest break for those traveling down the South Nahanni River on a long and tough journey. The Springs, which spring from sand and gravel on the riverbank, are just downstream from the first canyon and a few hundred meters upstream from Clausen Creek.
The main source of hot water lies 300 meters from the river, at the base of a rock wall. A pool about 9 feet across generated by water rising up into the river sand and silt between high and low river levels is the main attraction for bathers. The water has a strong sulphur odor and a significant concentration of dissolved minerals, primarily chloride, sodium, calcium, and sulfate. When the river gets high, the pool is flooded.
Gus and Mary Kraus, Mary Kraus, dubbed the “First Lady of the Nahanni” by some, was a fascinating figure who lived and prospered for over 30 years in the Nahanni region, periodically between 1940 and 1971, giving the Springs its name. The adjoining little cabin, which used to be their generator shack, is now used as a check-in station. Some exotic plants from the couple’s garden thrive here, shielded from the cold by the warmth of the Springs. There were plans to create a spa and hunting lodge before the park was founded, but that didn’t materialize.
Mary, a Dene lady, was born at Fort Liard in 1912. While Gus was a skilled woodsman, it was Mary’s bush skills, delicate hand at weaving moccasins and traditional crafts, and knowledge of plants and medicines that kept them alive over the decades they spent living in remote regions. Not to mention her hunting and trapping talents.
Over the years on the Nahanni, Mary and Gus received numerous visitors, including Pierre Trudeau on his controversial expedition down the Nahanni in 1970. Following Trudeau’s visit, the Nahanni National Park Reserve was established, and Mary and Gus relocated to Little Doctor Lake’s shoreline. Generations of Nahanni travelers have paused to enjoy the warm waters of the springs and the historical significance of Kraus’ Hot Springs since they left the Nahanni.
On a Nahanni excursion, visitors at Kraus’ Hot Springs can find evidence of Mary’s residence. On the grassy banks above the thermal pool, there is still a little outbuilding, as well as parsnip and other perennials.
Despite the fact that the park staff generally encourages wilderness camping, the Springs are closed to camping from August to September due to the high number of black bears that frequent the region. It’s worth noting that this is one of only eight toilets in the entire park.