Castle Hot Springs: Arizona’s Favorite Wellness Retreat Wins an Emmy
By Douglas Towne
Contractors and engineers can be considered magicians, as they do the near impossible by making water run uphill. This feat is apparent locally with the Central Arizona Project, which carries Colorado River water from Lake Havasu and brings it upgradient to destinations including Phoenix and Tucson. This issue of Arizona Contractor & Community will focus on water and, specifically, the Colorado River. However, my editor’s column will spotlight Castle Hot Springs, perhaps Arizona’s most unique waters.
Located northwest of Lake Pleasant, Castle Hot Springs features one of Arizona’s most miraculous natural wonders: a constant flow of thermal water that fills pools amidst beautiful rock formations. Early entrepreneurs capitalized on its mystical aura starting in 1896, creating the state’s first resort with luxurious accommodations.
For 80 years, Castle Hot Springs was the Grande Dame of Arizona resorts, hosting presidents and tycoons who soaked in its therapeutic waters, hit golf balls on the short nine golf course, and swatted badminton shuttlecocks on the lawn. The resort's pristine backcountry, where the Bradshaw Mountains and the Sonoran Desert intersect, provided privacy and added to its charm.
The idyllic resort closed when fire destroyed its Palm Lodge in 1976. The resort's future was uncertain until 2014 when noted local philanthropists Mike and Cindy Watts, founders of Sunstate Equipment, purchased the 120-acre property at auction for $1.95 million.
The Watts revitalized the storied retreat, creating a modern version of its former glory, centered around the therapeutic qualities of its thermal waters. "My intent was to restore it and bring it back to life to be able to share a true Arizona treasure with people literally from around the world,” says Mike Watts. The resort reopened in February 2019. "I think, based upon our early feedback, we have accomplished restoring the magic that was once there.”
In the Jul/Aug 2019 issue, Arizona Contractor & Community covered the historic resort and its recent transformation into a luxury boutique resort. But an even better appetizer for those considering visiting this enchanted, one-of-a-kind destination is the 37-minute film Castle Hot Springs: Oasis of Time, which won the 2020 Rocky Mountain Emmy Award for “Best Historical Documentary.”
As part of the resort’s renovation, the Watts commissioned film producer Kristin Atwell Ford to create the award-winning documentary. Coincidentally, Atwell Ford had a legacy connection to Castle Hot Springs. Her mother, Sherri Chessen, owned the property in the early 1980s. “Seeing the resort reopen is like seeing a beloved family member come back to life,” Atwell Ford says. “Throughout history, Castle Hot Springs has been a place to gather and experience a rare connection with those you love. It’s an evocative place that forges powerful memories.”
To read the rest of this article, you are invited to purchase the digital issue here.
This article originally appeared in the bimonthly Arizona Contractor & Community magazine, May/Jun 2023 issue, Vol. 12, No. 3.