Manley Hot Springs
What at first appeared a bust turned into a Garden of Eden, thanks to the work of Mr. and Mrs. Dart. When we arrived at Manley and began looking for the hot springs we found a “no trespassing” sign over the Manley Hot Springs Resort sign. We dropped into the post office/general store/gas station to tank up and learned that the owner of the hot springs had passed away and nobody was interested in keeping it open after they had discovered and underground leak in the generators that had contaminated the water in the area. “But Mr. And Mrs. Dart have a nice place…”
To find Manley, head north out of Fairbanks and take Highway 2 from Fox. Follow the road all the way up to Livengood. The road is paved for the first 30 or so miles, and then it turns into a well maintained dirt road (better than the paved road, actually). Do not turn into Livengood, but remain on the main road. When this road comes to a Y several miles past the Livengood turnoff, take the left marked by signs indicating Manley Hot Springs. The road becomes more narrow and rougher at this point. The drive takes between 3 to 4 hours from Fairbanks in the summer. If you are coming from Anchorage, you may wish to consider flying in, especially if you do not wish to spend time on the hiking trails on the Elliot highway. Everything in Manley is within walking distance.
Along the drive to Manley there are several good places one can see the Trans Alaska Pipeline. There is also much opportunity to see wildlife. We spotted moose, snowshoe hares, porcupines, and a black bear and her two cubs. There are spectacular vistas of the rolling hills of the interior, where one can see endless forests nearly undisturbed except for the pipeline and the service roads. White paper birch trees line both sides of the road. As we drop from hilltops into valleys the scenery changed to Black Spruce muskeg (bogs). At other places the elevation gain is so high that you will find yourself up above tree line.
The Dart greenhouse is a haven for the locals still wishing to enjoy the pools. Although they do not advertise, they welcome both locals and visitors. For five dollars per person per hour you rent the greenhouse to use as your private spa. The greenhouse remains about 78 degrees, and the three small pools reminded us first of Eden, and then of a roman garden. Grapes grow from vines all through the greenhouse, as do many, many varieties of flowers. And there is no smell! Usually Alaska hot springs have a sulfur content that makes the place smell terrible. We asked Mr. Dart what kind of filter system he uses to keep out the smell and keep the water so perfectly clean. He told us, “nothing, no filter system,” and that the water does not flow through rock containing sulfur content, so it is naturally pure and clean with no smell.
The three pools in the middle of the greenhouse are varied in temperature by the amount of cold water that is added in with the hot. One pool had no cool water coming in, and I was only able to relax for about five minutes. But the other two pools are cooler and much easier to remain in for the entire hour. There are no showers, but one can clean oneself by dipping a bucket into the pools and drawing water out to pour over oneself, lather up, and rinse using buckets of water.
The Darts did not have a sign advertising their pools, but they welcome guests nonetheless. (We were afraid we were trespassing, but they were quite welcoming.) The easiest way to find the greenhouse is to drive into Manley crossing the single lane bridge over Manley Hot Springs Slough, then turn right back around, and count the driveways on the left hand side of the road. The Dart’s greenhouse is the third driveway. As you drive in the greenhouse will be on the right and their home is up on the hill to the left. Do not go into the greenhouse without first speaking with Mr. Dart. Others may be in there and they may not be wearing anything!
We think Manley Hot Springs makes for a very romantic getaway. Guys, we know that chicks dig adventure. Whisking her away on a weekend trip to Alaska can be quite exciting. Fly in to Anchorage and charter a plane up to Manley Hot Springs. Soak at the Dart’s for an hour or two, and wander through the garden. Walk back across the bridge and spend the night at the Manley Hot Springs Lodge (a.k.a. Manley Roadhouse). Fly back the next day, or spend another day walking around Manley or charter a boat to take you and your special someone on a boat tour of the Tanana River. You may also wish to meet Iditarod musher Joe Reddington Jr., and tour his kennel.
The Manley Hot Springs Roadhouse is a very quaint and comfortable place to stay while in Manley Hot Springs. It features a restaurant, bar and living area downstairs. Upstairs there are enough rooms to accommodate up to 30 people, and private outdoor cabins are being added. Some rooms have private baths, while others share a common bath. The rooms are very quaint and quite comfortable. The Lodge plans to add a hot tub of its own during the summer of 2000. Although the Lodge is closed during the winter, it plans to stay open year round beginning in 2000. For contact info on the Lodge, click here.
There is also a campground across the street from the Lodge. For those people who prefer to rough it, the campground is just about no-frills as you can get. But then, it is only five bucks...
While Manley is one of the least developed hot springs regions, it is also one of the most beautiful, enjoyable, and secluded.
If you would like to contact Chuck and Gladys Dart to inquire about visiting their greenhouse gardens and hot spring pools, click here for contact information.
Last Visited: May 2000