Thursday, January 7, 2010

Happy Birthday Riverbend! 20 years in the making.

Riverbend Hot Springs celebrates 20 years in business this year! It's hard to believe that in 20 years we have gone from a bait shop to a youth hostel and now into an internationally known resort. Enjoy a few pics from our early days as a hostel. I don't think that we ever had bait and baths at the same time, but my folks always had a good sense of humor about our history. Hence the "hot minnow baths" sign above the pools. Curious WTH I'm talking about? Allow me to give a brief history lesson to our new fans:

What is now Riverbend Hot Springs was originally built by the Pierce family sometime in the 1930s or 40s. It was a small building, that the whole family lived in, and their riverside bait shack, where they sold live minnows to the many fishermen in the area. "Pierce's Minnows" later became "Smiths Minnows" in the late 70s and then my family bought it in 1988.

We were taking a little vacation/future home scouting mission and right as we were driving by, Mrs. Smith was hanging a "for sale" sign. My folks asked her to take it down and they bought our little slice of heaven right then and there. My older brother, my dad, and I would trap our own minnows in the Gila Mountains and ran our little bait shop on the Rio Grande for two years.

One fateful day, my brother was to let some of the water out of our truck tank that housed months worth of minnows. He spaced out and let all of the water out, killing all of the minnows and halting our business. It was a happy accident that turned out to be the crossroads that led my folks to following their dream of having a hot springs in T or C. They took the leap of faith, dug a well which hit 109 degree water, bought and transfered our water rights from and old school local healer "Dr. Dave Cloverleaf" and we began to pump the mineral water RIGHT INTO THE MINNOW TANKS! (we cleaned them first ;-) The famous "minnow baths" and Riverbend Hot Springs was born, January 1990.

Now, the question was, how could we make a small building and a couple of mobile homes into a hot springs destination. A friend of the family suggested that we open up a youth hostel. It is like a lodge, but for backpackers, and young international travelers. Bathrooms, kitchens, and sometimes bedrooms are shared among guests and hostels give off this feeling of welcoming community that is lacking from most hotels. Communal meals, shopping and day excursions are a commonplace and you never leave a hostel without having more friends than you came with.

Besides some dormitories and semi private rooms, we had riverside hot springs in bait tanks, a couple of tipis, retrofitted trailer rooms, and a floating room on the river called "The Love Boat"! We were a quirky, unique hit waiting to be discovered. That happened when we were highlighted on the back cover of Lets Go USA in the early 90s. Soon we had guests coming from all over the world and guide books were raving about this little funky hostel on the river with hot springs. A decade of fun ensued that my parents could write several books and sitcoms on, but I'll we'll save the details for the documentary.

In 2001 the world changed as we knew it. The patriot act halted much of the international travel to the US and hostels around the country suffered. My folks knew that if they could focus on private rooms and domestic travelers, we could make it. Times were tough, but they stuck it out.

In 2006, I returned home after eight years away to take the reins from my parents. Quitting my career to take over a youth hostel in tough times may seem like it was a leap of faith, like the one my folks took in 1990, but to me, it was a no-brainer. Riverbend is so special to so many thousands of people throughout the world and I am honored and thrilled to be the new "care taker" (as my parents always liked to be called). I hope you all continue to enjoy the next 20 years as much as we enjoyed the first!


  1. aye mate where would ya be without the drama queen

  2. Hi everyone,

    Is Bruno still hanging around OK ?