9: Milk River Bath: It’s HOW radioactive??

I’ve read about Milk River Bath, it is one of at least three popular developed mineral springs in Jamaica that people believe cures ailments and improves health (one is in St. Thomas and is referred to as simply “Bath”,  and there’s Rockfort near Kingston, maybe others).  There is a hotel at Milk River (and Bath) and in both cases I believe the hotels are government owned.

Milk River is situated inland from the tail end of the “alligator” I refer to in my Gut River post. It’s about a half hour or 45 minutes east from Gut River, mostly along that lonely coast road but for a little bit on a somewhat more significant road heading inland.

Milk River was “discovered” in the 18th century when legend has it, a runaway slave who had been whipped and beaten escaped to it and after immersing himself for several days in the salty tasting (but not salt) water, was healed. When he returned to the plantation (it is entirely unclear to me why a slave would do that but that’s how the story goes), the plantation owner agreed to forgive whatever offense had been committed if the slave would show him where he bathed.  The plantation owner fenced it off and the first baths were opened to the public in 1794. Milk River Baths now has 9 private baths, a 13 room hotel with restaurant and bar and an outdoor mineral swimming pool.

This is the hotel and baths:

The water at Milk River is said to be many times more radioactive than Bath, England, Vichy, France, and Baden, Switzerland, among others. It contains a lot of sodium (hence the salty feel), calcium, sulphate and magnesium. This water is reputed to cure gout, rheumatism, neuralgia, sciatica and more.

So we thought, hey, it should at least help with the hangover from last night’s rum-fueled festivities at the villa 🙂

We arrived and were greeted by a lovely woman who explained how it works ($400J for 15 minutes, no more than 30 minutes at a time recommended). Baths are private. When I asked if there was a shower she looked at me in horror (OK, that’s an exaggeration) and said that we should not wash the water off for at least 24 hours because it continues to work on our ailments after we get out.

I noticed most of the other guests were older Jamaican folks.  We were shown to rooms, an attendant knocks on the door when your time is up.

The rooms are tiled and pretty, if a bit worn. They all have pretty mosaics in the tile.

There are steps with railings you use to get into the water which is in a deep bath, like a square hot tub, sort of. It’s warm.

You may, like my friend Lee, wonder how you avoid being in the previous guest’s water as the baths are not emptied between visitors. Our hostess’ response was that the water continually flows through, and while that may not completely put you at ease, it is true that there are 3 pipes constantly running fresh mineral water in and a large drain at the far end letting it out.  I decided that germs don’t live long in radioactive water anyway…right?

I enjoyed my soak. People have been coming here for 200+ years and many return regularly so there must be something to it. I floated around until the attendant knocked on my door.

Feeling refreshed, at least, I went up to the second floor porch to wait on everyone else. It was nice up there, a cool breeze, and the dining room and bar looked lovely.

Looking out from the porch.

There is an actual Milk River and it flows down 2.5 miles from the baths to the Alligator tail at Farquahar Beach, which I’d like to visit sometime. It’s a fishing beach and small community.

But don’t swim in it 🙂

Thanks Milk River, I’m glad my friend Danni urged us to go – she’s a massage therapist and into alternative medicine so it was really at her request that we went. I think we were all glad for the dip.

Next we head back the way we came, to Little Ochie in Alligator Pond for an early dinner. We’re all restored and rejuvenated and hungry now, of course.

(Some photos shared with me by Tommy, China and Smitty – thanks guys)

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