Years ago, when the travel writer Pam Mandel passed through Soap Lake, Washington, she said “it felt like one of those fake nuclear test site towns.”
The hot, arid climate only adds to the deserted feeling. But you could say this little-known town in Eastern Washington was once one of the nation’s premier wellness retreats: The mineral-rich waters of its lakeshore drew everyone from the Native Tsincayuse tribe to Eastern European immigrants with its healing powers.
“People come here, and they think it’s dead,” says Anna Kozlov, who works at Mom’s European Food & Deli, a local grocery owned by her in-laws. “There just aren’t that many people here.”
The foamy lake “smells like a bad egg,” she says. The thick mud on the bottom glops with a potpourri of things not normally associated with summertime swims: sulfates, nitrogen, potassium, lithium, and other highly alkaline minerals with medicinal properties.
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