Carved out of Augusta, Botetourt, and Greenbrier (now in West Virginia) counties in 1790, Bath County consists of narrow valleys and parallel mountain ranges. The Jackson and Cowpasture rivers are the county's principal water sources, and the George Washington National Forest covers most of its area. Remote and known for its scenic beauty, the county has one of the smallest populations in the state. The area was settled from the mid-eighteenth century mostly by Scots-Irish heading south through the Shenandoah Valley and Anglo-Virginians crossing the Allegheny Mountains from the east.
Named either for the many thermal springs located in the county or after the spa town of Bath in England, Bath County was noted for its springs resorts, which were visited, especially before the Civil War, by the social elite of the South. By stagecoach and carriages, they flocked to the resorts throughout western Virginia to escape the summer heat, take advantage of the curative powers of the mineral waters, and socialize with their peers. Warm Springs Valley, which extends through the heart of the county, contained three of the most popular resorts—Hot Springs, Warm Springs, and Healing Springs. The liveliest resort was Hot Springs with the renowned hotel, The Homestead (BA14). Today its guests come for the accommodations and recreation rather than for “taking the waters.” Warm Springs, the county seat, was also a favorite for its bathhouses (BA5) and large hotel. Healing Springs in the southern section of the county offered a smaller hotel where the social life was more subdued. Warm Springs Valley is now dotted with grand houses and fenced pastures. The construction in the 1970s of Gathright Dam on the Jackson River created Lake Moomaw, which offers the best water recreation in the region.
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