By Amanda Bedortha

Made up of hydrogen and oxygen atoms, water has the power to transform, heal, and connect people in ways that other natural resources can’t. It’s no wonder, then, that people drive in (as often as several times per week) from as far as Roseburg, Newport, and other places along the Oregon Coast to enjoy warm-water wellness at the Tamarack Aquatic Center.

Originally built by Easterseals, a nationwide nonprofit organization that provides resources for people with disabilities, Tamarack used to require guests to obtain a prescription from their doctor to use the heated pool. Today, anyone—with or without a prescription—is welcome to enjoy the 92-degree saltwater pool at Tamarack Aquatics Center.

“This is a miracle pool,” board member Leslie Scott says. “We joke about the ‘little pool that could,’ but it’s really no joke. There’s no other pool like it in the country.”

It’s true. Tamarack Aquatics Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, is one of the few therapeutic and recreational warm water aquatic facilities in the nation.

92: The magic number

The indoor pool at Tamarack is heated to 92 degrees Fahrenheit. This temperature is considered thermal-neutral for the human body. Anything less and the body chills, causing muscles to tense. “When people get in the water here, there is far less muscle contraction and they are able to relax,” says Susan Quash-Mah, director of Tamarack Aquatic. “And when you relax, you improve flexibility and mobility.”

“For people who have anxiety, PTSD, autism, or any kind of emotional stress: Because you are being impacted with the warm water all over, your fight or flight response lowers,” Quash-Mah says.

“It puts you in a parasympathetic state,” Scott adds, “rather than fight or flight.”

Tamarack Aquatic became a saltwater pool in 2008. Salt helps disinfect the water, similar to how chlorine does, only it’s much gentler on human skin, giving those with skin conditions, such as psoriasis, skin cancer, or allergies to chlorine, an opportunity to swim. The pool uses ultraviolet and saltwater generators as well as CO2to sanitize the pool.

A pool for everyone

Tamarack offers both therapeutic and recreational swim opportunities. For people with mobility limiations, being in the pool is the only time they are free from gravity. Sometimes, it’s also the only time they are upright.

Those with arthritis, PTSD, depression, and chronic pain can all benefit from immersion in a 92-degree saltwater pool, which is said to increase muscle strength, tone, flexibility, and mobility, improve circulation and respiration, rejuvenate sore muscles and joints, enhance balance, reduce pain, speed healing from injury and surgery, ease anxiety, and improve sleep.

Currently, Tamarack Aquatic offers Ai Chi six times a week. This aquatic exercise focuses on relieving chronic pain, deep breathing, stretching, and meditation techniques. In addition to this popular class, the pool offers aqua yoga, aqua jog, gentle arthritis stretch, one-on-one therapy, and Up Tempo for those pool users who want a little more challenge in their water workout.

Then, of course, there’s the “Miracle Hour.” Monday through Saturday, from noon to 1 pm, pool users in various states of mobility all come together to enjoy the water. During this unstructured time, swimmers can exercise on their own or with the help of an aide if needed. Tamarack Aquatic does not charge for the use of an aide or their on-site equipment, such as lifts, flotation devices, and wheelchairs.

The pool also offers times for lap swim, open swim (all ages), family swim, baby swim for parents and children ages six months to three years, and veterans-only swim. Private or semi-private swim lessons are offered between 3 pm and 5 pm Monday through Thursday, in four-week intervals.

Healing waters

In 2009, Leni was diagnosed with lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and scleroderma, an incurable disease with a life expectancy of three to 10 years. At the onset of Leni’s illness, she could not stand up or feed herself, but the healing waters at Tamarack have been transformative for her. “I am able to do things in the water I cannot do on land,” Leni says. “The warm salt water of Tamarack helped me get back on my feet.”

Tamarack Aquatic offers scholarships for those on a fixed income. To find out more, visit their website.

Tamarack Aquatic Center, 3575 Donald St., Ste. 300, 541/686-9290,