Hot Springs In Hot Water? Preserving Public Use Of Hot Springs In California


photo: Bonnie Hulkower

There are over 1,700 hot springs in the western United States. Most of these are located in Nevada and California. In California, 304 hot springs are sprinkled throughout the state. One of the best things about hot springs in California, is that although many are located inside spas with fluffy towels and massage services, there are plenty of others that are located outside in nature with no facilities except for a stone pool or bath tub. In the Kern River Valley, the region is speckled with hot springs. Many were at one point developed into hotels, that have since gone out of business. Others are no longer publicly accessible. Still, a few public hot springs remain which can be easily accessed in nature for free- one of these is in danger of being demolished.This past weekend, I soaked in the scenic Remington Hot Springs, meeting a diverse group of devotees, who were also enjoying the natural mineral hot tubs. Some people believe that the mineral water is physically therapeutic. Others, including myself, tout the psychological and social benefits. Remington Hot Springs is located along the southern fork of the Kern River in the Sequoia National Forest, in the Sierra foothills. After a windy drive from Bodfish, along a scenic canyon, you arrive at an unmarked parking lot. From there you walk down a steep trail with gray pine and oak trees until you see the river, and the stone pools nestled along the bank. The pools are decorated with discarded jewelry, buttons, and cement handprints. There are three pools, with temperatures varying from 96 to 105 degrees and are accessible 24/7. From the several different times I was there over the weekend, the pools are usually in use, even at odd times.

The beauty of Remington, is that you can drive up to an unmarked parking lot, and after a quarter mile hike, be lying in natural mineral waters in the middle of the night, in the middle of winter, listening to both the rapids of the Kern River and the conversations of an eclectic group of people. You can even camp at Remington Hot Springs, all without spending a dime.

During the past few decades, there were at least four hot springs in the area that were used by locals and visitors alike. Upriver from Remington, was the much beloved Miracle Hot Springs located at the Forest Service's Hobo Campground, which was named for the 1901 hobo camp for workers from the nearby Borel power plant. In 1927, a hotel was constructed at Miracle Hot Springs, but it burned down in 1975. Some of the rock tubs from the hotel remained popular until the Forest Service demolished them due to trash problems and vandalism.

The three other hot springs in the area, Delongeha, Scovern, and Democrat, were once accessible to the public, but are today located on private property. Democrat is located on gated private property with a caretaker, making it not as democratic as its name would suggest.

This leaves Remington and Pyramid. Pyramid is located basically in the middle of the Kern River, and the water is often too deep to venture into. As a result, Remington has become even more popular, but as was the case with Miracle Hot Springs, it now faces the possibility of being loved to death. Remington has been faithfully maintained for the past decade by a hearty group of volunteers; When I was there you could see brushes and supplies stowed away behind a nearby bush. I met Brian, one of the Friends of Remington volunteers, while I was soaking, and he asked me to put up this post asking that those who visit the pools help keep them clean and treat the area respectfully. There is also a petition to the Forest Service on savethetrails.com, where you can voice your support to preserve Remington and keep it open to the public.

Some would argue that I shouldn't write about these hot springs, for fear that any new attention will just bring too many more careless people. But the hot springs are not a secret, and, hopefully the petition, as well as the good examples set by the Friend of Remington volunteers will encourage a similar ethos in other soakers. These hot springs have been used since time immemorial, and I hope they will continue to be free to anyone in need of a soak for the next one hundred years.

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Tags: California | Camping | Preservation | Water Conservation | Winter