The history of the Saline Valley hot tubs is somewhat obscure. Some facts are well known. Other bits of history are based on hearsay. There is some differing of opinions among those I have spoken with. I will endeavor to present what I know, and what I have heard that seems to be agreed upon between parties. I will limit my discussion to the pools at the Lower Warm Springs. There are many people who know far more than I do about the creation of the pools at Palm Springs. I will hope for their contribution to this tale of yore.  I will also share what I know about the creation of the peace sign on the cinder cone south of camp.

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Bathtub circa 50’s

It is an established fact that the original hot tub in Saline Valley was the tank that has been traditionally called the “bathtub” that is next to what is now the shower at the Lower Warm Springs. This “tub” was a water tank that was placed at the Lower Warm Springs by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the construction of the Saline Valley Road during the WPA public works program of the 1930’s. Presumably the tank was installed to give the workers a place to bathe. Originally set above ground, it eventually found itself buried as the desert graded itself through flash floods. In time, cement was applied to make the soaking tub stable and permanent.

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Soaking in the source back when it was a common practice

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An earlier version of the Sunrise Pool

Up until the 60’s, the CCC tub and the source were the only options for visitors to enjoy a soak. Both were used by the occasional and infrequent visitor. In 1964 Saline Valley Lower Warm Springs acquired its first resident. This gentleman has been referred to as “the Preacher” and was something of a Christian cultist. The story goes that he moved to the springs with his wife to write a book. At this point, according to Big Al, the Lower Warm Springs became “crowded.”  If more than one vehicle arrived to enjoy the solitude and soaks of the valley there was a good chance all the soaks might be occupied. Back in the day, it seems folks were not quite as communal as they are today. This “overcrowding” required a new tub for the overflow.  A hole was dug in the ground at the present location of the Sunrise Pool and a natural bottom pool was created.  Various contributors including Red Braden, Joe Ostringer, and Vern from the Department of Fish and Game brought in cement for the eventual creation of the new pool. In 1968, and then again in 1970 the pool received more attention and improvements with cement being added, some of which Elmer brought in by plane. (Many of the remote landing strips around the valley were created by Elmer, who was a regular visitor from Petaluma. Elmer originally brought “Lucky Rich” to the Lower Warm Springs.)

The lower pool, now referred to as the “Crystal Pool” was created in the 70’s.  A couple of hippies from San Francisco spent time as residents of the valley in the 1960’s. Their names were Sunshine and Raymond. Sunshine was the creator of the cinder cone’s peace sign around 1968. She used a rake to remove the surface cinders and expose the lighter colored volcanic soil beneath. Around the same time, she and another friend dug a hole near the fire pit to allow them to cook out of the wind. These ladies even had shelves set up in the pit to hold their cooking spices.  In time the pit became an easy place to toss garbage from the campfire. Eventually it became enough of an eyesore to warrant the creation of a new pool.

The rest is history as we say. Through the years and through the love and reverence of the community who have enjoyed the solitude and freedom of Saline Valley small improvements have continued in and around the Warm Springs camps. These are improvements both to the pools and communal areas. Though after 38 years I still consider myself to be a newcomer, I do recall and recollect some of the early days in a previous blog at:

Savor the memories. Enjoy the day. Envision the future. But mostly, enjoy the day!

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The bathtub back in the early BLM days


Along the way I have found that different people have different recollections and stories of how the tubs evolved at the Lower Warm Springs. Some people insist that events unfolded as I have transcribed them here. Others insist that the “crystal” pool was the first pool built and that garbage accumulated near the source and was eventually moved and replaced by the “sunrise” pool. Both sides are equally adamant. I would invite anyone who has first hand knowledge of this evolution to offer their stories, recollections, or observations in the comments section below.

As you read these humble efforts to transcribe some heritage and history, if you find you have some correction, clarification, or tidbit to add, I encourage you to add a comment at the end of this blog. Contributions will be welcome toward the final project, and all due credit will be given.
Please consider visiting the home page: Saline Valley Chronicles for a complete list of chapters published to date, and an overview of the project.

Saline Valley first inspired me to pursue a more serious engagement with the art of photography. My favorite picks are shared on my Smug Mug Gallery of Saline Valley Art at:

Saline Chronicles directory and overview: