A Landing a Day

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Posts Tagged ‘Curtis H. Springer’

Zzyzx, California

Posted by graywacke on October 20, 2019

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-a-week blog), I use an app that provides a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”

I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town or towns I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location. 

To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some relatively recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2461; A Landing A Day blog post number 897.

Dan:  Today’s lat/long (N34o 59.506’, W116o 17.208’) puts me in southwest California:

Here’s the graph mentioned in ALADus Obscurus:

 

And here’s my local landing map:

 

You don’t see Zzyzx.  But I did highlight what looks like an airstrip.  Let’s take a much closer look at that airstrip:

And there it is!  And check out this roadsign on I-15 (posted on Google Earth by Veronique Derouet):

Here’s a Google Earth (GE) shot, showing my landing as well as Zzyzx:

Obviously, there’ll be more about Zzyzx in a bit.

Even though I landed out in the boonies, I was able to position the Orange Dude to get a peek at my landing location:

And here’s what he sees:

I landed out in the desert, and StreetAtlas doesn’t show anything on its “streams-only” map.  But I realized that back in June of 2016, I landed nearby (landing 2277).  I thought that I’d be able to steal the watershed analysis from that post, and I did.  I discovered that I landed in the Mojave River watershed (3rd hit).  I stole a map from that post, and added today’s landing:

The Mojave is internally drained (i.e., it doesn’t make it to the ocean).  Occasionally it flows all the way to Soda Lake, and thence to Silver Lake.  The last time Soda Lake and Silver Lake contained water was during the very wet winter of 2004-2005.

I also stole this GE shot from landing 2277:

And this historic shot of the Mojave during a flood:

Moving on to Zzyzx.  Let’s take a closer look on GE:

It looks like there’s some sort of a facility there, and indeed there is.  A little bit of research reveals that the Desert Studies Center (DSC) is there.  The DSC is a “field station” associated with the California State University. 

But much more interesting is the rectangular lake that you can see on the GE shot.  Here’s a photo posted on GE by Eric Mansoor:

And a close-up of what appears to be a now-defunct fountain in the middle of the lake (by Adam Parkzer):

I found a Roadside America piece about Zzyzx.  Here it is, just slightly edited:

On the edge of a dry lake bed, you’ll find a bizarre pseudo-town: “Zzyzx” (pronounced “Zye – Zex,” rhyming with Isaac’s).

[I love rhyming it with “Isaac’s!”]

Travelers between Las Vegas and Los Angeles sometimes stop in the Mojave Desert along I-15 to pose next to the novel highway sign for Zzyzx Road. But few realize that heading several miles down a narrow, mostly paved route will deliver them to an oasis with an oddball history.

We headed south to Zzyzx. It looks exactly like one might expect of an oasis — a clump of tall palm trees and a riot of green and water, out of place in the wasteland.

Before it became Zzyzx, “Soda Springs” was a popular stop for Indians in search of fresh water. Then came Spanish explorers, then a US Army outpost — Camp Soda Springs — a godforsaken posting in the 1860s, protecting government supplies from the (thirsty) Indians. Later there were miners who harvested lake minerals, and then the railroad passed through.

The Z’s arrived in 1944. LA radio evangelist Curtis H. Springer, self-proclaimed minister (and quack doctor), decided the mineral springs were the ideal location for a health resort. He and his wife filed a mining claim on a 12,800 acre parcel of what were public lands.

He named it “Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort,” touted as “the last word in health” and the last word in the English language — a gimmick so it would be the last listing in any directory.

Springer made a fortune promoting his useless medical products, shipping them all over the world to cure various ailments, even cancers and baldness. He and his wife had failed in a string of earlier health spa attempts, but Zzyzx was a concept whose time had come. The charismatic Springer recruited skid row bums from his Los Angeles mission to live in a tent encampment to help build Zzyzx. He planted rows of palm trees to enhance the oasis atmosphere.

In its heyday, Zzyzx must have been a great destination. The “natural” hot springs feeding the cross-shaped mineral baths were artificially heated by a hidden boiler. The enterprise grew to include a 60-room hotel, church, a private airstrip (the Zzyport), and even a castle built along streets with names such as the “Boulevard of Dreams.” Springer added a radio station that provided his syndicated program of music, scripture, and rantings nationwide.

Senior citizens came to Zzyzx for decades seeking the healing waters, with attendance peaking in the 1960s.

Inevitably, Dr. Springer went too far with his nutty utopia — even pulling money into his coffers from gullible followers who wanted to build homes in Zzyzx. In 1974, the government woke up and realized the “King of Quacks” (a name bestowed on him by the American Medical Association) had no legit claim to the land.  He and his followers were summarily evicted from the property. Federal marshals arrested Springer, who spent a short stint in jail for FDA laws he’d broken with his bogus medicine claims.

Springer retired to Las Vegas and died in 1985. The kingdom of Zzzyzx was taken over by the Bureau of Land Management.

Most of the old concrete buildings still stand. You’ll find a mix of well-maintained structures run by Cal State U, and then completely derelict buildings along the shore of the old lake, including the old (and now roofless) old pool house.

Here’s a shot of the old pool house from allthatsinteresting.com:

Well, there you have it. 

I’ll close with some nearby photos posted on GE.  First this of the Mojave by Christopher Trott:

And then another Mojave shot by Christopher Price:

I’ll close with this lovely Soda Lake shot by g edwards:

That’ll do it . . .

KS

Greg

 

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