By: Bob Greenawalt
A TRUE DESERT WATERHOLE
One of the most rewarding experiences we Desert Peaks people can have is to return back to camp after a successful climb. The second is a bath-usually very hard to find. Such a pleasant event is to be experienced at this famous old stopping place, just inside the Death Valley Nat'l Mon border, about 45 miles NW of Baker. One can reach them on a dirt road about 11 miles west of State highway 127, and they lie in the winter morning shadow of Avawatz Mtn. A writing of 55 years ago describes them as:
"Saratoga Springs are well-known to every traveler to Death Valley, as their site is the principal camping point each winter for prospectors who have claims in the vicinity. They are at the southwest edge of a black point of the Black Mtns that project southwards into the valley. The slope of the mountains east of this point is covered with sand and recedes to the north in a large cove, but part of the range that lies immediately back of the springs is rugged and rocky. The springs cannot be easily distinguished at a distance, for their location is marked mainly by the tules growing around them, and by prospector's stone houses which are nearly the color of the surrounding rocks, and on approaching them from the south they are hidden by a point of rocks until one is within a few yard of them.
The springs form a pool about twenty-five foot in diameter and 4 feet deep. The bottom is of white sand, which is kept in constant motions by the rising water. The overflow from the pool makes a little stream that runs northward into shallow lakes, covering 10 or 15 acres, and surrounded by tules. One might travel along the road leading from the springs northwestward to the old Ibex Mine without suspecting the existence of those lakes, as they are concealed by ridges of sand. In winter many ducks and geese may be found here, a fact appreciated by prospectors. Even in the coldest weather the water of Saratoga Springs has a temperature of 80 or 85 degrees, hence the springs make a bathing pool that is delightfully refreshing after long days of weary desert travel. It is worthy to not that the water is full of small fish, up to about 2-1/2 inches in diameter, of a grayish-black color."
All that this quote says is true today, except there are better signposts, and the pool is deeper and allows diving. The water is not at all brackish and has an inexhaustible source. It runs most steadily. Get in touch with this spring just once, and it will herald your return. Give yourself a treat you deserve, next time at Saratoga Springs!
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