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Travertine Hot Springs and Other Springs in Easter Sierra

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Travertine Hot Springs

The Travertine hot springs are a group of geothermal mineral springs that are located near Bridgeport, California, and are on several large travertine terraces, which overlook the High Sierra Mountains. Travertine is a form of limestone that’s formed by the deposits of mineral springs, particularly hot springs. The springs are named after the travertine that forms these terraces. The springs themselves are made safe, thanks to people building wood and concrete enclosures to contain the hot waters, rock pools, and channels to divert the hot water and control the temperature of the water. The water that emerges from the geothermal fissures in the ground is very hot, about 80 degrees Celsius. However, by the time they progress through the travertine terraces, the water cools down to about 45 degrees Celsius, making it perfect to soak in. However, due to underground movements that’s caused by regional earthquakes, there can be fluctuations in temperature, so make sure the water is warm enough to enter, before taking a deep soak in. 

Small hot spring in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains near Bridgeport, California.

The Travertine hot springs are historically relevant, too. The hot springs were initially used by the local Indigenous people, and later by the early European settlers in the continent. According to anthropological research, Paleo-Indians had used these thermal springs for over 10,000 years, based on evidence left behind in the forms of settlements near the area. The springs were useful as they provided warmth, water to clean with, and healing mineral water that helped with aches and pains. In the mid-1890s, the travertine stones were carted from the site to San Francisco, where over 60 tons of travertine were used to build the interior facings of the San Francisco City Hall, among other buildings. In the early 1900s, wood-lined pools were built for ‘dipping sheep’ (a formulation of insecticide and fungicide which shepherds and farmers used to protect their sheep from infestation against various external parasites). Some of the wooden planks that are still available on-site are some of the original boards that were used in the 1900s.  

When travelling to the Travertine hot springs, keep in mind that these springs are not part of a man-made retreat, so there aren’t any trash cans or  places to dispose of your garbage, so carry trash bags with you to keep the springs clean. If you do want to carry food and drinks to the hot springs, feel free, but make sure everything is in easy-to-dispose plastic or aluminium containers – don’t bring glass containers, as these containers can be a serious hazard if they break. The springs are open to all – though they are technically on state park land (they’re located in the California State Park), there isn’t really a fee to visit, and there isn’t really a ranger station that’s close by. This does mean that you’re responsible for your own actions, so keep in mind to make sure you don’t disrupt others’ visits to the hot springs. 

There are about 5 hot springs in this area, and there are no facilities in the area apart from a small bathroom. Therefore, when planning a trip to the Travertine hot springs, make sure you pack some sunscreen, a swimsuit, some food and water, some towels, sandals, and some trash bags to pack up your trash before you leave. Before you leave, keep an eye on the weather – however, the 5 springs tend to have water at different temperatures. This means that no matter when you go, you’ll find a pool to either cool you down, or to have a warm soak in.

The Travertine springs are also a great place for camping – there is a limited camping space that’s available on the road to the hot springs, but camping isn’t allowed right next to the springs. When camping, keep in mind that there aren’t any facilities available, so you’ll have to pack (and pack up when you’re done) accordingly. If you’re looking to stay at a hotel, there are hotels available at Bridgeport, California – the town that’s closest to the Travertine springs.  

The Eastern Sierra Hot Springs 

The hot springs in Eastern Sierra, California, used to be a coveted secret amongst the locals – back then, these warm geothermal springs were discovered by asking around, and a select few tourists were given the lucky privilege of visiting these warm waters. Fortunately, with the advent of the Internet and Google Maps, it’s relatively easy to find these springs using your GPS, and the Eastern Sierra has a number of springs that you can visit. The hot springs in Eastern Sierra are supplied with geothermally heated groundwater from the Earth’s crust, and are relatively safe to visit, though there are some springs that can be dangerous – the water can be hot enough to scald, or burn, and can even cause potentially fatal injuries, so keep safety precautions in mind when visiting these springs. The Eastern Sierra Hot Springs in particular are a very popular place to visit because of the myriad of pools available, along with stunning views of the ridges of the Sierra and is a must-visit for those visiting the state. 

Beautiful little hot spring with therapeutic mineral water near Bishop, California.

Buckeye Hot Springs

The Buckeye hot springs are another set of hot springs that’s near Bridgeport California, along the Buckeye creek in the Eastern Sierras. There are 2 hot springs available, and the popularity of these springs is its accessibility and location with regards to the Buckeye creek. The water that comes up from the geothermal vents is quite hot too, around 80 degrees Celsius, but is cooled down once it enters the pool. The hot spring water comes down a hillside and falls into rock-walled pools that are alongside the creek, making for a stunning sight. The proximity to the creek means it’s perfect for a quick dip into the cook waters of the creek, if the water from the springs gets too hot for your liking. 

When visiting the Buckeye hot springs, keep in mind that though they aren’t as popular as the Travertine hot springs, they do see a fair amount of foot traffic, so you can plan your trip during the off-season, so you can spend as much time soaking in the springs as you like. Furthermore, keep in mind that there may be other visitors with you, so make sure you carry trash bags to keep the place clean for other users. Getting to the Buckeye hot springs does require going through a short, but steep, hike, so make sure you pack some hiking boots or strong sandals to reach the hot springs. 

Like the Travertine hot springs, there is a camping ground available for these springs as well, aptly called the Buckeye Campground. The campground is tucked away in the Sierra foothills west of the town of Bridgeport and is a popular camping ground because it’s close to the hot springs. The camping ground is also a great starting point for hiking as well. Right outside the campground is the Buckeye Creek Trailhead, a place to start your hikes. The hiking path splits into two about 10 minutes from the campground – the north leads to the Kirkwood pass, and the south leads to the Buckeye pass. The campground itself is pretty large – it’s about 68 acres, or 275,000 square metres – but can get pretty crowded during the summer. Trailers can be accommodated at the campground, though there aren’t any facilities available – including drinking water. This means that if you do choose to camp there, carry all essential items with you, along with trash bags and boxes to properly store your trash and food. There is a camp host in case you want to purchase firewood, and the campground is open from mid-April to mid-October. 

Little Hot Creek

The Little Hot Creek is a series of hot springs that overlook the mountains – the springs here are quite small, and are either naturally occurring pools or man-made ones that are built from concrete (so not all the pools are naturally occurring) and the water  supplies is piped from the Hot Creek, that starts as the Mammoth Creek in Mono County. As the Mammoth Creek leaves the Sierra, it’s joined by warmer water from the hot springs at the Hot Creek State Fish Hatchery – that’s why it’s named ‘Hot Creek’. Don’t let the name scare you, the temperature is quite mild, and reaches around 25 degrees Celsius. There is a campground located nearby, and the rules for camping are similar to the other springs as well – pack your essentials, and make sure you leave nothing behind (including your trash). Since these pools are small and clustered together, it’s a great place to have a larger group and spread out, or even to meet other people, as many tourists that are new to California, and Californians themselves, come here to have a warm soak. 

Crab Cooker Hot Spring

These hot springs are located near Mammoth Lakes, too, and consists of a man-made concrete pool, that’s supplied by water that’s piped from a mineral spring about 9 metres away. The pool was built to help control the temperature of the water – the water is originally too hot to bathe in, but the pool is fitted with a valve that allows the control of hot water. The water is extremely hot – it can get as hot as 65 degrees Celsius The small hot spring at Crab Cooker is big enough to accommodate about six people, so it’s a good place to visit with a group, especially if you’re looking to plan your visit during the off-seasons, or outside of the summer. The man-made pool was built, in part, to provide a way for people to enjoy the hot springs. There are other places where hot water escapes via springs in the near meadows, but the other areas are either muddy, or don’t have tubs or pools to relax in.  The water here is the hottest of all available soaking tubs, in the Long Valley Caldera – this makes it a perfect visit when the weather is slightly colder. An added benefit is that you can avoid the summer crowds as well, and enjoy the pool to yourself. 

Like the other springs, it’s not permitted to camp right next to the spring, but there is a campground that’s a few hundred yards away, and there aren’t any facilities available there, either, so make sure you’re well-packed if you’re coming out here for a warm soak. If you’re looking to check out some other hot springs in the area, there’s another set of springs that’s less than half a mile away, known as the Shepherd Hot Springs. 

Shepherd Hot Springs

Similar to the Crab Cooker hot springs, the Shepherd hot springs also consists of a concrete soaking tub that’s big enough for four to five people, with ledges built inside the pool to serve as benches. The hot water is carried from the source (one of the geothermal sources that heat water underground) and piped into the tub. Like the Crab Cooker, the water is very hot – about 60 degrees Celsius. Before you jump in, test the water and wait for it to cool, or adjust the temperature with a pipe that controls the flow of hot water into the tub. The Shepherd hot springs are popular because of the views from the tub – the sights of the Sierra Nevada and the White Mountain Range are absolutely stunning, and it’s incredible to relax in a hot tub with some friends or family, out in the middle of Nature. There are camping opportunities near the springs as well, including an RV park where trailers are allowed. 

The Eastern Sierra hot springs are near the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and is a great place to relax, soak in some warm water, and check out some stunning views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. The springs are easily accessible by road, and are easy to locate on Google Maps or on GPS as well. The best part? The springs are completely free to use – which means you can spend a day trip out to the springs, enjoy the views and the warm waters, and spend the night at Bridgeport (if camping isn’t in your comfort zone). Most of these springs are within the area, so it’s possible to drive to one of the lesser-known springs if the more popular ones are quite crowded – or even to go for a hike, and head towards the springs for a relaxing soak once your hike is done. Though the springs are small, it’s a great place to spend a day or two, and it’s definitely worth the effort to relax in some healing mineral water and release all that stress.  

 

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