Zzyzx Road: The Strange Truth Behind An Abandoned Healing Center

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Zzyzx Healing Center – Abandoned But Not Forgotten

The desert is full of unique surprises. With an endless barren landscape, the freedom to make strange and obscure ideas come to life is rather easy.

Think Slab City, Elmer’s Bottle Tree Ranch, Seven Magic Mountains, and places alike.

Despite the initial draw to puzzling art formations and wacky businesses, many of them end up abandoned due to the lack of tourism. A problem the desert often faces. Zzyzx Road off Interstate 15 in Southern California is just this – an abandoned facility with a strange history. 

Where Exactly is Zzyzx?

Zzyzx, formally known as Soda Springs, is an unincorporated community in San Bernardino County right on the border of Mojave National Preserve. Located close to the town of Baker, this site is easily accessible off a paved road only 4.5 miles off Interstate 15. 

If you’re taking a road trip through the area or visiting the nearby Joshua Tree National Park, you need to add this unique destination to your list!

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Formally known as the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa, it is now occupied by the Desert Studies Center. Even though some of the buildings are in use, much of the resort lays in ruin and open to the public to explore. All free of charge!

Perfect for travelers looking for an inexpensive outing or who are traveling on a budget

Parking is available in a small lot before you enter the grounds. This area has restrooms (non-flush, bring your hand sanitizer) and a few informative signs explaining the history of the land. It’s a quick 2 minute walk from the parking lot to Zzyzx. 

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The Crazy History of Zzyzx Mineral Springs & Spa

Now, what actually went on at this weird healing center oh so many years ago?

In 1944, Curtis Springer decided to create a Health Resort using mineral springs. He filed a mining claim with the government acquiring 12,000 acres of land. Visitors could stay at the resort and indulge in the “healing” hot springs provided on site.

The odd name Zzyzx was dubbed for the resort as he wanted to be listed as the last word in the dictionary.

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What’s really crazy is how he managed to build this utopia. To find workers, Curtis bought a large bus and drove to the homeless areas of Los Angeles. Here he “hired” vagrants and offered them food and shelter in exchange for construction work.

This worked for some, but not all after learning of the no-alcohol policy.

On top of this, Curtis was also a successful con artist. He created fake medicine convincing his guests it would help them experience deep “relaxation and healing” as well as life-prolonging benefits.

In 1970, the government realized what he was doing and reclaimed the land. Kicking both him and all his followers out.

Curtis’ master scam profited for 26 years! Besides the fake medicine and promise of cures, we hope the guests at least enjoyed relaxing in the mineral springs.

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Explore the Ruins of a Once Populated Resort

For me, I personally love exploring abandoned locations! Even though Zzyzx isn’t completely abandoned, you can still explore many remaining areas of the decaying resort.

Lake Tuendae and the Surrounding Area

The first thing you see as you walk in is Lake Tuendae. This is an artificial lake that resides directly in the front of the resort.

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If you want, you can follow a short man made trail that takes you around the lake. Surrounding the lake are many picturesque palm trees which were planted during the time of the resorts operation.

Directly next to the lake, you can swing on this old school swing set, complete with wooden planks for seats.

Definitely my favorite spot of the entire resort!

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Many of the buildings near the lake are in use by the Desert Studies Center but you’re still able to roam throughout the area. You just can’t go inside actively used buildings. 

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Pool and Spa Area

If you follow the road around the corner, you will find the old pool house. Looks like there were multiple individual pools and one larger common pool where guests would soak.

The desert backdrop against the pools overgrown with plants made for an incredibly scenic view.

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Abandoned Guest Rooms?

If you continue a bit more around the bend and through some bushes you will come across another abandoned building. My guess is these were some of the rooms where guests would stay.

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Unlike the other buildings, you can actually walk inside each of these individual rooms.

To our surprise, we stumbled upon a room of broken toilets! (see video below)

Outside, you are met with a fantastic view standing on the dry shore of Soda Lake. This barren land stretches for miles without any obstruction.

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How Much Time Do I Need to Explore?

In total it took us about 2 hours to see the whole place in detail. Although most typically would spend about an hour to visit.

As an enthusiast for exploring abandoned locations, I tend to spend more time than most. I try to discover and learn all the little details a location has to offer. It’s an intriguing feeling trying to put yourself back in time at a once bustling location that is now left in ruin.

If you have the time, pack some food and have an epic picnic for lunch! If we had more time in our day, I would have loved to set up a blanket along the lake to enjoy an outdoor lunch.

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Why You Should Visit the Unique Location of Zzyzx

If you’re on the way to Las Vegas or visiting the Mojave National Preserve, Zzyzx is the perfect stop to add to your travel itinerary.

Many find the history alone fascinating enough to visit. Although if you’re a desert lover like myself, then both the beautiful desert scenery combined with the crazy history of this abandoned location makes it a one of a kind place. An ideal destination for anyone who enjoys post apocalyptic environments!

If you liked this, then check out the 10 must see unusual places in the California desert by travel blogger One Cool Thing Every Weekend.

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If you’re looking for more desert adventure, be sure to check out the nearby volcanic hike known as Amboy Crater. The trail is located below the Mojave National Preserve, about 1 hr and 30 min from Zzyzx.

Watch our video below exploring Zzyzx!

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About the Author

Shelby Kirk is the co-founder, editor, and author of We Who Roam. With a strong love for nature and adventure travel, she hopes to inspire others to get outside and explore our natural playground that we call home.

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