How many times have you passed by the road sign with the odd name on Interstate-15 south of Baker California and wondered, “what’s that all about?” I’ve wondered this for years. Is there really a place called ZZYZX?
On a recent road trip to southern California we decided to pull off the road and do a little exploring. What we discovered was a complete surprise, nothing what I expected. Not sure what I really expected but what we found certainly wasn’t what I envisioned.
Here is the Wikipedia Description: “Zzyzx, California /ˈzaɪzɨks/, formerly Camp Soda and Soda Springs, is a settlement in San Bernardino County, California. It is the former site of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa and now the site of California State’s Desert Studies Center. .Zzyzx Road is a 4.5-mile long, part paved and part dirt, rural collector road in the Mojave Desert. It runs from Interstate 15 generally south to the Zzyzx settlement.
“Soda Springs, a natural spring, has long seen human activity. The area was a prehistoric quarry site, and projectile points and rock art can be found in the area. The Mojave Road ran past the spring which was guarded by the Hancock Redoubt in 1860, during the Bitter Spring Expedition and by Camp Soda Springs, garrisoned by the U. S. Army from 1867 to 1870. Later Soda Springs was the name of the station of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad that passed there. Remnants of a wagon road stop and railroad artifacts are readily seen. Evaporative salt mining and mill sites can be found here as well.”
“Curtis Howe Springer gave the made-up name Zzyzx to the area in 1944, claiming it to be the last word in the English language. He established the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa in 1944 at the spot, which was federal land, after filing mining claims for 12,000 acres surrounding the springs. He used the springs to bottle his water and provide drinks for travelers through the hot desert. Springer also imported animals from around the country to attract more families to visit his ranch. He used Zzyzx until 1974, when the land was reclaimed by the government.
Since 1976, the Bureau of Land Management has allowed California State University to manage the land in and around Zzyzx. A consortium of CSU campuses use it as their Desert Studies Center.”
Now you know the rest of the story. Next time you’re heading to SoCal take a few minutes to explore this unusual place in the Mojave Desert. Stops like this can often turn an ordinary trip in to an adventure.