Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Zany Zzyzx Zoning

If you happen to live in Southern California, and have ever made the drive to Las Vegas as so many of us SoCalies have done, you may have noticed a sign in the middle of nowhere for Zzyzx Road. The oddly-named sign appears to lead to nowhere, and is surrounded by miles of nothing but desert, mountains, and the I-15 you'll be driving when spotting the sign. So what's the deal with Zzyzx?

Zzyzx is a name that was made up in 1944 by a man named Curtis Howe Springer, who claimed that it was the last word in the English language. Up until Springer took "possession" of the settlement, it was known as Camp Soda, or Soda Springs. It was originally federal land, but Springer created the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa there after filing mining claims for 12,000 acres surrounding the springs.

Source: Christopher Mann McKay on Wikipedia
Springer then began bottling water from the springs, providing drinks for travelers as they made the long drive through the exceedingly hot desert, which can reach almost 120 degrees Farenheight (that's 49C)! He also imported animals from all over the country, just to attract more visitors (and their donation money) to his ranch. He also made claims that "his" water and other tonics could cure people of all their ills.

The land was later reclaimed by the government after the U.S. Marshals arrested Springer in 1974 for food and drug law violations, and he was evicted from the settlement for the misuse of federal land. He did not own the land or have the correct permits to be able to use the land under California's zoning laws. The government did not change the name back, however. It officially became Zzyzx, California in 1984, and is part of San Bernadino County.

Instead of the spa, the settlement is now the home of the Desert Studies Center, which is a field station of California State University (CSU). Also located at the site is Lake Tuendae, which was an artificial pond used as part of the spa. Mudhens and the Mohave tui chub were introduced there, possibly after the Mojave River flooded into the pond, which now serves as a refuge habitat for the endangered chub.

There are miles and miles of hot desert preceding the settlement when driving north on the I-15, but the closest town after passing the sign is Baker, California, which is about 7 miles farther north. The closest large city to the site is Las Vegas, which is a good 100 miles after that. It's truly in the middle of nowhere!


  1. Well, I'll be! That is the oddest thing I ever heard! Fascinating, as all your posts have been Kristen. I've so enjoyed meeting you in the A-Z. All best wishes, Susan and well done for completing it!

    Susan Scott's Soul Stuff

  2. Hey Kristen, I've just read another blog on this place, I thought it was made up it sounds so crazy. I want to drive to Vegas now past this place just so I can stop and take a picture of the sign. I loved your blog and comments by the way. I hope you will keep blogging regularly now a-z has finished :)

  3. Zzyzx Rd!!! Weird name. I wanna see this road too.

    Btw congrats on completing the Challenge. Glad we met! Keep blogging and see ya around! :)

  4. Something I found during my blog hops. This is a May challenge, if you are interested check it out!


  5. It's been a while since I made that road trip but I've seen that sign. My brother just came to vegas from Cali to visit me so I'm sure he's seen it more than I have.

    Dark Thoughts Blog

  6. What a bizarre story! And how would you pronounce that???

    Congrats on completing the challenge!

  7. Very interesting! I am wondering about the pronunciation, too :). Thank you for all the blog comments! I left a comment on another blog the other day, answering a question about favorite blogs found during the challenge, and listed yours among 2 or 3 others.

  8. Thanks for the interesting info, Kristen. Our world has a lot of "interesting" people, doesn't it.

    Congratulations on hanging in with the Aa-Z Challenge. And a fine ending too! I'll come visit you again.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!
    Bears Noting
    Life in the Urban Forest (poetry)

  9. That is so cool! I don't know if I noticed that sign or not. I'd driven to Las Vegas twice from SF Bay Area. But I've vowed to never drive make that trek ever again by myself - much to long a drive. If I ever do drive there with someone else taking the wheel, I'll hopefully be able to take that road sometime.

    Congrats for completing this amazing challenge!

  10. How very interesting! Always happy to read about something new. Zzyzx is a unique name! Lol.

  11. By the way, Congrats! You completed the A to Z challenge. :)

  12. Kristen,

    Talk about an interesting post! I have been by this sign dozens of times, but have never been off the I-15. I lived in southern Ca for twenty-five years. I never knew the history behind this, although I always thought it was a very odd name. Congrats for coming up with a good one for your Z post. And congrats for finishing the challenge.



  13. Zzyzx... I tried saying it and ended up sounding like an angry bee.

    Congrats on completing the challenge, Kristen! :)

  14. This is a fabulous story and a great way to end the challenge. Wonderful!


  15. Well done on completing the challenge, Kristen :)

  16. Stopping by from the #atozchallenge !

    Wow, what an interesting name for a road! Thanks for sharing the story behind it.

  17. Hmm. I don't think Zzyzx will make it to my top ten places to visit before I die ;-) Congratulations on finishing the challenge, and here's wishing you all the very best!

  18. I can vouch for that! I lived there for three years... And it is in the middle of nowhere!

    I felt do kind locked surrounded by all those rock mountains .... Way to DRY for me ...

    That story is pretty amazing though.... Ot's so incredible what squatters far away with.

  19. Although I was born in Michigan, I grew up in California and remember Zzyzyx Road well. My mad scientist uncle was still working at Jack Ass Flats and we were living in Corona. We would make the drive about twice a month. I also remember Diamond Bar, Pahrump and the Panamint Range, which my punny father always called the Feenamint Range. Fun times. Great post, Kristen! Great memories.

  20. This is an interesting post, thanks for the information, and congrats for having completed the A-Z challenge, it was nice meeting you here, thanks for sharing !

  21. Kristen, I've nominated you for a Liebster Award - check out the details: http://myriteofpassage.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/liebster-award/

  22. I read about this in another bloggers z. I'm still wondering how you pronounce it. :)

    Congrats on completing a-z.