Thursday, May 23, 2013

Desert Hot Springs: Diana's Punch Bowl and Spencer's

During our recent trip out to the Toquima Range in central Nevada, we had the chance to visit a couple of hot springs. Did you know that Nevada has more thermal springs than any other state in the U.S.? That's right, just one of the surprises Nevada holds! (And that one might be a little more exciting than knowing that Nevada is the #1 driest state in the nation.)

First, meet Diana's Punchbowl.
 Out in the middle of Monitor Valley lies a slight rise in the terrain, with a road leading up to it. I had read about this feature years ago in Geology Underfoot in Central Nevada, and have wanted to visit it since.

Although a road goes to the top, we parked at the gate and walked up. I wanted to have the experience of suddenly reaching the top and then looking down into the 30 foot deep cauldron. Plus, I have to admit, I wanted to check out the wildflowers on the way, and there were some beautiful ones that I still need to look up as I haven't seen them elsewhere.

 We got to the top and approached the edge of the 50-foot wide pit cautiously. I had the kids lie down, as I had read warnings about keeping pets and children closely under control.

 This is what we saw: nearly vertical limestone walls with a steaming pool of water at the bottom. The water was dark blue, and some vegetation in it was swirling around slowly, indicating currents. The temperature is reported to be 200 degrees F, so we didn't want to fall in.

 The kids were very good about listening and staying still. I told them to stay put while I walked around and took photos from different angles.

 Diana's Punch Bowl is certainly an unexpected feature. It is literally out in the middle of the valley. It must have taken some time to form, travertine layers slowly rising as the calcite-laden water emerged from deep within the earth and the calcite precipitated out.

Some plants grow down in the bowl, but you would need a rope to get down there. I should note that although the photos I've selected make this geologic wonder look almost pristine, some bozo sprayed graffiti on part of the inner punch bowl, greatly marring its beauty.

From the top we had a great view towards the Alta Toquima Wilderness, another place I'd like to visit some day. We could also see a little creek at the base of the hill on the east and south sides. We decided that we should go down and check it out, as I had read that the creek was a suitable temperature for soaking.

Desert Girl is becoming a very good hiker over uneven terrain, and she made it quickly down the hill.

 We checked out the water, and sure enough it was really pleasant. However, we didn't get in, as we had other hot spring plans for that evening. (But I hope to return some day here, it was so interesting. I've seen a couple photos from winter, and the rising steam looks so impressive! Also, not too far away is Pott's Hot Springs, which we didn't visit this trip.)

Next, meet Spencer's Hot Springs.
 On the other side of the Toquima Range, in Big Smoky Valley, lies Spencer's Hot Springs, a popular attraction, especially on a Saturday night. Even though they're remote, they aren't as remote as Diana's Punch Bowl, and they are within an hour's drive of Austin, Nevada. Several RVs and tents dotted the area, as well as a large contingent of teenagers, as well as our restoration group.

 Spencer's Hot Springs consists of three pools, two of which have been improved for soaking. We started with the middle one, which has a nice deck.

 The amount of hot water flowing in from the adjacent hot spring source can be adjusted via a valve. When we got there, the pool was in the upper 90's, perfect for the kids.

 After a long soak, we got out and went for a walk to the lower spring, where we heard there were fish.

 A trough at the lower hot spring also has a way to adjust how much hot water is flowing into it via moving a pipe. It was too hot for all of us, so we went on to the overflow ponds and quickly spotted the gold fish.
It was definitely strange and even unsettling seeing goldfish out there. The kids had fun hopping along the berms and getting just a little muddy. They had a great time and didn't want to leave.

Nevada has so many secret places! Las Vegas is often the image people get when they think of Nevada, but there really is so much more to the state. I'm looking forward to even more explorations!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great article this has gotten me interested in exploring this area in Nevada. Thanks

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