Thursday, January 8, 2015

Wilson Hot Springs and the Boyd Pony Express Station, West Desert, Utah

On the way from Fish Springs NWR to Callao, at the north end of the Fish Springs Range, there's an old bus upside down on the side of the road. Next to it is a dirt road. We took it about a quarter-mile, until it ended. I had heard there were hot springs out here, but I had also heard that lots of people get stuck getting out to them. Fortunately the temperature was below freezing and I could hear the gunshots of hunters, so I didn't feel too isolated.

We parked and checked out the nearby hot spring. The kids were not too interested, so they went back in the truck while I hiked around it and to another old, abandoned bus. I wonder what the stories are about the buses being there! The land is actually the southern edge of Dugway Proving Ground.

Near the bus was the hot spring the refuge biologist had mentioned, with some tubs. The circular tub was only about half full and the water wasn't particularly warm. Nearby was a bathtub with a rusted edge that was full of water but didn't look too inviting.

I could tell by the color of the hot spring itself that it was really hot. In fact, it's about 142 degrees Fahrenheit. You definitely want to be careful around it.

Here's a link to a brief Utah Geological Survey page of water quality for the spring. 
The link shows a map, and then when you click on a spring, you get a listing like the one below:

Id2081
Mapno__couTO-109
CountyTOOELE
Region_locFish Springs
Source__weWilson Health Spr.
Location__(C-10-14)33c
Quad__usgsC
Township10
Range14
Section33
Qtr_sectioc
Idname__us395423113254900
TypeSpring
Temp__°c60.5
Class__higSPRING HIGH
Depth_of_w
Flow
Rate_units
Longitude_113.4303
Latitude__39.9064
Utm_eastin292251
Utm_northi4419986
Depth_to_w
Status
Date12-Jul-67
ReferenceUSGS/NWIS; 2000
Ph7.4
Conductivi31200
Sodium__mg7090.0
Potassium_18.0
Calcium__m740.0
Magnesium_224.0
Aluminum__
Iron__mg_l
Silica__mg33.0
Boron__mg_2.600
Lithium__m
Bicarbonat180.0
Sulfur__mg1600.0
Chlorine__12000.0
Fluorine__4.00
Arsenic__m
Total_diss22900
Total_diss21700
Cations_an100

I couldn't find much else about Wilson Health Springs. Apparently Northern Arizona University did a study back in the 1990s and found many different microbes living in the hot springs, but it doesn't look like they followed up on the initial studies. Their preliminary report (link above) shows the layout of the several hot springs and warns that access to some of them is treacherous, with a thin crust.

I was glad that the ground was frozen, as it made it easier to stay up high. I could see that if the ground was warmer and wetter, it would be very difficult to move around.

Frost on the salt grass.

Looking back towards the truck was very scenic. If you like isolated hot springs, this is a neat place to visit.

I could imagine a bus full of hot spring afficionados on their way...

Before the buses traversed the area, this was the route of the Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental highway in the United States. What a route they chose! And the reason they chose part of it was because it was previously part of the Pony Express Trail, used to deliver mail by horseback from St. Louis to Sacramento in 1849-50. We stopped to visit the Boyd Pony Express Station, which has some nice interpretive panels. Not much of the station is left, but the view of the Deep Creek Mountains is still gorgeous.

We headed south, but I had to stop for a couple more photos. This is the Weiss Highway. Watch out for traffic. (This highway had a bit of notoriety back in the 1990s.)

And this has to be one of the most complete but remote signs out in the West Desert. It actually makes things seem so close. What it doesn't mention is that the nearest gas is over an hour away. And that if you see more than two vehicles in that hour, it will be considered a lot of traffic.

Ready for a visit? Wilson Health Springs are something I don't cover in my book,  Great Basin National Park: A Guide to the Park and Surrounding Area (affiliate link). However, I do have chapters on Fish Springs, Callao, the Confusion Range, and many other places of the West Desert. So if you'd like to learn even more about this fascinating area, check it out!
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