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3.6
36 votes

Zzyzx

Baker, California USA

Free
Free to Visit
Open Now
Sat 12a-12a
Add to Trip

“not a typo!”

"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 (7.2 km) long, part paved and part dirt, rural collector road in the Mojave Desert. It runs from Interstate 15 generally south to the Zzyzx settlement. The road sign makes a great photo op!

"Zzyzx (AKA Camp Soda and Soda Springs) is located at the end of Zzyzx Road, a 4.5-mile-long rural road off Interstate 15, in San Bernadino County, California. The unicorporated community is also located within Mojave National Preserve. In its former life, it was the the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa. What makes Zzyzx, California such a weird and wonderful place is that it was founded by a crackpot preacher who stuck his middle finger up at the government when he named the town with the last letters of the alphabet. 

So, who the heck came up with that crazy name?!

Well, that's where things get a little weird. Curtis Howe Springer was one of those old-timey radio evangelists, way back in the day. However, he wasn't actually a minister of any kind. He was born in 1896 in Birmingham, Alabama, and spent much of his early life convincing people he was a doctor.  He proclaimed himself to be the "last of the old-time medicine men", but the American Medical Association disagreed. They proclaimed him "King of the Quacks" in 1969. 

Throughout his life Curtis also claimed to be a boxing teacher in the U.S. Army, the "Dean of Greer College" (a defunct/bankrupt school in Chicago), he was a rabble-rouser during Prohibition (he was in favor of it, and railed against "Demon Rum"). He also loved making up universities. Like "National Academy, The Springer School of Humanism, the American College of Doctors and Surgeons, the Westlake West Virginia College, and two non-existent osteopathy schools in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania and New Jersey." He sounds like a real catch. My favorite though is how he'd write his name on pamphlets for speaking engagements: Curtis Howe Springer, M.D., N.D., D.O., Ph.D. 

In 1934 he began his career in radio broadcasting, which included selling his "medicines" (as pictured below, right). His Antediluvian Tea was basically a laxative dressed up in a teabag. The Journal of the American Medical Association published a lengthy article titled "Curtis Howe Springer: A Quack and His Nostrums" in 1936, which details all of Springer's get-rich-quick schemes. 

Curtis founded several health spas during the 1930s and 1940s. Including the Haven of Rest in Fort Hill, PA, and one in Wilkes-Barre, another in Cumberland, MD, and one in Davenport, IA. However, Curtis really hated paying taxes, so most of his "spas" were seized by the Feds. Then in 1944, Curtis hooked up with a new lady and she filed a claim to 12,800 acres of Mojave Desert in California. Springer named the land Zzyzx Mineral Springs resort. The purpose was so that it would be known as "the last word in health", and to build his resort he hired a bunch of homeless men from L.A.'s infamous Skid Row. 


Springer even faked the hot spring! Seriously! He used a boiler to heat pools around the resort, which ultimately included a 60-room hotel, spa, mineral baths, a radio studio, and a church, of course. So, even though he wasn't a minister or a doctor, over 200 radio stations carried his program. Listeners would send in donations for his "cures", which he claimed could relieve constipation, hemorrhoids, hair loss and, oh yeah, cancer. However, what people were getting was, well, actually a bit better than snake oil. It was mostly celery, carrot and parsley juices

Unfortunately, this empire of carrot juice and laxatives all came crumbling down in the late 1960s when the Feds started noticing that Springer was making loads of dough off "donations" for his "cures" and Uncle Sam came a-knockin'. The Feds also accused Springer of squatting and invalidated his claim to the settlement of Zzyzx (which he based on an 1872 Mining Law). Springer and his "followers" were evicted and Springer himself was convicted for selling junk "cures". He served only 49 days in jail for milking money out of sick people for decades.

Zzyzx and Soda Springs are both open to the public and offer a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking trails, roadside attractions, toilets (always a plus!), and a cute, scenic picnic area. The actual history of the area goes back all the way to prehistoric times, when nomadic tribes would gravitate to the natural spring, and use the site as a quarry to create arrowheads. When you visit keep a keen eye out for rock art. 

Since 1976, California State University has managed the land and have built a great Desert Studies Center on site." -Roadtrippers

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Reviewed by
DarelynRasner

  • 1 Review
  • 7 Helpful
August 19, 2016
Rated 5.0

I spent many happy days at Zzyzx as a kid. My dad is a desert historian and wrote a book about Soda Springs and the Indian and Army posts that exist there. He knew Dr. Springer and has interviewed him. We frequently stayed at the abandoned resort and my dad would research the different layers of history and interview the old-timer caretakers. I really loved the place...it has trees and a lake and is really an oasis in the middle of the Mojave desert.

7 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
Ciara

  • 3 Reviews
  • 7 Helpful
April 15, 2014

Right off the road, be careful parking, but it's as fun to see as it is to try and pronounce!

5 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
KittyPalmer

  • 1 Review
  • 4 Helpful
August 15, 2016

so would you pronounce this zizz ix?

4 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
JohnPiller

  • 1 Review
  • 3 Helpful
August 17, 2016

Every Time my Wife and I go to and from Vegas, 3-4 times a year, We Kiss at Zzyzx Rd. It's just something we do. But either way, 6-8 Extra Kisses a Year is something I can live with.

3 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
rscholta

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
August 18, 2016

I've been there several times, as I sold fuel and lubricants to the site before solar panels were installed to provide power. When you travel the road, keep watch for a deer herd and other desert animals. Across the basin to the south is the historic Mojave Road, an ancient Indian trail and wagon and stage route. It is 4WD, over 120 miles. The Soda Springs and surrounding area are serious desert, beautiful, haunting, and dangerous if caution is not observed.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
MonaJPack

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
August 16, 2016

I have driven by this road a hundred times but never got to stop. Thank you for this info.
Now do you have anything on "Search Light Road"?

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
JakeAtkins

  • 1 Review
  • 2 Helpful
August 13, 2016
Rated 1.0

It's a sign in the desert... Just like the picture. Look if your into it, cool, be yourself. But if your like me then for the love of goodness itself do not stop here. It's a freaking sign in the desert! There's like nothing there, just keep driving to wherever else in the country your going. There are certain nice things about the desert, but forget this place. It's a sign, it's in the desert. Ohh also it's unbearable hot like all the time.

2 people found this review helpful

Reviewed by
AnastasiaStein

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
August 18, 2016
Rated 4.0

This stop has provided me years of enjoyment driving past on the way to Vegas!! Cool to learn it's history now!!

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
rubeethursday

  • 1 Review
  • 1 Helpful
January 10, 2014

An awesome photo op! Right off the road and worth a stop.

1 person found this review helpful

Reviewed by
ginasantiago

  • 1 Review
  • 0 Helpful
October 11, 2017
Rated 4.0

We were afraid to drive the narrow desolate road to the resort but it was worth it. No one was there at 9:45am and we were able to tour around alone and take picture of the old buildings, fountains and even had a swing on the old swings. The old bath houses were cool as well as the old accommodations. It was worth the 30 min stop! Nice to get out and stretch our legs on our long road trip.

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