The Truth About Zzyzx, California
When you see Zzyzx on a map or a road sign, you might think it’s a typo. But that’s actually how you spell it.
This odd little place is worth exploring. So today we’ll look at this unusual locale and find out how it got this tongue twister of a name.
Where Is Zzyzx, Calif.?
Zzyzx lies in the Mojave Desert area of Southern California, in San Bernardino County. It’s just off Interstate 15, about an hour’s drive northeast of Barstow and about six miles from Baker. Las Vegas is about 100 miles to the east, and Los Angeles is 174 miles in the other direction.
How Do You Pronounce Zzyzx?
The wacky name of this tiny dot on the map is a head-scratcher, for sure. How do you even say it? Emphasize the first syllable and rhyme it with Isaacs, like this – ZYE-zix. Once you get the hang of it, it kind of rolls off the tongue.
A Brief History of Zzyzx (Formerly Soda Springs)
As you might have guessed, Zzyzx originally had a different name. A colorful and controversial entrepreneur named Curtis Springer gave the town its oddball moniker.
Springer was a syndicated radio evangelist in Los Angeles in the 1940s. He created a health resort in the area to capitalize on the mineral springs that supposedly had healing qualities. He also bottled water from the springs and promoted it as a medicinal product. By the time Springer came along, the place had been known as Soda Springs for many years. Native Americans had treasured it as well. In the 1960s, it served as a U.S. Army outpost.
Springer’s name change was a marketing trick. Some say he did it to “have the last word.” While businesses starting with AAA appear first in listings, Springer counted on Zzyzx being easy to find in directories and phone books because it would appear last.
When Is Zzyzx Healing Center Open?
Normally, the place is open daily during daylight hours. It’s currently closed. Unfortunately, there’s no explanation as to why it’s shut down or when it will reopen.
Pro Tip: After driving through Zzyzx, make sure to stop and explore California’s national parks! These are: The Best (And Worst) National Parks In California.
What Is There to Do in Zzyzx?
Springer had a lucrative run with his health resort for about 30 years. It came to a sudden end when the federal government determined he had no legal claim to the property. The IRS also accused him of tax evasion while the FDA leveraged accusations of false advertising for his health products.
The U.S. Park Service maintains Zzyzx today as part of the Mojave National Preserve. You can explore what’s left of the former spa and find out about some scientific work conducted nearby. You can also enjoy the dunes, salt flats, and other features in the area.
Visit the Desert Studies Center
Biological researchers have a strong interest in the thriving wildlife and diverse desert landscape. California State University and the Bureau of Land Management established the Desert Studies Center in 1976.
Most of the 1,200-acre facility is off-limits to visitors, but the Lake Tuendae Interpretive Trail is public from dawn until dusk. The handicapped-accessible trail offers historical information about the area.
Check Out the Old Pool Ruins
The area’s natural hot springs were one of the attractions that Stringer promoted. In reality, there weren’t any, so he built some so-called therapeutic pools with hidden heat sources. T
hey’re still here, along with the palm trees he brought in to help create an exotic tropical atmosphere. Even now, the ruins of the old pools suggest the feeling of a desert oasis.
Walk on the Self-Guided Trail
Even though the old resort is crumbling and the research center is mostly private, you’re welcome to drop in. Plenty of travelers stop in wanting to know what’s up with this place with the weird name. There’s no tour guide, though, so you’ll have to show yourself around. A few signs point the way and explain what was here during the resort’s heyday.
Where to Stay Near Zzyzx
For a lot of people, Zzyzx is a quick stop to satisfy a passing curiosity. However, you may want to spend more time here exploring this little corner of the vast Mojave. Here are two options for staying in the area.
Clark’s Mobile Home and RV Park in Baker
It’s not much more than a gravel parking lot, but it’s close by, and prices are reasonable. Some sites have full hookups, and others have partial, and there’s free water and a dump station. It’s just off the interstate at exit 245. You may experience some noise from the highway, but Clark’s campground is a good place to stop for the night. There are gas and fast-food options in the vicinity, and a popular Greek restaurant sits just across the street.
Alternatively, Try Boondocking in the Area
Boondocking is another option, of course. And this being federal land, you won’t have to register or pay a fee. Don’t set up camp too close, though. The park service doesn’t allow camping within a quarter-mile of paved roads. Zzyzx Road isn’t fully paved, but the official camping regulations prohibit camping here, too. You may want to venture out to find a less crowded spot.
Pro Tip: New to boondocking and want to do it right? We uncovered The Don’ts of Boondocking | 10 Rules to Follow for RV Campers.
Is It Worth It to Stop at Zzyzx?
If you do a double-take when passing the sign along Interstate 15, it’s worth doubling back. For an interesting and educational side trip, head down the narrow road toward that small stand of picturesque palm trees. Have you ever checked out Zzyzx?
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