Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Soak at Spencer Hot Springs

It was just a week ago. MOH and I were heading home from holidays travels, and we had stopped in Austin, NV, making it there for Serbian Xmas. We had driven my truck over the mountain into Big Smoky Valley, down old Highway 8A, and across the valley on the Northumberland Mine road where we were looking for a long lost spot from a 1978 adventure. After roughing it over various relatively unused and poorly maintained dirt roads, we crossed the valley to get back on 8A, headed north, and crossed the valley again to have a soak at Spencer Hot Springs.
We ended up at the main hot spring, the one with the large pool, interior sitting stones that form a circle, and exterior deck. You can see a couple of the large sitting stones below water level on the right side of the pool; these form a nearly complete circle, although they are partly caved in on the far side. They get reset every now and then. You can also see the edge of a dark metal contraption just on the far left of the photo.
This metal framework has been put in place sometime in the last year and a half, to keep people (and dogs) out of the very hot source pool that has formed around the pipe that taps the hot water. It's quite ugly, and makes the springs look a bit smaller, blocking what view there is to the south.
Yes, the water is hot. That's rather the point, isn't it?
It's likely that the 165 written on the pipe indicates the temperature in Fahrenheit of water coming out of the well. Various temperatures have been reported for the main spring: 144°F was reported in 1917; a higher temperature of 162°F was reported in 1974 (two sources from Garside and Schilling, 1979).

Temperature of the geothermal reservoir at Spencer was estimated at 216°F in 1981 by the Nevada Department of Energy, and at 253°F in 1974 by Mariner and others (the latter also in Garside and Schilling, 1979).
Water from the source well flows through a pipe into the main soaking pond.
Temperature of the soaking pond can be regulated with this valve. While we were there, the water was bearably hot, hot enough for us to feel comfortable after getting out into the chilling and persistent wind.
After our fairly short soak, we took the main dirt road from the spring northwestward toward the site of the old Frontier and the junction of old 8A with Highway 50, thence over Bob Scott and Austin Summits back to Austin.

In this YouTube video from June 2010, by davidsquall351, you can see the way the main hot spring looked prior to the metal contraption being placed over the source well. You can also hear the gurgling of the water, and the braying of wild burros. The local burro herd make an appearance in the latter half of the video.

The burro herd typically has one mule or horse tagging along with it. We didn't see them while we were there last week, but do see them fairly routinely. Pictures of a couple of them are included in this trip report. They roam at least as far the north as Highway 50, which is only four miles away. We've seen them at least six miles from the springs.


Gaelyn said...

Oh how lovely. I so enjoy natural hot springs. A real shame that such an ugly cover had to be built over the pipe because some folks are too stupid not to try 165 degrees.

Hollis said...

nice!! but where's the tin shack? gone?

Silver Fox said...

Hollis, possibly you're talking about the former bathing cabin described in this post? I don't remember anything up by what is now the main pool.

Hollis said...

yes, that's it! the "bath house". I have only memories except for one funny old cracked photo -- I'll stick it in my Blog Crawl Gems this week -- or is there someway to include a photo in a comment?

Silver Fox said...

If the photo has a static URL, maybe it can be included as a link, like this.

Hollis said...

guess I'll include Spencer HS and my goofy photo in my Gems for the week -- after the blackout of course.