Taking the Waters in Tecopa

Delight's Hot SpringsDelight’s Hot Springs Resort,
Tecopa, California

Even though Las Vegas has been growing faster than kudzu, you still don’t have to drive very far to be in the middle of nowhere. For some, this is ample reason never to venture farther than the last Starbucks, but for those who, like me, enjoy a bit of desert exploration once in a while, it’s a great feature of life in the eastern Mojave. In less than two hours, you can be in a place with no cell service, no Internet access, no television, and no drinking water!

Such a spot is Tecopa, California, which, despite its lack of ordinary amenities, has one fabulous thing in its favor, an abundance of natural hot water. Tecopa sits on top of a huge subterranean lake. Over the years, a number of entrepreneurial souls have drilled down four hundred feet or so and brought the water to the surface. It’s clear, clean, and odorless — ideal for soaking in. Some people even claim it’s the most healing water in the world.

Adult Children at PlaySlow adult children at play

On my trip to Tecopa, which is about ninety miles southwest of Las Vegas, I stayed at Delight’s Hot Spring Resort, a cluster of buildings and trailers centered around a bathhouse with four hot pools. The pools are open 24 hours a day, and two of them are open to the sky. This means that it’s possible not only to bask in warm water, but also to gaze at stars unaffected by city lights. I made a mental note to come back during a meteor shower.

While it’s possible to buy a day pass to use the pools, I decided to stay overnight in one of Delight’s six cabins. Built in the ’50s out of railroad ties, the cabins have kitchens, bedrooms, and “half” baths (the showers are in the bathhouse). While not lavish, the cabins provide everything you need to cook a meal — stove, microwave, refrigerator, dishes, utensils, coffee maker — and sleep. I was glad I had brought plenty of water along, because Tecopa’s tap water, while great for bathing in, isn’t good to drink. I was also glad I’d brought my own food, because Tecopa does not have any restaurants at the moment.

Delight's Hot SpringsCabin 5, complete with porch & the
shade of a tamarisk tree

I had also brought a bathing suit, but that was the one thing I could have left at home. No swimsuits are allowed in the pools, which all have walls, doors, and showers. You’re supposed to go in, take off all your clothes, shower, and then soak for twenty minutes. Then you leave so whoever’s waiting can go in. If no one’s waiting, you can go right back in.

I spent the afternoon alternating between the hot pools and the little screened porch of my cabin. It was peaceful, quiet, and extremely hard to believe that Las Vegas was less than two hours away.

Private hot poolOne of four private hot pools

In the morning, I stopped by the office to check out. I chatted with Delight’s owner. Steve McNeal bought the resort a little over three years ago, moving from Indiana with his kids to manage it. A firm believer in the therapeutic powers of Tecopa’s waters, he described what sounded like miracle cures. “I’ve seen people get out of their wheel chairs and walk,” he said. Even though I hadn’t observed such wonders, I appreciated how soft my skin felt, and the slight stiffness in my neck was gone. Combined with the quiet atmosphere, it was miracle enough to make me want to return.

Desert oasisDesert oasis

Although I liked Delight’s — Delight, by the way, was the apropos last name of a previous owner — there are other places to stay and bathe in Tecopa. In addition to motel rooms and cabins, there are RV sites and campgrounds, and the gender-segregated public baths maintained by Inyo County are free to all comers. Steve McNeal plans to open a restaurant at Delight’s by the end of the year, but in the meantime, it’s necessary to take your own food and water or drive to the nearby town of Shoshone.