Dirty Socks Hot Springs - Hot Springs in California

As its shocking name suggests, this hot spring is not very well loved by people.

Yet the geothermal water was still welling up.

On the edge of Owens Lake

After 1913, the lake level in Owens Lake began to drop rapidly to supply water to the growing population of Los Angeles.

Southeast of Owens Lake, now nearly dried up and one of the largest sources of dust pollution in the United States, including carcinogens, lies Dirty Socks Hot Springs.

Road 01

It took about a minute to turn off State Highway 190 and drive through the wilderness.

I was a little nervous because it hardly looked like a road and there were no landmarks.

Road 02

Dirty Socks Hot Springs began in 1917.

With the outbreak of World War I, sodium carbonate was needed, and a well was dug in the mineral-rich region to collect it.

Panoramic View 02

Forgotten history

After the war, the well was left to flow naturally, and in 1927 a concrete swimming pool was built as the centerpiece of the spa resort.

It is a circular pool and retains the appearance of its time.

Shore 01

Unfortunately, the facility was never completed and the project was cancelled.

Later, based on the wishes of the residents, the park was established as a county park in Inyo County in 1967.

Pond 02

The operation was a series of difficulties, and it seems to have been plagued by vandalism and an outbreak of algae.

Eventually, the park was closed indefinitely in 1978, and remains closed to today.

Pond 01

At the time of my visit, the ruins were almost ready to return to nature, although the metal fence surrounding the pool and the steps leading down into the water remained.

Water shoes are required as there seems to be broken glass scattered around the bottom of the pool.

Water Temp 01

I visited during the cold season, so the pool temperature was roughly 84 degrees F.

The aforementioned well remained under the surface of the water near the small island in the center.

Soaking 01
Something's bubbling.
Let's just say it's because of the ingredients.

New hot water was supplied from there, and the water temp was measured at 91 degrees F at the gushing point.

It appeared to be about 5 feet deep at its deepest point.

Water Discharge 01

There are some theories as to the origin of the name "Dirty Socks."

It is said that miners in the neighborhood used to wash their dirty socks.

Water Discharge 02

Or it could be derived from the sulfur smell mixed with a distinctive aroma of dead grass.

In any case, I could not have a pleasant soaking in this place with its strange bubbling and algae formation.


Dirty Socks Hot Springs, Olancha, California, U.S.

My rating

Type: Undeveloped

Rule: Clothing optional

Chemical use: No

Water temp: Up to 91 degrees F

  • Writer

Hot Springer Ken

A hot spring enthusiast based in Japan. Toured over 300 North American hot springs while working in Texas from 2016 to 2022. For updates, visit X or Instagram!

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