Every day, commuters take notice of the strange ZZYZX sign just west of Baker California on I-15 and wonder what the heck it means. On this page, you can learn the quirky history of Zzyzx, which is now part of the Mojave National Preserve.
The story starts thousands of years ago, when the area was cooler and wetter. A massive lake called Lake Mojave covered the land. As the climate warmed, the water evaporated, leaving behind a mineral/salt crust in the dry Soda lake and Silver Lake basins.
Water persisted in the natural oasis, and can still be found there today. A natural spring system, called Soda Springs, was used by the Mohave and Chemehuevi people for many generations, and by the mid-1800s it was also used by early western explorers and the US Army.
In 1944, everything changed for Zzyzx. A man named Curtis Springer moved to the area and opened up a mining claim here that eventually turned him into a millionaire. Throughout the 1940s, he developed and operated Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort on his mining claim lands. The grounds consisted of a two-story castle, a dining hall, library, lecture room, pool house, goat farm, and rabbit rooms. Although Curtis Springer had left school after 9th grade, he referred to himself as a doctor. His radio show became extremely popular, being broadcast over 300 stations worldwide, and hundreds of visitors came out to visit his spa. Over the 30 years that he managed the resort, he shipped over 4 million packages all over the country, including Antediluvian Herb Tea, Nerve Cell Food, and Hollywood Pep Cocktail. The nearby town of Baker had to build a post office just to accommodate his mail.
By the late 1960s, things started to fall apart for Curtis Springer. Although many customers were very satisfied with his products, complaints started increasing. After all, a former employee described Doc Springer’s formula as 10% crust from Soda Lake and 90% Epsom salts. When truly sick people arrived at Zzyzx, they found that they were miles away from actual medical car He was also accused of tax evasion by the IRS, and the FDA accused him of false advertising. Finally, the Bureau of Land Management stepped in to dispute Mr. Springer’s mining claims on the land he operated on. After spending a couple months in jail for the worst of his charges, he lived out the rest of his life in Las Vegas.
California State University took over the facility in 1976, and now operates a Desert Studies Center there. Zzyzx is open to the public, and thanks to its pools of water, it is one of the best birding locations around. Visitors are invited to walk around Lake Tuendae and imagine being one of the guests here when the resort was at its prime. The buildings across the lake are on private property, occupied, and should not be disturbed.
Last updated: April 27, 2021