The hot spring in front of you is known as Hot Hole, named after its round and reportedly deep waters. For centuries, this geologic wonder has fascinated and inspired people. Explorers included the Hot Hole in reports dating back to the 1830s. Later, emigrants and miners followed the paths of the explorers as part of the California Trail. They too visited this hot spring. Amazed by what they saw, they journaled their experiences and explored the area for more geologic wonders. Within a quarter mile, they found two other places with hot springs!
To the south and up the hill lies Elko Hot Springs, a cluster of springs that was the site of a resort in the late 1800s. Northeast of the Hot Hole, alongside (and flowing into) the Humboldt River, is a ribbon-like line of three unnamed hot springs. All of the hot spring areas (Hot Hole, Hot Springs, and the “ribbon”) were visited by California Trail travelers, and not only because of fascination. Just like the modern-day truck stop provides for today’s travelers, the hot springs provided for 1850’s travelers, and even provided some of the same amenities.
Elko Hot Springs is on private property. Be respectful and do not enter without landowner permission. The unnamed hot springs are not open for visitation. For more information about these springs, contact the California Trail Interpretive Center.
Fertile valleys, grasslands, hot springs (oh my!). This is how miners and emigrants described the surrounding area when they passed through it on the California Trail. They were on their way to California in hopes of striking it rich as gold miners or as farmers and ranchers. Most often noted in their writings about this area were its numerous hot springs.
While on the Trail, travelers could see several hot springs in the nearby vicinity. However, in the Elko area, the California Trail was located on the north side of the Humboldt River. And all of the hot springs are located on its south side. Visiting them required crossing the Humboldt River, twice! If you were a worn-down traveler on a months-long, over-2000-mile journey, would you do this? Yet, many miners and emigrants did. For them, hot springs were one of the “truck stops” of the emigration era, one with a scenic view. Crossing the Humboldt was merely exiting and returning to the highway.
If you were a traveler walking the dusty path of the California Trail, what would you use hot springs for? Emigrant and miners used the springs for washing clothes, cooking, a nice place to camp, and possibly even for shaving! Just like today’s truck stops, one location contained laundry, eating, bathing, and sleeping amenities. Trail travelers greatly appreciated the hot springs and often recorded their experiences in their journals. This allowed others to discover them, just as you have done so today.
This black-and-white photo shows the Hot Hole in 1920. Note that people aren't in the spring- it can be scalding hot! William Pritchard wrote the following about his August 1850 Hot Hole visit: “We caught a snake and threw it in, also a frog. They gave one kick and all was over and as soon as we could get them out they were cooked for the flesh all came off the bone.”