Over Easter weekend we wanted to get out of town. Zach had some commitments on Saturday, so we decided to take a day trip on Sunday. We’d had 12 Mile Hot Spring in the back of our minds for some time now and decided early spring would be the perfect time to check it out.
Located roughly 12 miles outside of Wells, Nevada, 12 Mile Hot Spring (also called Bishop Creek Hot Spring) isn’t marked and there are no signs. I can’t remember how we originally discovered its existence. There are some directions available online but even still we ended up passing the turn and driving an additional (but pretty!) 20 miles or so before turning back around. What some directions called a T-intersection, was really a curve in the road and a dirt road to the right. Thankfully, we figured it out.
12 Mile Hot Spring is located on private property; I would assume as long as people don’t trash it, it will remain open to the public. That also means that the dirt road to the spring isn’t maintained. When the road is especially muddy it would be difficult to navigate in something smaller than a large truck. Luckily for us, the road was dry, but still quite rutted from recent snow melt. Our Forester handled it fine, but a compact car would have significant trouble. We decided to park in a clearing after a mile or so and walk the rest of the way to the spring; I wanted to stretch my legs after the drive from SLC.
The road continued back into the canyon alongside Bishop Creek. We eventually came upon a water crossing which was deep enough that it would have been difficult for a compact car; it was easy enough for us to cross on foot. Up the road we could see our destination just as the canyon walls began to curve.
When we first arrived there were two families (about eight people) already at the spring. But eventually it was just us and one family of five. The pool was more than large enough to spread out, and we had the entire northern half of the pool to ourselves. We had stopped at the grocery store in town and picked up some lunch, snacks, and a six pack of local beers – only two of which we brought to the spring. We set up our backpacks on the edge of the spring and were able to pull our food out when we were hungry. I drank plenty of water, but I didn’t alternate between the hot waters and the cooler air often enough because I ended up with a terrible headache later in the evening. We stayed for right around two hours. The family of five had barely left when we decided it was time to pack up and another family had just arrived. So it was by no means overly crowded or popular, but certainly well-known enough (and Easter Sunday). I was able to snap a couple photos of the empty spring as we left.
After we left the hot spring, I wanted to check out a nearby ghost town I’d read about on TravelNevada’s website – Metropolis. The town was founded in 1910 by the Pacific Reclamation Company of New York with the vision of a booming town surrounded by fertile farmland. The town is thought to have reached a population of roughly 2,000 before it all came crashing down. Thwarted by crop-eating jackrabbits, typhoid, destructive Mormon crickets (yes, that’s a thing!), and ultimately drought, Metropolis didn’t thrive for long. When the post office closed in 1942, the town had truly died.
Today there are few remnants of the town. The ruins from The Lincoln School are the most prominent. Though the basement still exists, it’s the school’s elegant arched entrance which marks the otherwise flat landscape. It’s remarkable how well it has withstood both time and the elements. We didn’t dare go down the stairs to the basement, but did walk underneath the arch to gaze below and above at the first floor turned earth.
The only other ruin remaining is the Hotel Metropolis. The hotel originally had three stories but caught fire and was mostly destroyed in 1936, so there isn’t much of note remaining sadly. It would have been interesting to compare the two structures had they both decomposed in the same way. Opposite the hotel is a memorial plaque for the town; farther down the road, the town’s cemetery, Valley View, has an eternal view of the East Humboldt Range.
Metropolis is a fascinating reminder that even recent history isn’t permanent. The land will reclaim what it once owned. And on that note, we got back in our car and returned to Salt Lake.