At first glance, Tecopa looks bleak. It is a small desert town at the southern edge of Death Valley, one hour detour from Baker on the road from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. It has several scattered trailer homes, two time-warp motels, and some hot springs. Barren mountains are its backdrop, with no gas station and no stores. On a second look, I call it an oasis in the desert!
Founded in 1875, Tecopa is a Mojave Desert town of about 150 residents, named after an Indian Paiute leader. It sprung up due to nearby silver-lead ore mine developments in the 1860s. The original settlement grew, but the town found its identity when the railroad came in. Then, as was the case in many boomtowns, the mines were depleted, and the population began to shift elsewhere. Ultimately, the hot springs were given over to the county, and rumor is that they were gifted under the condition that they remain free for anyone who wants to visit.
I love to plunge naked into the more than 90 degrees marsh water. The Paiute Indians bathed there and applied the mineralized mud to their skin. People do the same today in these marsh pools. The small hotel rooms at the Tecopa Hot Springs Resort are adjacent to tubs with 105 degrees of water pumped from an artesian well. On top of a hill sits a bathhouse for campers and people who live here in the winter months. Most everyone clears out by summer; when the temperature averages nearly 120 degrees, then the water in the hot tubs is cooler than the air outside.