The Wonders of Willow Creek, Part 1: From My Eyeballs and Feet

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series of posts entitled, The Wonders of Willow Creek. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading! To read the next post in this series, CLICK THIS LINK.

From My Eyeballs and Feet

The Amargosa River is sucked through a straw, from its headwaters in Nevada, to Badwater Basin, in California’s Death Valley. This “straw” is the confines of an underground waterway. However there are a few places where the straw springs a leak, and the river briefly emerges from its subterranean sluice, exposing its bitter waters to the open air.

One of these leaks runs along a seam near Tecopa Hot Springs, California. I wrote about the Amargosa River, and the amazing valley it flows under, in a series of posts last winter. And I made mention of this 20-mile stretch of above-ground river.

But I must confess to a few errors. Much of my information was derived from Wikipedia. Who knew that Wiki could be inaccurate? Why, I thought it was an infallible research tool.

But now I’ve completed additional research, and without Wiki’s help. This time my research tools were the eyeballs in my head and the feet on my ankles. I actually traveled to that ribbon of visible river, ogled it, tramped its banks, and felt its forceful flow between my fingers.

While conducting my research, we stayed at Delight’s Hot Spring Resort, at Tecopa Hot Springs, California. This resort was built by Elias Delight, a man who was once crippled with arthritis.

In my series of posts last winter, I reported that the Amargosa River dives below the surface, then passes Tecopa Hot Springs. Actually, Tecopa Hot Springs is where it rises above the surface. Here, the river gurgles up to form a variety of hot springs, reed-choked marshes, and the pond-sized, Grimshaw Lake.

Downslope of these hydrous features, the river begins flowing like a trickle of sweat, dripping under the Old Spanish Trail Highway, and wending southeast through Amargosa Wash. While it wends, it swells larger and larger, as more and more water wicks to the surface.

Elias Delight traveled from Los Angeles to the Amargosa Valley, in search for a cure for his arthritis. He spent a month bathing in mud flats near Tecopa Hot Springs, and drinking the natural mineral water. (Photo of the Nopah Range, with sedimentary mud hills in the foreground, near Tecopa Hot Springs.)

About four or five miles downstream from Tecopa Hot Springs, at the location of an old, abandoned railroad siding, the Amargosa is fed by Willow Creek. And at the confluence of this river and this creek, the waters bend south-by-southwest, and pour into Amargosa Canyon. They race toward the Dumont Dunes, where the earth once again swallows the crystal fluid up. All-told, this above-ground portion of the river is about 10 miles long, as the crow flies.

But actually, rivers and crows rarely travel in a straight line. So it’s likely that the winding, above-ground course of the Amargosa really is about 20 miles long, as I’ve previously reported.

He emerged a new, healthy, able-bodied man. Delight then began exploring the surrounding desert, and discovered an area containing hundreds of warm springs. He thought it would be the perfect spot to establish a health spa. (Photo is a closer view of the mud hills. The ground is spongy, and you easily sink into it, while trying to traverse this terrain.)

Last winter I also reported that the Amargosa slurps up Willow Creek, in Death Valley National Park. But that’s not so. What my eyeballs and feet discovered, was that Willow Creek is located about 10 miles to the east of the park. How could I be so wrong? This creek is the most significant tributary to the Amargosa River, after Ash Meadows, about 35 miles upstream. Damn you, Wiki! (shaking my fist)

Willow Creek begins as a verdant, mesquite and tree-choked artesian spring, located about two miles upstream from its confluence with the Amargosa River, and about 4 miles southeast of Tecopa. A lot has happened at this oasis, and a lot still goes on here. That’s because in the desert, the rare springs, watering holes, and above-ground rivers, are where most of the action can be found. This includes both human and animal action.

But the land belonged to the U.S. government, and had been set aside for Civil War veterans. The law required that it could only be purchased with Civil War script. Elias was undeterred. Most Civil War script had been thrown out as worthless, or belonged to museums. But his grandfather had been a Civil War vet, and his parents still had $2,000 (face value) of script he had saved. This was the exact amount Elias needed to buy the land. (Photo of the moon shortly after rising over the Nopah Range.)

In my posts last winter, I barely mentioned Willow Spring, doing it no justice for all the footsteps, perspiration, and desert dreaming that have been produced here, in its rich history of human activity. And I also ignored its many awesome and breathtaking natural wonders.

My excuse is that I ignored them because I was ignorant of them. I feel sheepish. But now I know. I know about Willow Creek, I know about China Ranch, and I discovered the China Ranch Loop Trail. I found it to be one of the most beautiful desert hikes I’ve ever scuffed my feet upon.

Elias got the land and built his health spa. Today, Delight’s continues to delight, easing the painful joints of sojourners who flock to Tecopa Hot Springs for its life-restoring balneotherapy. (Photo of one of the four hot spring spas at Delight’s Hot Spring Resort. The water can exceed 100F, making it difficult to tolerate longer than about 10 minutes.)

Stay tuned. This series of posts will illuminate the discoveries I made with my eyeballs and feet, and show off the wonders of Willow Creek, while getting us even more acquainted with the amazing Amargosa Valley.


80 replies »

  1. What?!!! The repository of all human information (the part worth knowing, anyway) and source of uncountable volumes of night-before-submission academic research was wrong?!!! Such disturbing cognitive dissonance! Now I need to go sit in a hot springs…

    BTW, you can change or update a Wiki page, but it will likely get changed back. They don’t like first-person information, and editors often don’t read the references cited anyway (to see if what was written in Wikipedia even matches). I had an interesting back-and-forth with an editor regarding an article about a Japanese mountaineer a few years back.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve often wondered how much fact-checking Wiki receives. I think that overall, it’s fairly reliable, but when accuracy is critical, I believe its best to seek out additional sources. This was hardly my first encounter with misleading information from Wiki.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Seems like a nice place to visit, though your line about “human and animal action” has me a bit concerned.

    I had never heard of civil war veterans script. Seems like a result of we can’t pay you real money but here is some fun play money to make your feel better. But, you could apparently exchange it for land. I guess they didn’t have bitcoin back then.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There are a surprising number of coyotes there, and I had some close encounters with at least a half dozen of them. They weren’t threatening, but they were very close.

      I’d never heard of civil war script before, either. I wonder how much of it changed hands during poker games, when the soldiers had some idle time. And I like your analogy to bitcoin, except that I doubt that civil war script ever skyrocketed to bitcoin’s values.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve seen a coyote or two, but they are never very interested in me.

        I watch bitcoin as entertainment. China is cracking down on bitcoin use as they can’t track it and this has collapsed it a bit (pun). Also, most bitcoin mining is in China and the Chinese government way stop that, which would seriously harm bitcoin.
        Also, the transaction times and fees are volatile limiting its real use as a currency.
        The US is also exploring ways to digitize the dollar, which would threaten bitcoin and etherium.
        If I had any, I would sell it all as quickly as I could.

        Liked by 1 person

                  • I suppose it is possible. They are very diversified funds and not as prone to pump-and-dump. It has been fun to watch Gamestop, AMC, Hertz, and some of the others with all of the Reddit pump-and-dumpers.

                    But I am certain that there are many ways to manipulate the stock market that I am not aware of. The S&P and NASDAQ have a long history of going up on average though, and those are the indexes I am currently invested in.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • There’s a such thing as Index Arbitrage, which is mainly exploited by big investment firms. If they (or their powerful computers) see that an index has temporarily fallen below its component value, they quickly snap it up for a fast profit. This happens in milliseconds, requiring high-speed computers, so it’s nothing that the average dude like you or I can take advantage of.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yeah, the individual investor definitely gets second-class status when trading stocks vs. the large firms. I am a buy-and-hold guy, so that doesn’t matter so much for me.

                      Liked by 1 person

  3. Reading through the above, coyotes are interesting characters. They seem to have a curiosity about humans. In the wilderness, I’ve been approached by a few that just seemed intrigued. A healthy-looking younger coyote that still had its winter coat came up behind me while I was sitting at a creek (sneaking up on me). It kept to about 20/30-feet, just watching me for about 10-minutes while I was using a filter-pump to fill some water bottles. When I finally decided to retrieve my camera to take a picture, it didn’t like the attention… gone in an instant. In town, they’re mostly known for keeping the free-range domestic cat and toy dog populations under control, and for occasionally chasing kids down the ski-slopes.

    Not sure about the scrip, but “greenbacks” were fiat US money issued by the US Treasury to pay off Civil War debt. I think about $500-million was printed. They ended up being blamed for a post Civil War period of deflation when the US went back onto a gold standard, and there was a move to get them out of circulation. Regardless, most worn out notes were re-printed until 1971. More recent ones look almost exactly like a Federal Reserve note, but they say “United States Money” in place of the usual “Federal Reserve Note”, and they have a red instead of a green seal and serial number. They’re still legal tender. I’ve came across one in some store change when I was in college, and I have a few that my mom’s father gave to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve noticed that coyotes are rather curious about people. But usually very skittish, also. Chasing kids down ski-slopes is something I’ve never heard before, but I guess I understand it. Coyotes have to eat, too.

      Interesting about Civil War money, and that it’s still considered legal tender. I’d feel a little uneasy about accepting such currency if I worked as a store clerk.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Looking forward to seeing what other discoveries your eyeballs and feet made.
    Wait a minute! Are you saying that the great, knowledgeable Tippy was ignorant about some things, that you really don’t know all? Gosh, that may make me. ..smack my head… but No, I think I am making a record of the least amount of “head smacks” this week. And right now as I take a short break outsdoors by the hotel fountain, stretched out on a real soft, comfy chair, its too peaceful to …smack my head… πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

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