By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 11/14/2019
Posted: 3/21/2010
Topics/Keywords: #ElDoradoHotSpring #Tonopah #Arizona #HotSprings Page Views: 2956
We camp overnight at El Dorado Hot Spring.

One of my goals for this year is to take Zachary camping more often. However, it was his mother, Jenny, who announced that we would be going this weekend. I suggested El Dorado Hot Spring, where she'd been once before, and off we went!

We made a foursome by adding Zach's friend, Lane.

We packed up the car and left early Saturday afternoon.

El Dorado Hot Spring is located just off Interstate 10 at Tonopah, Arizona, about 40 miles west of Phoenix.


When you get off I-10 at Exit 94 (Tonopah), head south just about a quarter mile or so. You'll drive between two convenience stores, a quaint Woody's on the left and a fancier one with an embedded Subway's on the right. Just past the convenience store, make a right turn. That's Indian School Road but it may not be marked. No matter.

On your right you'll see parking for big trucks. If you're in a truck, you can park here overnight and enjoy the spring—which I did, many times.

The spring is on the left, just across from that parking lot. You'll see the sign.

The 'Hot Spring' sign marks the location of El Dorado.

There's parking in front for conventional vehicles. Day visitors will park here during their stay. Campers stop here long enough to walk back to the registration desk. Once you've been assigned a spot, you can drive around to the back and park there.

We got our tents up in short order: I had one, Jenny had one, and the boys slept in a third. I was testing air mattresses, so I brought two and inflated them both, stacking them and then adding sheets and opened sleeping bags which I use as blankets. Oh, and a few satin-covered pillows. (Satin doesn't hold the dirt, so satin pillows work really well when camping.)

Once the camp was set up the boys wandered around, hunting for something to do. The very nice manager put them to work trimming bamboo for the bamboo fences she was making. Later, she paid them in firewood for their labor. They were both very happy with the deal.

The grounds are very nice and open, with a lot of pretty desert plants growing all over.

I love the purple cactus!

Campers are given a choice when checking in: Either 2 hours each soaking in a private area, or unlimited soaking in the "semi-private" area, which is for nude soaking only. We took the private option, though I arranged with Don, the manager, to use the semi-private area on my own overnight, as I wanted a more relaxing soak than I was likely to get with the little boys sharing a tub.

We decided to soak for our first hour after dinner, and the second one in the morning after breakfast. Yes, we were camping, and we could have cooked our own food. But Tonopah Joe's Family Restaurant is literally just around the corner, with good food that is also reasonably priced. So that's where we went.

Tonopah Joe's Family Restaurant Entrance to Desert View

When we walked back, our private area was cleaned and ready for us. We had chosen Desert View, which is brand new, having been opened for the first time the previous weekend.

The parking and camping area is surrounded by bamboo; and the walkway was lined by bamboo fences. So it was all the more surprising to step into the area which abruptly opens up to the desert beyond.

Desert View provides a desert view.

The hot water entering the pool has been designed to ripple down a little waterfall so the sound of trickling water is added to that of the breeze and the cacophony of birds chattering in the bamboo forest. Saddle Mountain is prominently framed across the expanse of green desert (green because we had so much rain this winter).

Zach, Jenny and Lane soaking.

Each private area is provided with a soaking pool, a cold-plunge tub, a shower, a table, chairs, lounges, and solar harbor lamps.

The private area is well-equipped.

We had inadvertently chosen a perfect time for our hour, as the sun set as we watched.

Sunset over Saddle Mountain

The little boys loved it, especially Zach, who has always enjoyed his baths. The temperature of the water is somewhat adjustable; it isn't too hot anyway, but by turning down the flow the water in the pool cools rapidly. If you let the attendant know your preference in advance, he or she can adjust the flow accordingly before you get there.

Paul, Zach, and Lane, in hot water.

The waters here come from an underground, naturally hot spring. The Native Americans who lived here knew about it; Tonopah is their word for "hot water under the bushes". All hot springs (and cold springs, too) are laden with dissolved minerals.

El Dorado Hot Springs is blessed by the Cadillac of spring waters. The main catons are sodium, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The main anions are chloride, bicarbonate, sulfate, silicates, fluoride, and boron. There is no iron or sulfur, making the water odorless and tasteless. Trace amounts of lithium make soakers feel very relaxed. A natural ph of 8.2 acts like a conditioner on one's skin and hair.

Trust me, soaking the kids in lithium before sending them to bed works really well. They were excited to build a fire, which they did (and excellently, too) but didn't fuss afterwards when sleepy Mama Jenny wanted to hit the sack.

It was only about 8:30, so I went into Desert Pete, the semi-private area. This area is nude and for adults only. There was one other guy there when I went in, but shortly after I plopped into a tub an old guy and his wife entered the area. The old guy had a beard halfway down his chest and was dressed in a knit collared shirt and jeans; his wife was nude and looked to me to be about 400 years old. She could also barely walk. Her husband helped her over to the large tub where the other guy was already soaking; she couldn't lift her legs over the side without help so the guy got up and held her hand while the old guy navigated her leg over the side. She then plopped down, and the old guy left the area.

I could tell she didn't know the younger guy, so I went over to their tub and asked if they minded my joining them. "Obviously, this is where the cool people hang out," I said.

The younger guy, Eric, seemed grateful and the lady was just this side of oblivious, so I got in. I was wearing neither contacts nor glasses so I couldn't see her very well, but she still looked pretty old to me. And she looked to be in terrible shape; I was half afraid she might die while in the tub.

However old she was, she was very wrinkled. "Don't forget," I advised. "When you soak in a hot spring, it's easy to get dehydrated. So be sure to drink plenty of water when you get out."

"Oh, honey," she cackled, "I been drinkin' plenty. Well, beer, not water. But it's the same thing, right?"

Eric quickly assured her it was not, and she seemed surprised and disappointed. She soaked for about four minutes, then struggled to get out. It took Eric and me both to get her out without breaking anything. I stood and her held upright while Eric ran off to try and find her husband before he escaped completely.

Finally, Eric returned with Hubby, who took his wife by the arm and began to stagger away.

"Don't forget that water!" Eric called after them.

"I won't," the woman promised. "Water. Well, maybe a cigarette instead." And that was the last we saw of them.

Eric and I talked about alien abductions for a couple of hours, then I went to bed, where I discovered that both my air mattresses had deflated. That means I own three air mattresses, none of which actually work.

It also got pretty cold, but fortunately my sleeping bags were up to that task.

In the morning, the boys quickly rebuilt their fire and let it warm them up.

The boys warm themselves in front of the fire.

When everyone was dressed and camp had been struck, we walked back to the restaurant for breakfast. Zachary quickly noticed our waitress' name, Lovebug, on her name tag.

"Does that say Lovebug?" he asked incredulously.

"That's right," the woman said. "And my sister's name is Junebug, and we have two brothers, Doodlebug and Jitterbug."

When we returned from breakfast it was time for our morning soak, which was to be in a different private area called Sunset.

Zach in the 'Sunset' private soaking area.

Although this area is somewhat older than Desert View, we liked it even better. The view is similar, but angled so a sunset would be more perfectly framed. But even in the morning it was fabulous.

Jenny enjoys the view from 'Sunset' soaking area.

Lane decided he had gotten all the soaking he wanted the night before. He isn't much of a swimming fan, certainly not by comparison to Zach or, indeed, our whole family. But he hung out with us while we soaked.

Lane, Jenny and Zach at 'Sunset'.

When our hour was up, we dried off and dressed and got in the already-packed car. The fact that the boys were both asking when we could come out here again attests to our camping getaway's being a success.