Nevada is a seething cauldron of geothermal activity. Gurgling to the surface in dozens of places throughout the state are boiling hot springs and pools, many of which have been tamed for human use.
Fortunately, northern Nevada has been blessed with several developed hot springs—and there are few things as relaxing as a dip in a warm pool at this time of year when the weather is so frigid.
One of the most elegant of the state’s geothermal resorts is David Walley’s Hot Springs Resort, located about two miles south of the historic town of Genoa.
Writing on the Online Nevada Encyclopedia website, former Nevada State Archivist Guy Rocha said the first entrepreneur to see the potential in the natural hot springs located near Genoa was William P. Cosser, who developed “a modest health spa” on the site.
In 1862, David Walley acquired Cosser’s property and began offering baths in a small tent erected on the site for 50 cents.
A year later, Walley built a bathhouse and in 1864 his wife, Harriet, who had been living in New York, arrived to help operate the facility. The original clientele for the springs consisted of gold and silver miners from Virginia City, who sought a place to relax and soak away the aches and pains of their daily labors.
Within a few years, the Walleys had built an elegant 40-room hotel, several bathhouses, a stable and a ballroom, according to Rocha.
An historic marker near the resort notes that the original spa was located along the Carson branch of the Emigrant Trail. Built at a cost of $100,000, the spa had 11 baths, a ballroom and gardens. The thermal waters were advertised as a cure for “rheumatism and scrofulous affections (sic),” according to the marker.
During the resort’s heyday in the 19th century, it’s been reported that dignitaries who soaked in the springs included Mark Twain and Ulysses S. Grant.
Following David Walley’s death in 1875, his widow, Harriet, continued to run the property despite a declining customer base as the mining industry began to wane on the Comstock.
In 1896, Harriet died and her heirs decided to sell the resort to John and Richard Raycraft for $5,000. Later, Jane Raycraft and her husband, James Campbell, acquired the property and ran it until about 1905. Known as simply, “Walley’s Hot Springs,” it was advertised as “the most celebrated medicinal spring in Nevada” and offered “amazing remedial energy” for nearly any ailment.
In 1910, it was purchased by Clarence Burton (allegedly for $19,000 in gold coins).
Sadly, in 1920, a fire destroyed many of the original buildings and the main wooden hotel structure burned down in 1935.
According to Linda Hiller, in a 2001 article in the “Gardnerville Record-Courier,” the resort changed hands multiple times during the 20th century and was renovated a number of different times.
Among the noteworthy owners were Blake and Mary Lou Darling, who purchased the resort in 1952 and leased it to Ginny and Halvor Smedsrud, who operated a gourmet restaurant, the Bonanza Inn, on the property.
In 2010, it was acquired by Summerwinds Resort, which renovated the restaurant (now called “1862”) and added a café, other amenities and timeshare vacation ownership properties.
Today, visitors will find six pools, rooms, cottages and, in the warmer months, plenty of poolside space for sunbathing Additionally, there is an enclosed gazebo available for weddings and receptions. Walley’s Hot Springs is located on Foothill Road, 775-883-6556 or go to: http://www.davidwalleys-resort.com/.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.