Grover Hot Springs still an attraction after 150 years
MARKLEEVILLE – The spot is about three miles from this tiny town, the seat of Alpine County. It doesn’t need publicity because it has delivered the goods for 150 years.
Grover Hot Springs State Park, a 45-minute drive from South Lake Tahoe, offers a bath in 100-degree mineral water for $3.
The state park includes a campground, but the hot springs are the main attraction. It has been enjoyed by Anglo settlers since a rancher named John Hawkins came to graze cattle in 1854, and dug a 12-foot hole to create a pool of hot mineral water.
Today the park has a hot and cooler pool. Both are on the west side of a 700-acre tract enveloped by a massive meadow with a pine-studded granite peak to the north – and solitude in all directions.
“(I like) switching pools all the time,” said Edward Murillo, 11, of South Lake Tahoe, who has visited the park about 20 times. “It makes me feel kind of good.”
The park is named after Alvin M. Grover, who in 1873 took ownership of 185 acres in the valley in a partnership with Daniel Hawkins. The following year, the men developed the hot springs, enlarging the pool and building a bath house.
By 1883, Grover was the owner of the Hot Springs Hotel in Markleeville. The springs weren’t open to the public until the land was sold to the Scossas ranching family. The Scossas had excavation done for the pool and began to charge for public use in the 1920s.
In 1958, California purchased 400 acres that included the springs. The following year, the area opened as a state park, which may or may not have been a good thing.
For the last two years, the state’s budget deficit has forced the park to cut its hours of operation. It used to be open 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week. Now it’s open only from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday through Monday.
The park is popular enough that it could sustain its full hours of operation, but all the money collected at the door goes to the state general fund, instead of directly paying staff.
“A lot of people are very unhappy about the reduction in hours,” said Mark Pupich, a ranger for California State Parks. “People come up here expecting normal hours. And Markleeville – it’s impacting their business quite a bit, especially this holiday.”
Europeans come to the hot springs by the busload in summer, when it might require an hour wait just to get in the door. Larry Rogers, who rides his motorcycle from Sparks to visit the park a couple of times a year, said he thinks Europeans go to the springs because it contains mineral water. Some people believe the rich water helps alleviate medical conditions.
Rogers, 52, injured his back years ago. Soaking in the 102-degree water helps, he said, but it doesn’t cure everything. Rogers’ fellow motorcycle rider, Gary Ewers, has been visiting the park for 24 years.
“What better way to spend the day?” Ewers, 55, said. “It’s a very popular spot. You see a lot of motorcycle riders.”
Carmen Murillo of South Lake Tahoe, 41, comes to the springs about twice a month to soothe her sore muscles.
“I work too hard. I have two jobs,” she said, rubbing her shoulders and back. “I need something to relax.”
Gregory Crofton can be reached at (530) 542-8045 or at firstname.lastname@example.org