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Goldstrike Hot Spring and Sauna Cave, Nevada

Fall of 2003

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NOTICE! The common hiking access routes to Goldstrike Hot Springs will probably be restricted, if not totally closed, from about Jan 04 to as late as 2007, while highway construction for the Hoover Dam Bypass is in progress. You can still get to Goldstrike by boat, or if youíre experienced at orienteering, with a good topo map, you might find an alternate land route.

Goldstrike Hot Spring is a series of natural hot springs located in primitive Goldstrike Canyon near Hoover Dam, less than 40 miles from the famous Las Vegas Strip. It's accessible by hiking either down the canyon from a wash just off of Highway 93, or hiking up the canyon from the lower Colorado River, if you have a boat or jet ski. Note: the author is included in several photos in this report to provide scale; I would have varied the human content if I had permission from others.

The source of the springs begins to surface from the ground about 2 miles down from the trailhead. Water seeping from more springs further down the canyon joins to form a small creek that flows about a half-mile or so into the Colorado River, where Goldstrike Canyon joins Black Canyon.

With the creation of 3 excellent new hot pools within the last 2 years, Goldstrike has become my local favorite. Some ambitious masonry workers from the nearby region have used their skills to dam the springs' flow with rocks from the surrounding area. One of the dams is built to a height of over 6 feet, and spans the canyon floor to form a pool large enough to swim short laps in. A couple of smaller, warmer pools are located above the large one. About 30 meters down the canyon, at the first set of water falls, is a small wedge-shaped warm pool that extends beneath a huge boulder to form a small cave pool. The last set of pools is within view of the river. These pools are shallow and vary in temperature.


The upper pools of Goldstrike Hot Springs, viewed from the canyon above. The unofficial pool names, starting from the top right: Upper & Lower Terrace, Goldstrike, and The Swimming Pool. One pool not visible in this photo is called The Lobster Pot; itís at least 115 degrees F, which can turn your skin red within 30 seconds..



A closer birdís eye view of The Swimming Pool.



Floating across the Swimming Pool.



Diving in.



Cannonball!



Hydropower massage! About 30 meters downstream from the upper pools is another pool named the Boulder Pool; this small waterfall is just beside it.



Further down the canyon, 2 cool-temperature pools are located at the base of a steep drop; a waterfall cascades into the shallow pool in the foreground; behind it, beneath the house-sized boulder, is another shallow pool, named the Cave Pool-it has a waterfall inside, which makes a refreshing natural shower.



Told ya!



The lower pools-getting close to the river; a hot waterfall drips down the canyon wall on the right.



The lower Colorado River; at the center is the exit of the Nevada-side bypass tunnel of the Hoover Dam; Sauna Cave is on the left side of the canyon, about 100 meters up river.


Sauna Cave is located about 100 meters up river from Goldstrike Canyon, and is also on the Nevada side. It is less than 50 meters south of the restricted area signs and cable that spans the river. When you're in the vicinity, look for a long, rocky spit that forms a little island above the river surface. The cave is near the north end of the spit. Unfortunately, Sauna Cave is only accessible to hikers when the river level is very low (there is also a route over the top of the cliff edge via an old ladder on the north wall of Goldstrike Canyon, but this is very treacherous, and not recommended). The cave opening, which is atop a sand bank about 30 feet above the river's waterline, is usually hidden from view by tall shrubs growing along the riverbank. When you near the cave, you can hear the water flowing out of it, and you might notice the seepage into the river.


Entering Sauna Cave.


Sauna Cave is actually a small tunnel, excavated around 1930 when engineers were doing exploratory drilling to find suitable siting for what is now the Hoover Dam. When the drillers struck a considerable flow of (hot) ground water, they abandoned the site. What remains resembles a horizontal mine shaft about a meter wide by 1.5 meters high, extending about 10 meters back into the solid rock wall of Black Canyon. Hot ground water, over 100 degrees F, gently flows along the floor of the tunnel at a depth of 2-6 inches. This small water flow keeps the stagnant air in the tunnel quite toasty; hence the name Sauna Cave. Five minutes is about all the cooking time I can stand in this sauna. There's usually a small sandbag dam at the entrance, creating a small soaking pool to sit in. If you visit Sauna Cave, bring a flashlight or lighter, because after the first bend in the tunnel, it's pitch black.


Inside Sauna Cave; the entrance is as far as you can go without steaming up your camera lens or eye glasses.



Looking out of the cave, down the Colorado River.


Getting There: Hiking - A narrow dirt road about a half mile south of the Hacienda Hotel/Casino on Highway 93 leads to the entrance of Goldstrike Canyon (.5 miles past the Hacienda main entrance). The road is hardly noticeable because it drops steeply off the southbound lane between a small gap in the guardrail. It's safer to enter this road from the paved turnout on the opposite side of the highway. If you're heading north away from the dam and towards the Hacienda, look for the paved turnout area along the right shoulder of the highway. At the end of the turnout, there is a brown sign for Lake Mead information, instructing travelers to tune their radios to 1610 AM for info. The dirt road is right across the highway from this sign. At the bottom of the hill, take the road to the left until it dead ends where the canyon narrows. If you're uncomfortable leaving your car in the canyon, you can park along the highway or at the Hacienda, and walk the extra distance. From the trailhead, it's about a 2 mile hike to the first hot springs. Most of the upper canyon is easy hiking along a gravel wash. As you get deeper into the canyon some rock scrambling is required (no special equipment is needed-just both hands and feet). If you continue past the first springs, down to the river, the drops get steeper, and your bouldering skills are needed more often. The lower part of the canyon contains some awesome waterfalls, where you can treat yourself to a nude outdoor shower and heavy-duty water massage.


Naturistís view of Hoover Dam; very few have ever trekked to this vantage point.


-Boating - The closest boat launch to Goldstrike Canyon is about 11 miles down river, at Willow Beach. You can also contact the Hacienda Hotel to obtain a launch permit from below the Hoover Dam (non-motorized boats only). This requires a small fee and reserved time and date for launch. If you don't have your own canoe or kayak, there are a couple of outfitters in Boulder City who will rent you all the gear you need, and will transport it to/from the launch and recovery points. There are hot springs and pools a short distance from the river. To get to the upper pools, continue up the canyon for about a half mile. This section of the canyon contains the most boulder scrambling steepest climbs. It also has the highest waterfalls.

The best time to visit the hot springs is October through April. Bring plenty of water and check the weather to avoid being caught in the canyon during a flash flood. The closest place for food and fuel is the Hacienda Hotel. Note that since September 11, 2001, only passenger vehicles are allowed to cross Hoover Dam. Trailers and cargo spaces are subject to search at the checkpoints. More information is available from the National Park Service at the Alan Bible visitor's center, located less than a mile from the Hacienda.

Happy Trails & Soulful Soaking! -- Nevada Naturist

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