Zzyzx – Desert Consortium

April 19-20, 2013


Six miles southwest of Baker, Calif. on I-15, Zzyzx Road leads 5 miles south into Mojave National Preserve along the western shore of dry Soda Lake playa to a university directed desert study facility. Historically known as Soda Springs and later renamed Zzyzx (pronounced Zye-Zix), this oasis is field station of the California State University. Established in 1976 under a cooperative management agreement with the Bureau of Land Management, the Center is operated for the CSU by the California Desert Studies Consortium, an organization of seven southern California CSU campuses: Dominguez Hills, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Pomona and San Bernardino.

The site has been an Indian quarry, an anglo explorer camps, an army outpost, a wagon train rest stop, a salt extraction plant, a train station, and a health spa for the wealthy. Curtis Springer, a radio evangelist, a self-proclaimed medical doctor and Methodist minister developed the buildings, pond, and grounds, including extensive palms and tamarisks, in the 1940s.

There were 15-minute presentations on a wide variety of subjects with predominance of geology. A few of the talks were fascinating, one by a zany young architect, Berenika Boberska from Santa Monica and another by Daisy Edel from New Mexico. Daisy reported on microscopic stones (mineral bodies) in almost all plants. There were interesting and highly accomplished people there. Daisy's new husband is a physicists, astronomer, and new age geologist.

I took some photos of Zzyzx, both functional and derelict, and a few of a field trip to an iron mine site, one of only two big iron mines in the US. Both are in the Mojave Desert.