SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY, Calif. (KLAS) — About an hour and a half drive from Las Vegas, stretching 4.5 miles into the Mojave Desert from Interstate 15 (I-15), might be one of the best-known mystery roads in the west. Many who have traveled on I-15 between Las Vegas and San Diego have seen the signs with the eye-grabbing spelling of Zzyzx Road (pronounced Zye-Zix). However, not many know why it’s called this and what’s at the end of this road.
Zzyzx Road was named for the unincorporated community at the end of the road, also called Zzyzx, and was formerly known as Soda Springs. The highway and community are on federal land and are part of the Mojave National Preserve, managed by the National Park Service (NPS).
ZZYZX MINERAL SPRINGS & HEALTH SPA
What does the word Zzyzx mean? It turns out that it’s a made-up name according to the NPS. In 1944, Curtis Howe Springer created it to distinguish it as the last word in the English language, or as Springer was known to say, “The last word in health.”
Springer created the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Spa in 1944. He was able to secure the land due to a mining claim he made for 12,000 acres surrounding the natural springs.
Springer was an entrepreneur who also bottled the spring water and sold it to travelers coming across the desert. He built his health around the spring with outdoor baths, dormitory rooms, and several other buildings in the small community.
The property functioned as the Health Spa until 1974, when the government realized that he had no legitimate claim to the land and evicted him.
The oasis is now home to the California State University Desert Studies Center.
ZZYZX BEFORE THE HEALTH SPA
Several thousand years ago, the remote desert area was cooler and wetter. A massive lake called Lake Mojave covered the land according to the NPS. But as the climate warmed, the water evaporated, leaving behind a mineral/salt crust in the dry Soda lake and Silver Lake basins.
The Mohave and Chemehuevi people used the natural spring system left after the lake dried for many generations, and by the mid-1800s, it was also used by early western explorers and the US Army.