The once popular swimming hole at Hot Creek will remain closed this summer and into the distant future.
The Hot Creek geologic site, near the Mammoth Yosemite Airport, used to be a popular swimming hole for local residents and visitors who could often be seen soaking in the hot springs that bubble up in the middle of the cool water of Hot Creek.
This changed in the spring of 2006. After a heavy snow year the geyser activity picked up. Periodic spurts of water into the air where the water had once barely risen over the surface of the creek led Forest Service officials to fence the area off and close the hole to swimming.
The geyser eruptions have quieted down and some residents say that the pools look like they used to, but the area remains closed to swimming.
Hot Creek isnt officially closed forever, but Mammoth District Ranger Jon Regelbrugge explained that the swimming area is unlikely to re-open due to the unpredictable nature of the risks in this hot spring.
Hot springs are one of the many attractions that bring people to the Eastern Sierra, and many of the nearby hot springs remain open to those in search of a soak, but Regelbrugge says that Hot Creek has a history of accidents that have led to injury. Boiling, scalding water is very unforgiving, he says.
US Geological Survey staff indicates that the water temperature and volume of water coming out of the spring changes constantly without warning, Regelbrugge explained. He adds that the USGS doesnt have a clear understanding what governs the changes.
Its this unpredictable nature of the springs that keeps the Forest Service from reopening the hot springs. From paragliding and mountaineering to dirt bikes and scrambling, people do all sorts of potentially dangerous activities on public lands. The difference, Regelbrugge explained, is that with other activities the objective hazards are identifiable so people can make an informed choice.
The Hot Creek hot springs are not fully understood by the geologists that study the region, let alone a bather who follows the concrete path right to the waters edge.
For now and into the future, the fence and the fines for swimming will remain.