Quirky Attraction: Zzyzx Road in Baker, California

Zzyzx Road

Zzyzx Road
Location: Near Baker, California
When to visit: Anytime during the day
Cost: Free
Time needed: 2 minutes to see the sign / an hour to visit the picnic spot
Website: National Park Service page

This place is a quirky attraction simply for its name. Zzyzx! That’s genius. I’m not sure how it’s pronounced. I’m guessing “zizzicks,” but some outlets say it’s “zy-zicks.”

Either way, I have to believe it’s the best street name in America.

So first off, dear reader, congrats on finding this article. Because I keep forgetting how the street name is spelled. So when I try to Google it, I have to run through Zzxzx, Zzxxyy, Zyzyx, and more before I get to Zzyzx.

Let’s go over Zzyzx Road, where it’s located, its history, how it got that silly name, and what you can see there.

Where is Zzyzx Road Located?

Zzyzx Road is located just off Route 15 near the Mojave National Preserve, six miles southwest of Baker, California.

Folks going from L.A. to Vegas or vice versa often pass the sign. You may encounter the sign if you do any road tripping around the Joshua Tree, Death Valley, or Palm Springs area. The road is part paved and part dirt.

What can you do on Zzyzx Road? According to the National Park Service, which actually has a page dedicated to this place, Zzyzx is home to the Desert Studies Center, where California State University students can do field study in a desert environment.

There’s a self-guided trail along the shore of Soda Lake with vault toilets and a picnic space for curious travelers.

If you don’t have time for all of that, you can simply do what I did – pull over and snap a pic of the Zzyzx Road sign, because it’s just so weird.

zzyzx road california
Zzyzx Road is an eye-catching exit sign in Baker, California.

History of Zzyzx and the Road

The community of Zzyzx used to be named Soda Springs. The road evidently got its name from a local who founded a mineral spa at the location and wanted it to be list dead last on any alphabetical list of places. Kooky!

Thousands of years ago, the area was covered by Lake Mojave. When the climate warmed and the lake dried up, it left behind salty and crusty desert areas that remain today.

Soda Springs was a natural oasis that persisted in the area. It was used by Native American peoples and the U.S. Army.

Curtis Springer moved here in the 1940s and opened a mine, along with the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort. He’s the one who chose the oddball name, because he wanted “the last word in health.”

Springer was a high-school dropout, but ran a radio show and convinced everyone that he was a doctor. His spa became very popular, even though the Journal of the American Medical Association had published a report called “Curtis Howe Springer: A Quack and His Nostrums.”

One of his more devious efforts was using a diesel generator to heat the water, and then calling it a “hot spring.”

Eventually, consumer complaints and accusations of tax evasion did him in. Springer was briefly jailed on the tax charges and moved to Las Vegas for the rest of his days.

California State University took over the property in 1976 and opened the Desert Studies Center.

Springer actually drove back to Zzyzx shortly after, and his visit was captured by a news crew:

About the Desert Studies Center

What is the Desert Studies Center, exactly? It’s a 1200-acre station “established for the better understanding and appreciation of the Mojave Desert.”

It was established in 1876 and gives students access to various habitats in the desert, including sand dunes, Joshua tree forest, and salt flats.

Today, the Desert Studies Center has a 10,000-watt solar panel, which only makes sense given the extreme desert location with constant sun.

Visiting Zzyzx Road Today

You can visit this place today. It’s a few miles of I-15. Your GPS will likely lose service out here, so download or screenshot the map before heading out.

The university allows visitors to walk around Lake Tuendae. You can see the ruins of the old pool house – it’s shaped like a crucifix. There are signs and ropes to keep guests off private university property.

Because of the lake, a surprisingly wide array of birds and animals live in the area, adding to its appeal as a place for students to learn about desert environments.

The area is also known for its coyotes, scorpions, foxes, and bighorn sheep.

Random fact: The rock band Stone Sour named a song Zzyzx Road, and a couple of movies have been named after it. There was also a 2006 film that was intentionally misspelled, called Zyzzyx Road.

You may encounter Zzyzx Road on a Los Angeles to Austin road trip if you take a route via Death Valley.

Zzyzx is not a ghost town, contrary to what some folks think, since the university still runs it. But you can find a pretty awesome ghost town nearby: Rhyolite, Nevada.

Related Reading

Want to read about more quirky geographical spots? Here are a few more places of interest.

The Exact Geographic Center of the United States (Kansas)
The Southernmost Point in the Continental United States (Key West)
Walking From One State to Another (Missouri – Kansas)
The Southernmost Point in America (Hawaii)
The Longitudinal Center of Canada (Manitoba)

If you like weird places and travel guessing games, take our Guess the Location By Picture challenge, which features 90 mystery locations you can try to identify.