Sunday, March 3, 2013

Hot Well Dunes, Safford, Arizona

usbackroads destination--Hot Well Dunes, Safford, Arizona

Two years ago, we called BLM for instructions on how to find this recreation site.  We were informed that the "Hot Wells" were no longer artisian and that the BLM was looking for funding to "fix" the wells and recreation facilities.

The original "hot wells" came from oil and gas drilling way back in the 1920's.  Instead of oil, they hit hot water and these became the "hot wells".   Another benefit of America's oil and gas industry!!  The dunes over the years became popular with the ORV crowd and I am sure that between the "hot wells" and ORV party crowd it must have been quite a spot over the years.

BLM did find the funding from Arizona's ORV fund and I suspect some government funding.  But I suspect the ORV crowd funded most of the reconstruction of the recreation facility and "hot wells".

The site is split into basically four areas.  The first is a day use picnic site with a natural hot water pond.  The second is the "rustic" campground.  The third are the "hot wells".  And at the end of the road is the ORV parking.

The picnic area is the quiet and far from the ORV area.  It is worth a stop.  The fee for using the recreation facilities is $3 per day.  So if you are camping area it is a $6 per night fee.  Half-price discount for federal access and senior passes.

For this you might get a picnic table, parking area, garbage can, restroom and access to the "hot wells".

Quite the bargain for $3.  As always, click on photo to enlarge.

Signs, signs everywhere a sign.  These at least have some information on them.  Here is the sign at the picnic area.  For some reason I never did get a good picture of the area, however, click on the sign for the basic information.

These are the campsites.  As you can see the campground is rustic and fairly undeveloped.  Well in keeping with BLM's low key approach to recreation.  What more do you need??  I like these type of campgrounds in the right setting.

Well, the campground was an easy "recreation planning" problem.  The "hot wells" were more difficult.  How do you design a hot springs to be rustic, safe, durable, and cheap to maintain.  Here are the pictures.  What do you think??

This is the picnic area and parking lot at the "hot wells".

This is the toilet facility.

This is the solar pump house to keep the "hot wells' flowing.  Well, I probably would have mated the toilet with this building to minimize the number of structures.

And here are the "hot well tubs"!!

The sign on dogs was a little unclear.  We first thought, it meant no dogs inside the fence portion of the tub, however, on later reflection I think BLM meant keep dogs in the parking area.

The hot tubs are 106 degrees F.  and quite comfortable.  There is a very faint sulfer smell and little bits of algae floating around.  However, quite nice for a hot springs out in the wilds.  Don't let the cement and fence fool you.....this is no motel pool hot tub.  I suspect I would worked a bit harder for a more rustic design for the simple reason I would not want to answer the letters about "unclean" etc. etc.

Just to be sure you do mistake these for hotel hot tubs there is this sign.

Now a simple little Honda 2000 generator would let those tubs fill in darkness!!  All BLM would need to do is provide a plug to the Honda generator.

Then it dawned on me that ORV's, hot tubs, alcohol,  and hot desert nights probably lead to some interesting activities which I am sure that BLM has NO INTEREST in seeing happen on Federal land.

So...hey no sun.  No hot water for people to sit in and get wasted.  Clever, very clever. IF I was still working I would do the same thing in a heartbeat.

Finding the Hot Wells Dunes is best done from Bowie rather than Highway 191.  You could tow anything in from the Bowie side.  The 191 approach is fine, but narrower and with less reassurance signing.   One warning.   We came in from Highway 191 and left via Bowie.  But our GPS unit wanted to send us off on some interesting roads on the desert floor.

Stick to the main route.  From Bowie you will go through paved and unpaved, but very wide road that makes sharp turns through pecan orchards.  Guess they just followed property lines!

When you hit the BLM managed lands.  The road narrows, but is covered with chip seal.

BLM rules regarding dogs are under voice control or on a leash.  Bugaboo, all 100 lbs of him, is fine with voice control.  Snowpatch, all 12 lbs of him, has never even considered the concept.  So here he is in the middle of somewhere on a leash.  Oh yes, he did run off at Hot Wells Dunes to chase quail.   I guess he does not believe bird season is over.  The picture gives you an idea about road quality.  I suspect the road is like this all the way to Safford.  It might be interesting to ride the road on a bicycle.  Little traffic.

This is what the land looks like in the area.  BLM Big Sky Arizona.

We did see this sign just west of the Hot Wells Dunes.  Not sure what it means, but if you area interested in dispersed camping near the Dunes you might want to call BLM.  We did see people in hunting camps several miles north and west of the area.  Click on picture to enlarge.

Here is the link to the BLM office in Safford:  Safford Field Office Web Page.


Chris and Caron said...

Thanks Vlad..great stuff as always.

Vladimir Steblina said...

Thanks...this is a great spot. During the week there was little ORV use and the hot springs are worth the visit.

Bowie is a true "desert" town to jump off from. We really did like Safford. See our postings from 2011.

Ben said...

Great spot. The terrain seems to have a little of everything you'd expect in the desert. Top the day off with a trail ride to an old dam at the face of a small mountain, then enjoy a relaxing soak in the springs. Personally, I would be more then willing to contribute to making the pumps run at night again, like before BLM "Fixed" it. Who wants to sit in a hot tub in the heat of the day in the desert, our groups head down much less now because of this. We don't stay as long, and don't spend as much nearby on gas, ice, water, food (there's a great little pizza place nearby), and whatever else us recreational types need. It would be nice to relax in the springs at night again! All that said it is still more then worth the drive from Tucson to get away, ride and relax for a couple days. The facilities were redone very well and look great.