Forest Service will open Red’s tub
Reds Meadow tub enthusiasts can rest easy. According to Inyo National Forest District Ranger for the Mammoth and Mono Lake District Jon Regelbrugge, the lid on the tub was going to be removed on Wednesday of this week.
“We don’t sanction bathing in it, but we want to avoid vandalism,” Regelbrugge said.
Over the years the tub, which is technically the cistern that supplies the Reds Meadow Bath House (and showers) with natural hot spring water, has a steel lid on it during the summer when the campground is open and the tub is feeding the bathhouse, Regelbrugge said.
“When’s Reds Meadow Pack Station was operating the campground they had a caretaker out there during the winter,” he continued. “The caretaker would take the lid off.”
The tub is a popular winter destination for snowmobilers as well as skiers looking to get away for a little soak.
“They [Forest Service] have tried to close it in the past and failed,” explained snowmobile enthusiast Bill Sauser. “They put a metal top on it but it just got torn off. Sometimes closures can create more damage if they don’t make sense.”
The issue, according to Regelbrugge, actually stems from the bathhouse, which was closed indefinitely this past summer.
“The Madera County Health Department has been putting pressure on us for years because the bathhouse doesn’t live up to state health codes and hasn’t for decades,” he said. “We understand that a lot of people use them [showers], but we didn’t want to overlook the concerns any longer.”
Untreated surface water, mold and mildew are the main issues behind the concerns. However, the bathhouse is considered an historic building, so the concessionaire can’t just go in and start upgrading the facility without the Forest Service first preparing historical studies.
“We [Forest Service] are not opposed to evaluating the historic aspects,” Regelbrugge said, but there are no plans to reopen the bathhouse any time soon.
“The current concessionaire [CA Land Management] was also concerned about the safety of the tub so they closed it during the summer and locked it securely,” Regelbrugge said. With the bathhouse closed, more people were trying to access the tub during the summer months. “When they [concessionaire] left for the winter, they left it locked.”
But after questioning Regelbrugge last week and again at the beginning of this week, he was able to confirm that, indeed, the lid would be removed for the winter. When not supplying water to the bathhouse, the tub will simply overflow into the creek, he explained.
“The tub, however, was not built for bathing,” he continued.
Gary Guenther, a skier who has used the tub, agreed that the Forest Service should not promote use of the tub, especially since users must travel through an avalanche zone to access it.
“It’s not avalanche controlled, and is definitely a ‘use at your own risk’ situation, but utilizing it should be up to the individual,” Guenther said. “I don’t want to be told I can’t do it.”
Guenther also pointed out that if the Forest Service is concerned about bacteria in the water, or health issues, then it should gather and test water samples to truly determine the water’s quality.
Hot Creek swimming
On another hot spring note, Regelbrugge stated that Hot Creek was not likely to reopen for swimming.
“It is still an unpredictable geologic feature,” he said. “We realize that people in the Eastern Sierra partake in other hazardous activities all the time, but the hazard at Hot Creek is not readily apparent and the conditions change without warning.”
Hot Creek was closed to swimming in 2006.