The sign at the entrance to the Matilija Hot Springs below the dam tells the history.
From 1887 until the 1980's, the hot springs drew people from afar for the healing properties of the natural springs as well as the scenic natural beauty of the area and renowned fishing.
In 1947 as plans were made to construct a dam in Matilija Canyon, the Ventura County bought the land which held the hot springs. The resort was leased and continued to operate for many years as a health center. Much of the spa, however, was damaged in the floods of 1969. In the 1980's, due to difficulty with insurance, Matilija Hot Springs was finally closed to the public.
Now, with the removal of Matilija Dam planned for 2013, the property will revert back to the county. This is largely due to the potential for increased flooding directly beneath the dam site.
Because of the historical value of the site and its proximity to the dam, potential future uses may include a visitors center and access point to the restoration site upstream.
Paul Jenkin is the Environmental Director of the Ventura County Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and founder of the Matilija Coalition. The Surfrider Foundation is an international environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enhancement of the world’s waves and beaches through conservation, activism, research, and education (CARE).
Since 1994, Paul has worked to restore the coast and watershed where he lives, in Ventura, California.