Monday, December 16, 2019

Matilija Hot Springs cleared

Sign at Matilija Hot Springs summarizes the historical significance of the site

The Matilija Hot Springs lies directly downstream of Matilija Dam.  The site has a rich history dating back to the 1800's and has alternated between a privately operated resort and County owned park.  The most recent transition occurred during planning for dam removal when Ventura County re-acquired the property using a grant from the California Coastal Conservancy.  The property has a history of flooding during extreme events, and dam removal is expected to greatly increase the flood risk as sediment is released back into Matilija Creek.

With planning for dam removal ongoing, the historic nature of the site has led to lengthy discussions over the fate of the existing infrastructure.  A comprehensive summary of the site was conducted in 2012,  Historical Resources Assessment Matilija Hot Springs Ventura County, CA. A complete chronology of the site begins on page 51 of this report, which includes vivid descriptions from past newspaper articles:

The gorge is a picturesque and wildly beautiful one. Its altitude is 1,000 feet above the sea and the air is delightfully bracing. The mountains rise above the nook on which the springs buildings are located some 1200 feet, rocky and precipitous” (Ventura Free Press, April 11, 1902).

Structures identified in the 2102 Historical Resources Assessment Matilija Hot Springs

Then in December 2017 the entire site was burned in the Thomas Fire.

According to the Ventura County Star, "The remnants of the historic Matilija Hot Springs resort near Ojai are set to be demolished in the next few weeks amid lingering questions over whether anything could be saved after the Thomas Fire left much of it in rubble. "

"Located northwest of Ojai, the site held one of California’s famous mineral springs resorts of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The entire 9-acre property, including hot springs, a cold-water spring and the buildings, is designated as a Ventura County historic landmark. Of particular note were a post office and swimming pool dating from the early 1900s, according to a historian who surveyed the site several years before the fire. "

"Nothing will be left except a historical marker after the demolition is completed in January, said Glenn Shephard, director of the Ventura County Watershed Protection District. The agency owns the property that is expected to become a staging area for the removal of the Matilija Dam and later turned into a public recreation area. "

This demolition represents the end of an era.  With dam removal, this special site at the entrance to Matilija Canyon will eventually be returned to the public.  In the meantime, any planning for future of this area will begin with a "clean slate"...

Raymond Powers, who lived on site as caretaker, produced this video following the fire:


Matilija Hot Springs Site after County cleared the site, Feb 20, 2020


Historical Resources Assessment Matilija Hot Springs Ventura County, CA , Prepared for:
County of Ventura Watershed Protection District, November 2012
Matilija Hot Springs has Colorful History
Postcard: Matilija Hot Springs Pool
Postcard: Hanging Rock — A Trysting Place

In the news:

Remnants of Matilija Hot Springs resort being leveled, VC Star, Dec 15, 2019

On this blog:

Matilija Hot Springs Resort