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Latest News in Mono Hot Springs, CA
CDFW to Supplement Fish Stocks for Anglers as Bacterial Outbreak Leads to Further Losses at Two Eastern Sierra Trout Hatcheries
Two California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) trout hatcheries in the Eastern Sierra are continuing to fight an outbreak of Lactococcus petauri, a naturally occurring bacteria that sickens fish. The current outbreak was first detected in April 2022. CDFW fishery managers announced this week that approximately 350,000 infected catchable rainbow trout are now showing signs of disease and must be humanely euthanized.The affected facilities ...
Two California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) trout hatcheries in the Eastern Sierra are continuing to fight an outbreak of Lactococcus petauri, a naturally occurring bacteria that sickens fish. The current outbreak was first detected in April 2022. CDFW fishery managers announced this week that approximately 350,000 infected catchable rainbow trout are now showing signs of disease and must be humanely euthanized.
The affected facilities – Black Rock and Fish Springs hatcheries – usually provide fish for stocking waterways in CDFW’s Inland Deserts Region. Because this is a significant loss of fish that would normally be stocked for anglers in the 2022 season, CDFW is working to contract with an external vendor to provide catchable rainbow trout for planting in Mono County. Approval of this contract is anticipated in July and stocking could begin soon after. In addition, other CDFW hatcheries across the state are supporting the eastern Sierra by providing and stocking fish in priority waters.
“This loss is a huge disappointment, but we were prepared for this possibility and are doing all we can to ensure to continued angling opportunity for the public,” said CDFW Fisheries Supervisor Russell Black. “The fish from the private contractor and stocks from non-infected hatchery facilities will help bridge the gap while we work to vaccinate the remaining stocks at the affected facilities. We are doing all we can to stock as many fish as possible.”
In addition to purchasing fish and redirecting existing stocks, CDFW’s plans to combat the outbreak and improve hatchery capabilities include:
Lactococcus petauri occurs naturally in the environment and is usually spread by movement of fish or eggs. CDFW’s fish pathologists believe that it may have been carried into the hatcheries by birds that picked it up from an environmental source. Fish that are infected with the bacterium can show symptoms including bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on several factors including water temperature and stress.
Fish-to-human transmission of this bacteria is rare and unlikely. As always, anglers should follow USDA recommendations on cooking fish to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F.
For additional information, please see CDFW’s frequently asked questions about the Lactococcus spp. outbreaks (PDF).
Second Disease Outbreak Strikes Hot Creek Trout Hatchery; Vaccinations Underway for Uninfected Fish
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has detected a bacterial outbreak at its Hot Creek Trout Hatchery in Mono County – the second time in 2021 that Lactococcus garvieae has been confirmed in some trout at the hatchery.Three distinct groups of trout representing about 15 percent of the hatchery’s total trout population have tested positive. CDFW has quarantined the facility, temporarily suspended fish planting and is preparing to humanely euthanize infected fish and vaccinate uninfected stocks....
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has detected a bacterial outbreak at its Hot Creek Trout Hatchery in Mono County – the second time in 2021 that Lactococcus garvieae has been confirmed in some trout at the hatchery.
Three distinct groups of trout representing about 15 percent of the hatchery’s total trout population have tested positive. CDFW has quarantined the facility, temporarily suspended fish planting and is preparing to humanely euthanize infected fish and vaccinate uninfected stocks.
“The encouraging news is that we caught the outbreak early as part of our routine testing and only a portion of the hatchery’s trout has been infected,” said Jay Rowan, CDFW’s statewide hatchery program manager. “We now have proven and effective vaccines to protect uninfected fish – vaccines developed recently in a partnership between UC Davis and CDFW. We’re in the process of vaccinating the hatchery’s healthy fish populations. Unfortunately, we don’t have a cure or treatment for infected fish at this time.”
Hot Creek Trout Hatchery is located south of Mammoth Lakes and raises three species of trout – rainbow, brown and Lahontan cutthroat – for stocking into some blue-ribbon eastern Sierra fisheries, including Crowley Lake, Pleasant Valley Reservoir and portions of the Owens River. CDFW expects low to moderate impacts to waters stocked by the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery in 2022.
The 15 percent of infected fish consist of 118,000 rainbow trout and 52,000 brown trout, including 2,000 broodstock brown trout weighing 2 to 3 pounds each.
Nearly a million fish have tested negative and will undergo vaccination, either through a bath immersion process for smaller, juvenile fish or injection into larger fish. These healthy populations include rainbow trout broodstock, brown trout broodstock, rainbow and brown trout of various sizes, and juvenile Lahontan cutthroat trout. Once vaccinated, the fish will be safe to plant and safe for anglers to consume.
Lactococcus garvieae is the same disease that forced the quarantine and suspension of fish planting last year at three other CDFW trout hatcheries in Southern California and the eastern Sierra – the Mojave River Hatchery, Black Rock Trout Hatchery and Fish Springs Trout Hatchery. That outbreak ultimately forced the euthanization of 3.2 million trout at those hatcheries.
All three hatcheries have undergone intensive cleaning, disinfection and are raising fish once again. Fish Springs and Black Rock are back stocking trout for recreational fishing. Those two hatcheries have vaccinated all of their fish stocks, which continue to test negative for the disease.
Isolation of Lactococcus garvieae in a few fish at the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery earlier this year resulted in the temporary quarantine of the facility and the suspension of fish stocking. Other CDFW trout hatcheries outside of the eastern Sierra have assisted stocking waters in Inyo and Mono counties while the Hot Creek Trout Hatchery has been offline and while Fish Springs and Black Rock were rebuilding their fish populations.
The outbreak of Lactococcus garvieae, which is similar to streptococcus or strep throat, has been reported in cattle and poultry farms as well as fresh and saltwater fish and shellfish hatcheries around the world. It had never before been detected in fish in California until the hatchery outbreaks in 2020.
Fish that are infected with Lactococcus garvieae can show symptoms that include bulging eyes, lethargic or erratic swimming and increased mortality, or be asymptomatic and show no signs of infection depending on several factors, including water temperature and stress.
Fish-to-human transmission of the bacteria is rare and unlikely but there are several documented instances associated with immunocompromised people consuming infected raw fish and unpasteurized milk products.
California Does Have Hot Springs, And Here's How To Enjoy A Good Soak
Nothing beats soaking in the therapeutic experience of geothermally hot waters. Thanks to California’s dynamic topography continually forcing natural and mineral-rich springs up to the Earth’s surface, the Golden State is full of great sites to enjoy a natural hot spring experience.With approximately 163,000 square miles of broad and sweeping topography, California is the third-largest state in the United States...
Nothing beats soaking in the therapeutic experience of geothermally hot waters. Thanks to California’s dynamic topography continually forcing natural and mineral-rich springs up to the Earth’s surface, the Golden State is full of great sites to enjoy a natural hot spring experience.
With approximately 163,000 square miles of broad and sweeping topography, California is the third-largest state in the United States. From its mountains and valleys to its wealth of public and private natural hot springs, California is one of the country’s most geographically rich states. There are many natural resources in the state, including these relaxing hot springs. From its springs in the north to those in the south, this guide has everything a traveler needs to explore the best hot springs in California.
What To Know About California's Hot Springs
California’s hot springs provide a wide range of services regarding what travelers like and what they can fit into their travel budget. Although spending is an expectation of travel, it is wise to consider budgeting and get a cheaper promo package.
To provide travelers interested in California’s hot springs with the best possible guide, we have included listings of the average trip cost for solo and group travelers.
The price range for hot spring trips varies depending on accommodations, travel tours, flight expenses, and food. The number of travelers impacts the expenses as well. The more people on the trip, the more expensive the travel is. Below are the average trip costs to California’s hot springs for solo travelers, couples, and families.
These budgets are costly, but travelers can always opt for cheaper trips.
Hot Springs In California That Are Open To The Public
There are numerous hot springs in California. Aside from the trip cost, they vary in size, outlooking views, and historical stories. Not only are these naturally heated waters great for sites and therapeutic dips, but they also provide services such as luxurious spas with mud baths and massages that are good for the skin and body. Below is a list providing all the hot springs in California.
Why Are The Springs In California Hot?
Geothermal heat is the warmth radiating from the Earth’s interior, and it is what heats these Californian hot springs. The water here moves within the Earth’s interior, coming in contact with scorching rocks heated by magma. The waters then meet with volcanic fractures and fault lines which push it back up towards the surface.
In visiting these hot springs, it is important to note that one must prepare well since many of these hot springs locations are far from civilization. It is also imperative to carry water, sunscreen, and other necessities during travel.
Do not use soap and shampoo in hot springs.
Hot springs in California are different from commercial hot springs with improved facilities. The hot springs are entirely for swims and dips, not for bathing with cleansing agents. These products can potentially pollute the natural flow of the waters.
A responsible traveler must never forget to clean as you go. This habit saves time and effort for the keepers of the hot springs. Leaving the place in better shape is a rewarding experience to maintain the cleanliness of these springs for many travelers to come.
California is rich with natural resources, and these hot springs are the best in providing a therapeutic and relaxing experience. These might need some planning and careful budgeting, but with many options to choose from and a geothermally heated water experience, it’s worth the adventure!
Outdoorsy 2: Mono Hot Springs, Dispersed Camping & Your Camp Recipes
Ezra David Romerohttps://www.kvpr.org/environment/2016-10-11/outdoorsy-2-mono-hot-springs-dispersed-camping-your-camp-recipes
In our last episode we took you to this mountain oasis called Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. This time, we go 100 miles north of there to a place called Mono Hot Springs.Mono (pronounced “MOE-no”) Hot Springs is tucked away in the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes, and it’s about halfway from the Valley to the East Side. The hot springs sit in a mountain valley next to a fork in the San Joaquin River....
In our last episode we took you to this mountain oasis called Mineral King in Sequoia National Park. This time, we go 100 miles north of there to a place called Mono Hot Springs.
Mono (pronounced “MOE-no”) Hot Springs is tucked away in the Sierra Nevada south of Yosemite National Park and Mammoth Lakes, and it’s about halfway from the Valley to the East Side. The hot springs sit in a mountain valley next to a fork in the San Joaquin River.
Like Mineral King, the springs are at the end of a long, winding road. To get there from Fresno, you drive up Highway 168 East past places like Shaver Lake and China Peak Ski Resort. Before reaching Huntington Lake, turn onto Kaiser Pass Road, which quickly becomes only one lane.
At some points it’s worse than the drive to Mineral King. It’s narrow and bumpy and at a few points, the side of the road drops off literally over a cliff. We don’t recommend driving it at night.
As you climb Kaiser Pass, the highest point of the drive, you briefly venture out of dense pine forest onto bald rocky terrain, then settle back underneath ponderosa and lodgepole pines for the rest of the way. Once you’ve made it, you arrive at a mini community of campgrounds, cabins, a restaurant and even a general store. It’s charming and rustic and has something for everybody.
In this episode, we’ll take you there and talk about all the other great things you can do nearby. We’ll also talk about a kind of off-the-beaten path camping that’s not quite backpacking, but it’s definitely not staying in a campground. We’ll finish with some camp food stories - ‘cause who doesn’t like food?
“I think it’s just heavenly”
We, Ezra and Kerry, have both visited Mono Hot Springs - but this week, we decided to bring in someone else to tell you about them: Alice Daniel, a reporter for KQED who recently traveled to Mono with her family. She put together a story on the area for a series called “Hidden Places,” and she reveals what originally attracted her there.
“Doris Lake [a short distance from the hot springs] is filled with snakes,” she says. “So I figured, what better place to bring two boys?”
The road to Mono, Daniel says, is “listed as one of America’s most dangerous,” and it bears its own complicated history beginning in the 1920s.
“Apparently, the last six or seven miles of the road were so difficult to build that it was dubbed ‘the cheap and nasty,’” she says. “They blew it up with dynamite and had to remove huge boulders the size of houses.”
"I think it's just heavenly. It just restores you. It makes you feel better about people and the world itself." - Alice Daniel
Her family, all vegetarian, skipped out on the elk burgers and corned buffalo at the resort restaurant, but enjoyed soaking in the resort’s private tubs and the outdoor hot springs just a short walk from their cabin.
A map of the area identifies a handful of hot springs encased in cement. More adventurous hot spring-goers can seek out natural pools dotting the hillside - if they’re ready to navigate pockets of soft, silty mud. “It’s almost like quicksand, sometimes, when you’re walking through all that muck,” Daniel says. “When I was walking along, I would notice there would be, like, one sole flip flop on the trail, like somebody just couldn’t quite get it out.”
Snakes, dangerous road and muck aside, the whole Mono Hot Springs area is peaceful, soothing and serene. “I think it’s just heavenly,” Daniel says. “It just restores you. It makes you feel better about people and the world itself.”
For the rest of our conversation, listen to the full show.
More Than Just Hot Springs
There’s a lot more to do in the Mono area than just basking in hot water. When Ezra went up there this summer, he went kayaking on Edison Lake near the Pacific Crest Trail. He and his friends camped off the grid. That’s called dispersed camping.
To find out more about this way to camp, we want you to meet Jeff Greene.
"I describe that area as having 80 percent of the scenery of Kings Canyon and Yosemite and one percent of the people." - Jeff Greene
By day he runs media inquiries for Riverside County, but his true passion is the outdoors. He writes about his escapades on a blog called Greene Adventures. Greene and his high school buddies have camped in this area every summer for the past 16 years.
“I describe that area as having 80 percent of the scenery of Kings Canyon and Yosemite and one percent of the people,” Greene says. “It really is about how beautiful that area is and yet so isolated.”
When Greene and his buds go to Mono, they want to camp alone. So they try not to stay in designated campgrounds.
“There’s a lot of areas back there for what they call dispersed camping, which is camping somewhere other than a campground,” says Greene. “It’s perfectly legal in the national forest. If you want a campfire you have to get a fire permit.”
A fire permit can be picked up at the High Sierra Ranger District office in the mountain town of Prather on the way up the hill. You can also pick one up at the High Sierra Visitor Information Station on Kaiser Road. You can’t miss it. Greene says the most important part of dispersed camping is that you need to bring everything.
“You just have to be completely self reliant,” says Greene. “Besides your regular camping gear you need to bring your own portable toilet. You need to bring all your own water. We tend to like eat really well and drink really well. So we have way too much gear to strap to our backs, but in a couple of trucks we can bring in everything we need.”
You can also hike, fish and kayak on lakes and rivers here. Both the Pacific Crest Trail and the John Muir Trail run nearby. One cool feature a few miles east of Mono Hot Springs is Edison Lake. There’s a ferry that brings hikers to camp stores at a place called Vermilion Valley Resort.
And if you don’t like to hike that much you can also hunt or shoot guns.
“We can put up little targets and while we’re waiting for dinner to be done we can just target shoot right there on the site. You would never be able to do that if you were in a campground. Camp hosts get a little agitated when you try to do something like that.”
So you’ve had an amazing day soaking in hot tubs, hiking, swimming, (hunting?), maybe soaking again, and you settle back into your campsite for the evening. Roaring campfire? Check. Cold beer? Check. Now, an important question: what do you eat?
Being out of the kitchen scares some people, but camp cooking doesn’t have to be difficult - or terrifying.
Kerry’s strategy: take pre-packaged foods like ramen or macaroni and cheese and add tons of fresh veggies to them. Here's Kerry's recipe for Beer and Bean Burritos:
Ezra’s strategy: SNACKS. He also likes sandwiches and chips for lunch and some heartier meals like homemade chili, baked potatoes or steaks for dinners. Things that you can cook on the open fire. Here's a ready to go meal you can make before you leave home from Ezra:
This week, we also tried something a little different: we asked our listeners for audio files with their own camp cooking recipes and pointers. Molly in Fresno reminisced about a backpacking trip in Tasmania.
“At the end of day three,” she says, “I was more thankful to have a broiled grilled cheese sandwich than I had been at any other point in the trip just based on the fact that those flavors reminded me of home in a foreign place”
And here’s Jill from Wisconsin.
“If you’re doing a long trip, go out on a one overnight or two-night shake down trip and try eating it on the trail,” she advises. “My appetite changes so much on the trail and normal things that I will eat are disgusting.”
And of course, as Emily in LA says, there’s only one way to end the evening.
“When I think of camping, I think of family and sitting around the fireplace,” she says, “and for me that always meant s’mores. It doesn’t matter where I’m camping or with who; I always bring stuff to make s’mores.”
For their full stories, check out the full podcast.
Like what you heard? Want to get your story on our show? Follow Valley Public Radio on Facebook and keep an eye out for posts about Outdoorsy. We’re also on Twitter and Instagram, username @outdoorsypod for both.
Worth the Drive: Mono Hot Springs, Stunning Alpine Scenery
This story was originally published in November 2016 as part of The California Report Magazine's "Hidden Gems" series. It re-aired on July 3rd, 2020 for a special show called "Buckle Up: A (Virtual) Road Trip to CA Hidden Gems." Note: The resort is open this summer, and visitors are welcome as long as they practice safe social distancing and wear ...
This story was originally published in November 2016 as part of The California Report Magazine's "Hidden Gems" series. It re-aired on July 3rd, 2020 for a special show called "Buckle Up: A (Virtual) Road Trip to CA Hidden Gems." Note: The resort is open this summer, and visitors are welcome as long as they practice safe social distancing and wear a mask. The restaurant is closed, but you can buy a pre-made Buffalo Meat Burrito for takeout at the store.
The steep, winding road over Kaiser Pass to Mono Hot Springs is listed as one of America’s most dangerous. Cars go both ways but it’s not really a two-lane road.
If you hit a blind corner and there’s a car going the other way, there’s a good chance you’ll have to back up until there’s room enough for the other car to pass. That’s tricky because there are also steep drop-offs.
And there are plenty of potholes and big bumps that cause cars to bottom out, like mine just did. Fortunately, I have two adolescent back-seat drivers. And one of them is hanging out the window.
“What are you doing, Atticus?” my 12-year-old son, Asher, asks.
“Well, I was gonna look out of the car to see if there’s gas leaking out of it,” says Atticus, 14.
“That’s really smart, Atticus!” Asher says.
Wondering if a rock has put a hole in your car's undercarriage is nothing compared with the treacherous four- or five-day treks people made to Mono Hot Springs before this road was built.
Pack horses and mules would take visitors over Kaiser Pass. And there are accounts of Mono Indians guiding travelers. A vast hydroelectric project to bring more power to Los Angeles was the impetus for building a dirt road here in 1927. It was called the Big Creek Project.
“It was the engineering feat of the century,” says Jeff Winslow, who runs the historic Mono Hot Springs Resort with his son, Joe. “The only thing to beat it was the Panama Canal.”
And with the road, which wasn’t paved until 1953, came more visitors to the springs. The 1930s were the heyday for enthusiastic soakers.
“People loved hot springs. In fact, that was kind of the golden years,” Winslow said.
The Fresno County resort opened in 1935. A few years before that, the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps built a campground here, as well as concrete baths to hold in the spring water. Older Japanese American farmers from the Central Valley would set up house in tents for months here.
“The kids would bring elders up here all summer,” Winslow says. Then they’d return to the valley to work the farm and come back up to see their parents on the weekends.
Some of these concrete tubs still exist. The trail to them in a meadow along the San Joaquin River is mucky in parts. It kind of grabs you like wet clay.
Some crazy people, like my kids, jump in the ice-cold Sierra snowmelt. They scream out loud and say they can’t feel their legs.
But then they run up the riverbank to plunge in a hot pool. The water feels pretty nice, but it’s so dark you can’t see the bottom. And there’s lots of algae on the walls of the tub.
For a more sanitary experience, head to the bathhouse at the Mono Hot Springs Resort. Spring water is piped into clean private tubs where the water is usually a perfect 101 degrees.
The resort is an easygoing rustic place with stone cabins. Winslow says the people who built the resort had an old Fresno scraper and a mule, and took the stone out of the river and hauled it up to the property.
There’s a restaurant that serves elk and buffalo burgers and other hearty food.
But there’s more to this area than soaking. Rugged Sierra Nevada wilderness is all around, including alpine lakes framed by steep granite cliffs.
One of them, Doris Lake, is a great swimming spot. But we’ve been told it's slithering with snakes.
“I don’t think I’ll get all the way in,” Atticus says. “I can’t see the bottom and it’s filled with snakes.”
“Atticus, we’ve only seen one snake in here.” Asher says.
“Where there’s one there’s more,” Atticus says. “If I could see the bottom I’d be OK with it.”
Finally the kids get in — and try to catch fish with their hands.
“I think fish are pretty elusive,” Atticus says.
“What’s that mean?” Asher asks.
“They’re hard to catch,” says Atticus.
No fish in hand, we head back for one last dip in one of the natural mineral pools.