Earthquake Uncovers Ancient Hot Springs

An earthquake struck several miles from Paso Robles on December 22, 2003,  The quake registered 6.5 magnitude on

the Richter Magnitude Scale.  The dormant underground springs that had once been used for the spa were brought

back to life by the quake, causing flooding and a sink hole in the parking lot of the City Hall/Library.  The sinkhole still

requires pumping to move the water from the center of the city to the riverbed, where it is allowed to flow unimpeded.

The sinkhole has also continually released sulfur gas since the earthquake, creating an odor that occasionally lingers

 over the area surrounding the hole.  Seems the city is not sure what to do with this...seems to me being next to a

library and with the city shooting for tourist, this could be made a great stop for tourist and a learning place for kids.

 

Photo by Richard Bastian

Photo by Richard Bastian

 

 

 

Sink hole behind the Paso Robles Libray that was formed

when the earth shook in Paso Robles in 2003

Photo by Benford Standley

Photo by Benford Standley

 

The county also is looking for a solution to disposing of the chemical-laced waters discharged from the unexpected spring: For now, the stream

of warm, high-boron sulfuric water goes directly to the Salinas River, but both the high temperature and boron content could affect the riverís

fish.

 

"When the wind is right, it'll clear out your sinuses," said Mayor Duane Picanco as he surveyed the fenced-off chasm that is the last grim souvenir of the San Simeon earthquake of 2003. "I can't wait to see it closed up and this chapter of the city's history ended."

 

By the 1960s, the springs' popularity had waned. Long gone was the era of wealthy travelers taking the waters at grand hotels. Conscious of the smell permeating Paso Robles, landowners capped their wells -- including one that lay beneath the land that would one day be home to City Hall.

 

 

After the geyser erupted, "a lot of old-timers were saying we should bring the baths back," Picanco said. "But that's not so easy."  For one thing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay only for restoring a parking lot, not recapturing a faded tradition.

 

As it was, it took years to jump the bureaucratic hurdles; redirecting a torrent of sulfur-laden water with a temperature of 111 degrees required the blessings of the

California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers -- "anyone," Monn said, "with an interest in and responsibility

over inland waters.

So again... They Pave Paradise

and Put up a Parking Lot

 

This is what was located over the Springs years ago...Does anyone

know of the story of this burning down, as did the Paso Robles Inn...

Is something rotten in Denmark?  Just wondering my little droogies...

 

 
     

 

 

 

 

Los Angeles Times

 

From hot springs to a big stink

Paso Robles will soon begin filling in its 'hole from hell,' a sulfurous pit opened by the San Simeon quake of 2003. It's a reminder of the hot springs that once made the city a haven for travelers.

Reporting from Paso Robles, Calif. ó City officials here call it the "hole from hell."

It's 20 feet deep and 100 feet across and at its bottom bubbles a steaming black sulfur-laden pool. It's gobbled up roughly half the parking lot serving City Hall and the town library. At times, its fumes drift over the quaint downtown, clashing with even the boldest Zinfandels in the wine-tasting rooms that line virtually every block.

"When the wind is right, it'll clear out your sinuses," said Mayor Duane Picanco as he surveyed the fenced-off chasm that is the last grim souvenir of the San Simeon earthquake of 2003. "I can't wait to see it closed up and this chapter of the city's history ended."

After nearly seven years, work to finally fill in the pit begins next month -- not a moment too soon for what the city's public works director, Doug Monn, calls a "gaping sore."  "Every morning when I cross the parking lot, I'm reminded of the quake -- the collapses, the fatalities," he said. "I'd just as soon not be."

On Dec. 22, 2003, the San Simeon quake killed two people downtown, damaged hundreds of buildings and opened a fissure hundreds of feet beneath the parking lot. A foul-smelling geyser shot through the asphalt -- a bizarre reminder of the vast underground hot springs that once made Paso Robles a haven for ailing travelers.

Water cascaded down the streets at up to 600 gallons a minute. In search of its source, the city excavated its parking lot, eventually creating a temporary fix by pumping the sulfurous brew into the ordinarily dry Salinas River.  The permanent solution entails building a pipeline into a leach field, where the water will filter through soil beside the river -- losing its heady aroma in the process.  "The long and short of it is that everyone will be happy to see it go away," said Leo Scotti, whose Sears Hometown Hardware store faces the plastic-slatted chain-link fence surrounding the pit.

Hot springs in Paso Robles used to enjoy a more genial reputation. In the early 1800s, padres from nearby Mission San Miguel relaxed in them. On the mend from gunshot wounds, the desperado Jesse James dipped into the baths to speed his healing. Ignacy Paderewski, the great pianist and a former prime minister of Poland, swore by the hot Paso Robles mud for the arthritis in his hands.

He eventually became a major landowner in the area and is honored today in the city's annual Paderewski Festival.

By the 1960s, the springs' popularity had waned. Long gone was the era of wealthy travelers taking the waters at grand hotels. Conscious of the smell permeating Paso Robles, landowners capped their wells -- including one that lay beneath the land that would one day be home to City Hall.

Today, a handful of area spas rely on the vast geothermal aquifer under the city. Across the street from City Hall, the Paso Robles Inn pumps hot springs water into selected rooms.  After the geyser erupted, "a lot of old-timers were saying we should bring the baths back," Picanco said. "But that's not so easy.   For one thing, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay only for restoring a parking lot, not recapturing a faded tradition.

As it was, it took years to jump the bureaucratic hurdles; redirecting a torrent of sulfur-laden water with a temperature of 111 degrees required the blessings of the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Army Corps of Engineers -- "anyone," Monn said, "with an interest in and responsibility over inland waters."

The $826,000 job will take six months to a year, depending partly on how easily workers can avoid disturbing the migratory birds that nest beside the river from March through August.  Meanwhile, the "hole from hell" has become a low-key tourist attraction.

Peering through the fence at the weedy pit, the churning water, a rusty catwalk and an assortment of pumps, Freda Smit-McKie of Prince Edward Island was among a group of excited Canadian visitors one recent afternoon.  "How many parking lots open up with hot springs bubbling out?" she asked. "This is too cool!"

steve.chawkins@latimes.com

http://articles.latimes.com/2010/mar/22/local/la-me-pit22-2010mar22

 

These pictures are of the area in the river bed where the water from the paved over hot springs is

diverted to the river bed...Would be very interesting to know the effects of this runoff...

 

 

Research from and Thanks to:

 

Depart. of Parks & Recreation Historic Resources Inventory

El Paso Robles Area Historical Society

Many pictures above taken by Richard Bastian

Main Street Association

Pioneer Museum

Self Guided Walking Tour of Historic Buildings

Daniel Blackburn

Paso Robles Business Directory

 

PASO & PINE

STREET SALOON

 

THE JAMES GANG

 

HOT SPRINGS SAGA

 

SALINAN PEOPLE

 

 

Click here for more.

PineStreetSaloon.com

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