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With Miracle Hot Springs Closure Imminent, What's the Path Towards Re-Opening Look Like?

The Forest Service has announced the imminent and indefinite closure of the area that contains Miracle Hot Springs after two deaths occurred there in the past year-and-a-half.
Posted at 5:02 PM, Mar 05, 2024
  • Video shows clips of Miracle Hot Springs on March 4, 2024.
  • The Forest Service has announced they will be closing Miracle Hot Springs indefinitely after two deaths occurred there in a year-and-a-half.

Two deaths have occurred at Miracle Hot Springs in the last year and a half, prompting the Forest Service to announce the indefinite closure of the area.

“We wanted to keep Miracle open, we wanted to clean the pools, we wanted to pick up the trash, we wanted to inform people about the glass ban and hot springs etiquette. And we did a really good job of that for four years,” said Hal Chirprin, talking about the work that the organized group of volunteers named the Kern River Hot Springs Angels performed on Miracle when it was open.

“I want to get it opened up as soon as possible.”

Chiprin isn’t alone, for many residents in the KRV, Miracle Hot Springs is special.

However, due to increased use over the past few years, there has been an uptick in criminal activity in the area.

After a death occurred in the tubs at Miracle Hot Springs in October 2022, the Forest Service destroyed the tubs, which are typically built by users of the springs, citing health concerns.

Recently, the tubs were built again and on February 17, 2024, another death occurred there.

“Not knowing the reason behind why the fatality happened, it was the responsible thing to do,” said Kern River District Ranger Al Watson, the who made the call to close Miracle Hot Springs, “Until we know exactly what happened, we just didn't want to expose the public to more possible safety concerns in the area.”

He says the Forest Service does not yet know the cause of death for either of the people that died in the tubs.

“There's been comparisons, ‘Well, people die in other areas in the forest, like the Kern River,’ But the big difference between that and Miracle Hot Springs is, Miracle Hot Springs, those were built tubs. When you have a structure or whatever it is, that’s built by humans, that's in a different category than an area that is just a natural environment.”

The deaths haven't been the only problem; increased use has led to more trash and criminal activity in the area. Watson says these issues need to be addressed before reopening.

“Things need to change.”

Watson has had prior meetings with residents about Miracle and has spoken with Chiprin about a path forward.

Both agree increasing patrolling in the area would help, but Watson says the Forest Service isn't sufficiently staffed enough to assign someone to consistently patrol Miracle Hot Springs.

“One of the most viable alternatives that we came up with is [Miracle Hot Springs] would be managed by a concessionaire. Someone that would charge a fee, but in return they would be monitoring the hot springs, they would clean the hot springs and basically have a presence there 24 hours a day.”

Chiprin agrees and says he thinks the Kern River Hot Springs Angels or a similar non-profit entity could assume the role of concessionaire.

“If we have somebody down there watching the area, if we see somebody that's too inebriated to be there, then we can ask them to leave and if they don't leave, we can call law enforcement,” Chiprin said.

Watson says they've already started the process to make Miracle Hot Springs a “Fee Area.”

“We also internally need to submit that area as a fee area. And so we're already moving those pieces to get that started because I think that's a long term solution. When I've talked with a number of users, they are perfectly [accepting of] a nominal fee, a small fee, that's associated with use, as long as that fee stays there and it means that they have access to it,” Watson said.

But it's still unclear exactly how long it would take to enter into this arrangement and re-open the hot springs with a concessionaire.

“Could be a couple of years,” Watson said.


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