Category Archives: History

Effects of the Earthquake near Bodie

I was in Bodie the first week it was open to the public since the magnitude 5.7 earthquakes near Nine Mile Ranch in Fletcher Valley that caused some damage here and startled people through much of the Eastern Sierra region on December 28, 2016. There is visible damage to the walls or contents of several buildings. There’s also an issue with the water system.

Perhaps most serious is damage to the back wall of the DeChambeau Hotel. Some bricks fell away from the top of the wall and other cracks are visible lower in the wall.

DeChambeau Hotel

Brick Wall

Inside the DeChambeau Hotel, bottles on the bar fell over.


Next door in the IOOF building, many of the old bottles that were neatly stacked in a display case fell to the floor and broke.


In the morgue, an open coffin toppled off the back of the table on which it was resting. The lid came off another one standing to its left.


May 2017

Morgue, 2007

October 2007

The Boone Store lost one of the large front windows, now temporarily covered with plywood. Inside, the hat-wearing dress form looks a little worse for her exposure to the elements.

Boone Store

Boone Store

May 2017

Boone Store

June 2013

In the Cain House, bottles toppled from the display shelves inside the front windows.

Over on the northeast side of the Bodie Hills, in Fletcher Valley, the stone walls the historic building at Nine Mile Ranch (the oldest intact building in Mineral County!) were severely damaged. This building is only a mile from the epicenters of the largest quakes.

Nine Mile Nine Mile


Copyright © Tim Messick 2017. All rights reserved.


Fletcher from the east

Fletcher from the east. East slopes of the Bodie Hills behind.

Fletcher has never been more than a dot on maps of Mineral County (Nevada), but in the late 1860s, when Aurora was a busy mining camp, this little spring-fed oasis at the northern tip of the Aurora Crater lava field became a welcome rest stop on the rough wagon roads from Hawthorne to the east and Carson City to the north.

Fletcher from the west

Fletcher from the west. Corey Peak in the Wassuk Range in the distance.

A plaque in the shade of a tall willow reads: “FLETCHER: Formerly known as Six Mile Station, this stage stop and way station provided service between some of the smaller mining camps and Aurora and Bodie, CA during the late 1860s. The area became of greater importance with the arrival of the Carson and Colorado Railroad in 1881. With increased passenger and freight traffic between Hawthorne, Aurora, and Bodie and the expanding local population, a post office was established on October 24, 1883 and named for H. D. Fletcher, the first postmaster. The post office was removed on November 10, 1918, when Hawthorne became the mailing address for area patrons.”

Plaque at Fletcher

There isn’t much on the internet about the history of Fletcher. You can read a little more here and here.

The spring here is one of the few perennial sources of potable water in the eastern Bodie Hills and in all of Fletcher Valley. It also supports a few acres of wetland and riparian vegetation, so it’s attractive to wildlife. It has probably been attractive to all inhabitants of the region for thousands of years.

The spring at Fletcher.

The spring at Fletcher.


The only remaining structure.

Trees here include four species of Populus: Fremont cottonwood (P. fremontii), black cottonwood (P. trichocarpa), quaking aspen (P. tremuloides), and the non-native Lombardy poplar (P. nigra ‘Italica’). At least two, probably three willows are here, but I need to return for flowering material to key them reliably.


Populus trichocarpa


Populus tremuloides


Meadow and emergent marsh fed by the spring at Fletcher.


Cattails (Typha) at Fletcher.

Fletcher on 1873 Hoffman CalifGeolSurv CentralCA Sheet_II

Fletcher (black dot in yellow circle) on a portion of the 1873 “Topographical Map of Central California Together with a Part of Nevada” [Sheet IV], by Charles F. Hoffman of the California Geological Survey (link to Sheet IV in the David Rumsey Map Collection).

Fletcher on a Nevada DoT highway map

Fletcher (black dot at yellow arrow) on a portion of the 2014 Nevada Department of Transportation “General Highway Map”, Quadrangle 8-10.

Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.

Dr. Munz at the Hot Springs

Travertine Hot Springs

A travertine ridge at Travertine Hot Springs (Sierra Nevada in the background).

Philip A. Munz (1892–1974) is a name well known to generations of California botanists. In the 1950s he collaborated with David Keck to write A California Flora, published in 1959 by the University of California Press. A decade later Munz compiled the Supplement to A California Flora (1968), and in 1973, U.C. Press published the combined volume A California Flora and Supplement. This is the 1,900-page book I carried with me on most of my plant collecting forays in the Bodie Hills, beginning in 1978. This is the book in which I keyed most of my collections for many years.

Munz visited the Bodie Hills several times from 1928 to 1960. He seems to have found Travertine Hot Springs, a mile southeast of Bridgeport,  an especially interesting place to collect. According to my geographic search of herbarium specimens using Calflora, he collected at Travertine Hot Springs on:

  • 21 May, 1947 (18 specimens)
  • 16 June 1949 (67 specimens)
  • 28 July 1950 (20 specimens)
  • 12 September 1960 (12 specimens)

He also collected 36 specimens in the Masonic Mountain area on 20 July, 1955, plus several more along Virginia Creek near the confluence with Clearwater Creek in June 1928 and May 1947.

Travertine Hot Springs

One of the wet meadow areas at Travertine Hot Springs.

Some of the plants Munz collected at Travertine Hot Springs more than a half-century ago have not been documented by subsequent visitors to the area (including me, during my 1978-81 visits), as far as I can determine from my searches of herbarium databases. I doubt the plants have gone away—but to find them—especially the annuals—you need to be in the right place at the right time during a favorable year, and you need to be looking and paying attention. Most visitors to Travertine are focused on taking dip in the springs. Still, it would be great to confirm the continued presence of the plants Munz found here.

So here’s a challenge for interested field botanists: Before or after immersing yourself in a pool of hot water, look for the following plants at Travertine Hot Springs, note their location, and please let me know if you find them:

ASTERACEAE: Crepis runcinata subsp. hallii (Hall’s meadow hawksbeard), “Wet alkaline flats and meadows.”
BORAGINACEAE: Cryptantha gracilis (Slender cryptantha), “On disintegrated travertine.”
BORAGINACEAE: Cryptantha scoparia (Gray cryptantha), “Abundant in dry loose disintegrated travertine.”
PLANTAGINACEAE: Antirrhinum kingii (King’s snapdragon), “Abundant in dry loose disintegrated travertine; pinyon-juniper woodland.”
POLEMONIACEAE: Aliciella humillima (Smallest aliciella), “Abundant in dry loose disintegrated travertine; pinyon-juniper woodland.”
POLEMONIACEAE: Aliciella leptomeria (Sand aliciella), “Hot springs, in dry loose disintegrated travertine, pinyon-juniper woodland.”
POLEMONIACEAE: Gilia ophthalmoides (Eyed gilia), “loose dry disintegrated travertine.”
POLEMONIACEAE: Ipomopsis polycladon (Branching gilia), “Disintegrated travertine.”
POLYGONACEAE: Eriogonum hookeri (Hooker’s buckwheat), “Infrequent annual on sunny, dry, loose, alkaline soil.”
POLYGONACEAE: Eriogonum ovalifolium var. purpureum (Purple cushion wild buckwheat), “Crevices in travertine deposit.”

ALLIACEAE: Allium atrorubens var. cristatum (Crested onion, Inyo onion), “Dry volcanic heavy soil, wet in early season.”
LILIACEAE: Calochortus excavatus (Inyo County star tulip), “Infrequent on dry disintegrated travertine. More common in nearby volcanic soil.”
POACEAE: Elymus multisetus (Big squirreltail), “along foot of travertine ridge.”

On a recent visit to Travertine Hot Springs (early June 2016), I did run into a population of  Symphoricarpos longiflorus (Desert snowberry), collected here by Munz in 1949. Here it is, along with some of the other cool plants I saw during the same visit:

Symphoricarpos longiflorus

Symphoricarpos longiflorus (Desert snowberry)

Symphoricarpos longiflorus

Another Symphoricarpos longiflorus with paler corollas

Penstemon speciosus

Penstemon speciosus (Showy penstemon)

Packera multilobata

Packera multilobata (Lobeleaf groundsel)

Cleomella parviflora

Cleomella parviflora (Slender cleomella)

Minuartia nuttallii

Minuartia nuttallii var. gracilis (Nuttall’s sandwort)

Triglochin maritima

Triglochin maritima (Common arrow-grass)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.