Category Archives: History


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.

Hops in the Bodie Hills

Bodie’s miners relaxed with a variety of beverages and there were (according to several sources) as many as 65 saloons in the business of satisfying their needs. Among the choices available to them were beers produced locally at several different breweries. In the 1880s there were (according to at least 6 breweries operating in Bodie. At least some of the hops (Humulus lupulus) used to flavor locally produced beers were grown right here in Bodie. I’ve yet to find documentation of this, but there is direct evidence in the form of hops plants still growing in sheltered locations outside a few buildings.


Humulus lupulus growing in downtown Bodie

Hops are not native to the Bodie Hills, but there are varieties of hop that are apparently native to the American midwest and southwest. The kind cultivated here at Bodie and throughout much of the world for beer-making is the European or common hop, Humulus lupulus var. lupulus. Its relation to certain other intoxicating plants is indicated by its inclusion in the family Cannabaceae.

Bodie Club: Cold Beer

In the IOOF building

Licensed to sell Beer

A license to sell “legalized beverages”


Another hops plant in Bodie (circa 1980)


Copyright © Tim Messick 2016. All rights reserved.