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Sunday Drive Over Skaggs Springs Road

My husband an I are firm believes in the old fashioned concept of a “Sunday Drive.” We find a road we’ve never been on, make sure it is traversable given weather conditions, pack snacks and maps, gas up the rig and take off for a mini adventure.

This time we chose the Skaggs Springs-Stewart Point Road west out of Geyserville. I had been over part of the road almost 50 years ago to go skinny-dipping in the ruins of the Skaggs Springs resort warm water pools in the dark of night. That location is now buried under the waters of Lake Sonoma.

Skaggs Springs Resort, nine miles west of Highway 101, began as an attraction in the 1850’s with waters from five springs directed into bathhouses and pools. Hot springs and mineral springs resorts were big business for Sonoma County back then. By the 1870’s Skaggs Springs Resort was welcoming 300 guests a day arriving by stagecoach.

By the 1890’s the resort had a stage line over what had been an Indian trail to the coast (today’s Skaggs Springs-Stewart Point Road) and offered excursions to the seashore. By 1912 motor stages replaced stagecoaches bringing customers from the train station in Geyserville to the springs. The Great Depression of the 1930’s and auto-cars lead to the resorts closure in 1942 and the hotel burned in the 1950’s.

After decades of political contention the Warm Springs Dam was built in 1983 for $330 million and the resort ruins vanished under the waters of the lake. I like to envision the hot springs waters surfacing to this day to create little warm spots on the bottom of Lake Sonoma. Today there is a visitor center, marina, campground, hiking trails and a fish hatchery to explore in this area.

Continuing west it is about 35 miles to Stewart’s Point. The country is oak woodland with wildflowers like mustard and vinca blooming very early. There are the ubiquitous vineyards, ranches, cattle guards on the road, and remains of old homesteads. I often wonder why settlers would choose to live so far from anyplace? Perhaps land was cheaper the farther you were from civilization.

Stopping by the side of the road in one spot we found an old picket fence, remains of a cabin, and about six different kinds of ivy someone planted a long time ago. From the top of the Salmon Mountains to Bartlett Springs I have discovered ornamental plants that have refuse to die even after a century of neglect. I picked a few sprigs of variegated ivy to bring home and try to root.

Our map had three place names on the whole road…Las Lomas, Soda Springs, and Shingle Mill. The only one we could find was Las Lomas, a 723-acre ranch with roads, structures, power, promising “Trophy Black-Tail Deer and Wild Pig Hunting” and a $4.5 million sale price due to its vineyard potential.

Back on the road…believe it or not there is actually something famous along this road if you are into historic bridges. I accept for a given fact that there is a website for any given interest group and researching this mini-expedition I found

Haut Bridge is just off the Skaggs Springs-Stewart Point Road on the turn-off to Annapolis and it’s a type of Phoenix Iron Truss design 134’ long and 13’ wide, one main span, and was common in the east but rare in the American west. It was built before 1909, moved in 1937 and on a scale of 1 to 10 it rates a 9 in local and national significance. To me it was just a pretty old bridge.

We let ourselves skip the last few miles down into Stewart’s Point and took off to Annapolis to the north. Much of our trip had been along the banks of the Gualala River. Annapolis was more vineyards and pretty ridge tops until the road dropped to Sea Ranch and Highway 1. We came home after a good lunch at the Chowder House on the Point Arena Pier and an interlude with maps.

Now I have to say something about maps…I LOVE maps….I’m a map junkie…I admit it. And if you want a really GOOD map you get the one the local realtors have made because real estate agents want you to be able to find the properties they are selling. On my map I notice the notation of Refuse Road for the Annapolis Road because it leads to the waste transfer station five miles away. Who would want their address to be something like 537 Refuse Road?

Then I started looking at the place names and got lost in the world of cartography. I started making notes and as a retired librarian would do, alphabetized and categorized them. So here’s what I learned about Mendocino County place names…

For animals there have been places named after abalone, bear, buck (and buckhorn and doe), camel, cow (and curly cow), elk. Grizzly, horse (and little horse), rattlesnake, skunk and wildcat. For trees and bushes there are locations with acorn, alder, berry (and blueberry), brush, cherry, chinquapin, cypress, elm, fern, fir, huckleberry, laurel, madrone, manzanita, maple, oak, pepperwood, pine, redwood spruce and trillium.

Eagle, goose, pelican, raven and white hawk are place names for birds…then there’s bee, fly, frog, leech, salmon and whale names. Nationalities on the land include Dutch, German, Indian, Irish, Islam, and Spanish. You can find cold creek, dusty creek, deephole creek, dry creek, hellhole creek, lost man creek, and more.

My favorites are the odd-ball place names…how about Abalobadia Creek, or Irmulco (first two letters from each word of Irvine Muir Lumber Company.) There’s Nameless Lane and Granny’s Lane. For serious map lovers might I suggest a book I got for Christmas, ”Cartographic Treasures of the Newberry Library.” This library in Chicago has 300,000 maps from 1452 to present day. I’ve been there and it’s a wonderland of maps…but then again I’ve now been over Skaggs Springs –Stewarts Point Road and it was pretty wonderful too.


  1. Keith Bramstedt January 12, 2017

    I’ve been on Stewarts Point–Skaggs Springs Rd a few times. The first time was in about 1990. It feels like going back in time on that road to a time before California was heavily urbanized.
    I like maps, too. I’m afraid with GPS and maps on Smartphones the American masses will lose interest in hard copy maps, as well as map skills. “Just be an automaton and follow the GPS’s directions.” My friend I take drives with (like Stewarts Point–Skaggs Springs Rd) used to have a large AAA map collection of northern California maps, but he gave them away or tossed them because he uses maps on his Smartphone now.

  2. Derek Hoyle January 16, 2017

    Skaggs Springs-Stewart Point Road traverses one of the most beautiful and unspoiled sections of California.
    I drove it twice a week for many months, back in the early 90’s, while helping my brother build his house in Healdsburg.
    At the time, I lived North of Anchor Bay, just off Iverson Road, so I know that road very well, and at all times of the year it’s just a stunning drive.
    Good job finding the ghost town, I found one other, just ruins, but the third is lost to history as far as I can tell, even after searching quite a bit.
    And that stylishly cool iron bridge was originally a railroad bridge, before being decommissioned, disassembled and shipped to that remote area and reassembled as a highway bridge, just amazing work for the times.
    If you would have turned right over the Wheatfield Fork of the Gualala River crossing the other cool bridge on to Annapolis Road, you would have passed through Hollow Tree.
    I never was able to find a hollow tree there, but there’s another strange place name for you, none the less.
    And you forgot to mention the nifty little curved concrete bridge, which is rare in California.
    There are two more curved concrete bridges on Annapolis Road, at the confluence of the South Fork and Wheatfield Forks of the Gualala River.
    Yeah, it’s a great scenic road, especially when the flowers are blooming, thanks for writing this.

  3. Diann Jansen January 25, 2018

    We will be touring in this area in February and I saw this road on mapquest???? I am looking for motorcycle roads, looks like this would be a good road for that, is it paved the entire length?
    I do love maps their detail is exceptional compared to tech versions

  4. Michael Hess March 16, 2018

    I have property at Irmulco. The site of the old mill can still be seen near where the California Western Railroad tracks meet the junction of Olds Creek and the Noyo River. Here’s a picture of the California Western station at Irmulco:

    And here’s a panorama of what used to be there at the beginning of the 1900s (hopefully you’ll see it):

    I’ve often wondered if Boontling contributed to place names in the Anderson Valley. There’s a Wendling Street there, and if it isn’t someone’s last name I would bet it is a Boontling name.

  5. Mackey March 17, 2018

    Just yesterday, I learned that my father, a head sawyer from Arkansas, mailed a postcard from Skaggs Creek to his brother in Shirley, Arkansas on October 1, 1950. He was hoping his brother would have some sunshine to save their hay. He commented that they had not had any rain in California but it would be coming soon. He thought they would be able to work at least half days or more. His name was James Hollet Caldwell. He had a crew of approximately 6 guys. Probably from Shirley, AK,

    Does anyone have any information relative to this time or crew? I would be so appreciative. I know he work in the redwoods but not when or how it came about. I am the baby, though in my 70’s now, but would appreciate any information you could provide.

  6. John Cocktoastin May 13, 2018

    Believe it or not, there are still some spots along Skaggs Springs-Stewart Point Road where you can skinny-dip!

  7. Laurie skaggs July 6, 2018

    My great great grandfather (Alexander skaggs) owned the hot springs, and I’m always curious about the historical details. I’ve still never been up that road but passed it many times on the coast. It’s on my bucket list for sure. Thanks for sharing:)
    Laurie skaggs

  8. kinthenorthwest April 17, 2019

    Lived at the Skaggs springs resort in the late 50s…Sadly the house burned down and our family moved on.t

  9. Jeff d April 28, 2019

    From pa . Drove it yesterday wow !!! I’ll do it again with some friends

  10. George Seeber November 2, 2019

    My partner and i escaped the fire heading to Healdsburg by going West to the coast rather than on 101 southbound which was all stop and sometimes go. We settled in a VRBO in Anchor Bay for six days before our return to our lovely town thanks to the firefighters…The road is lovely.
    We have taken it several times and always go to Annapolis which is a trip unto itself.
    Great scenery, lot of turns and windy places, creates alertness for driver and passenger both.
    A great joy esp. when returning after house and town are saved!
    George Seeber

  11. William F Lieberman February 2, 2021

    I have been driving Skagg’s Springs – Stewart’s Point Road since the early 1970s . Before the Army Corp. of Engineers put in the warm springs dam . I would drive that road to my Brothers 40 acres in Annapolis , that is when I learned of the hot springs . If I remember correctly there were four pools and a small creek that came out of the ground the springs were different temperatures and people used to bathe nude . west of there was a swimming hole in Warm Springs creek , the water was clear and the swimming area was in a bedrock channel , when you swam up stream you swam under large boulders into what I would call a cave , I never found the bottom .

    • Mary lantz March 9, 2021

      Would you be able to show me on a map of the area where the hot springs was on the lake? I’ve been reading and trying to find out more information.
      We were out on the lake recently and there is a concrete structure out of the water, with the lake being so low. We were able to see more of it this year and I’m wondering if what we saw was parts of the pools.

  12. William F Lieberman February 3, 2021

    Soda Spring was a resort and someone once told me it was a stage coach stop . In march of 2019 there was a large Land slide that took out the spring . As your traveling west towards Stewart’s point , before the land slide , there is a driveway on the left side of the road , that is where you will find the Soda Springs Resort . It was a 2 story large building . I would venture to say the size of a hotel . Sometime in the 1990s the building collapsed and the remnants are still visible .
    on the other side of the road is another driveway that leads down to the Wheatfeild fork of the Gualala River

  13. Charlene J Stone June 2, 2021

    How driveable is Skaggs Spring road now…I have a prius and wonder if there might be any problems…it has been many years since I last drove that road…and not sure if it has been maintained at all??

    • L C July 29, 2021

      We drove it recently in our Prius. Not a problem at all..

  14. Rick November 24, 2022

    Happy Thanksgiving
    We just drove from Cloverdale where my brother and sil live to our home in Gualala. We debated going south on101 to River Road and then west and then north at Jenner as we typically do.

    The drive was just awesome on Skaggs Springs Rd. It wasn’t our first time. I had tended to think of this road as desolate and creepy or logging trucks rolling at45-50mph , but I see it’s merit now was for certain.

    Reading comments by others on the roads historical past was enlightening, as I wondered when this road was built as we were driving.

    One of my favorite old road combinations in this coastal range is Fort Ross Rd from Cazadero up to and north along Seaview Rd

    Up until 4 years ago
    By the glass museum
    Was a stage coach stop structure
    The property was purchased by a grape grower and structure was demolished.
    Don’t get me started on the out of control vineyard proliferation

    But this drive along Fort Ross Road/ Seaview Road brings me back in time

    Thanks for all the shares.

    Gualala Rick

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