Approximate location of the Chinati hot springs.
Our last real trip was a little over a year ago, when the pandemic was in its infancy in this country. Leaving Austin behind, we headed to Llano River State Park, where we spent the night before continuing to Presidio, Texas, a small town in faraway West Texas just across the border from Oginaga, Mexico.
To get there
From the Presidio, we followed the contours of a lonely road from a farm to Market 170 for almost an hour as it wound along the Rio Grande River, past the old ghost town of Ruidosa, then up a heavily washed wooden gravel road to an annoying journey to the springs .
We saw only two vehicles – both border patrol trucks – all the way from the Presidio. At one point, we had to remove a few sleepy cows before we could testify to how isolated this part of Texas actually is. On the left side of the road, on the side of Mexico, in the distance we saw the towering mountains of the western Sierra Madre, which enticed in their beauty, but still ignored the dangers that the illegal region hides for travelers.
Mountains in northern Mexico, as seen from the entrance to the hot springs Chinati
We finally arrive at the oasis
Shortly after noon we arrived at the main office and settled in with the friendly guards, who showed us our room in Hotti Springs. We had chosen one of the private brick cabins, “El Presidente”, which has a long sunken tub that can be filled with hot spring water tubing whenever you want.
The dogs were eager to stretch their legs after seven hours of riding in the truck, and Melissa took them for a nice walk up the dry river while I unloaded my gear.
Walking the dogs along the riverbed to the hot springs Chinati.
What we liked about the hot springs Chinati
If you appreciate a low, peaceful trip, you want to get out of all this and enjoy the rugged beauty of untouched nature, then this is the right place for you. Accommodation in Hotti Springs Chinati is simple but clean and has all the basic amenities that an undemanding traveler can ask for. The hot springs consist of several artificial pools that are filled with hot geothermal water and pumped from a well to the stream shown in the photo above.
The same hot water is fed to the swimming pool (seen in the night photo below). Unfortunately, when we arrived early in the spring of 2020, it was still quite cold, despite the infusion of warm water. During the day, several small children walked around the pool, but it was still too cold for us. I can imagine swimming in the pool on a hot desert night, watching the sun set through the mountains, so we plan to return in the summer months.
The pool in the hot springs Chinati
Things to do in Chinati’s Hotti Springs
There is potential for spectacular night photography in Chinati Hot Springs, as this part of Texas has some of the darkest night skies in North America. Unfortunately for us we had a cold front in the late season and we only had one night with extremely clear skies.
We really enjoyed long, winding walks in the desert around the springs. Be careful to read the signs to avoid moving to the private property that borders the resort.
This part of the world still feels wild, and you can literally stumble upon a piece of history as you walk, as we did when we found an old wagon axle that must have been more than a hundred years old. We left it where we found it so that the next tramp could also enjoy the discovery.
We spend almost a week in blissful solitude, immersing ourselves in the big tub (which was more than big enough for two), reading, exploring and just swallowing the quiet beauty of the desert. It felt like a gift to see the lone coyote who came to drink from the creek and the hummingbirds drinking nectar from the flowering desert bushes around.
Melissa relaxes by the campfire in the Chinati hot springs
Some tips for pet owners
When we visited the Chinati hot springs in 2020, well-behaved dogs were welcome for a small fee; however, you must first consult with the owners when making a reservation.
This part of the world can get hot, even in spring and autumn. Remember to keep your pets hydrated and avoid drinking them from the stream, as the water may contain bacteria or parasites. There are very few veterinarians if your pet gets sick or injured, so be especially careful about the dangers and listen and watch out for snakes.
Caring for people
As far as people are concerned, maintaining hydration is the first thing to do, along with making sure you apply sunscreen and wear a hat and even a light long-sleeved shirt while walking in the desert. Some of the best times to visit are in the spring and fall, as the summer desert heat can become depressing for the uninitiated traveler.
Make sure you bring all the food and drinks you need – and then some – as the nearest place to buy basic items is the Ruidosa General Store, located about half an hour down the gravel road from the hot springs. . They have a good selection of basic items and reportedly have free wifi, which Chinati Hot Springs does not offer.
Plan to be “offline” in Springs, as there are no telephones, TV or internet, which we considered a huge bonus, as the lack of connectivity makes it the perfect hiding place from the noise of the city.