Two deaths force closure of Miracle Hot Springs along Kern River

A soaking pool at Miracle Hot Springs
Miracle Hot Springs along the Kern River has been closed after the second death there in 16 months.
(U.S. Forest Service )

Miracle Hot Springs along the Kern River will be closed indefinitely after two people died at the location in less than two years, U.S. Forest Service officials announced this week.

Officials said public health and safety concerns drove their decision to close the popular destination, whose warm, mineral-enhanced waters have for years drawn visitors and generated support from locals.

On Feb. 17, officials found a body in one of the Miracle Hot Springs tubs. It was the second death there in about 16 months. On Oct. 17, 2022, officials found a body in the same area, according to a U.S. Forest Service news release.


It is not clear how the individuals died. The Forest Service did not provide their names.

“Public safety is of utmost importance to Forest Service officials. With a second death that can be attributed in part to the hot springs, the area will remain closed until a sustainable long-term solution is reached,” District Ranger Al Watson said in a news release.

Conservation groups sued to try to prevent the Kern River from running dry in Bakersfield. A judge ordered the city to ensure water remains in the river.

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Officials with the Forest Service could not immediately be reached for additional comment Thursday.

The hot springs consist of rock and mortar soaking tubs along the banks of the Kern River in Sequoia National Forest about 10 miles west of Lake Isabella. A group that supports maintaining Miracle Hot Springs says on its website that the soaking pools’ water has mineral compounds that include sulfur, magnesium, calcium, chloride, iron and sodium.

The hot springs are managed by the Forest Service, the Kern River Conservancy and a group known as the Hot Springs Angels, who help educate visitors about keeping the space clean and safe.

Concerns about damage, trash, vandalism, overcrowding and drug use have peaked in recent years as the soaking tubs grew in popularity.

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In March 2020, the Hot Springs Angels notified Forest Service staff that some of the tubs had sustained damage. Though most of the issues were minor, one of the tubs sustained enough damage that it filled only halfway with water, according to a 2021 press release that did not elaborate on the type of damage.


The situation spurred discussions about how to maintain the hot springs. But after the 2022 death, Forest Service employees dismantled the tubs. People continued showing up and some even tried to rebuild them, the East Bay Times reported.

The tubs were inaccessible for at least several months after a series of heavy winter storms and subsequent flooding along the Kern River in the spring of 2023 covered the tubs in water. But river levels eventually dropped and the tub area was exposed again, officials said.

Hal Chiprin, a volunteer with the Hot Springs Angels, said the group is having conversations with the Forest Service to try to get the hot springs reopened and more effectively patrolled, which he said would alleviate safety issues.

“It was one of the most gorgeous hot springs in the state,” he said.