Baker’s big thermometer to light up starting July 10

The Baker thermometer in 2005. The landmark, which had fallen into disrepair, was turned on again this week.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

So how hot is it along Interstate 15 on the drive to Las Vegas? The legendary Baker thermometer will once again provide the answer starting next month.

LaRae Harguess, whose parents created the thermometer, told me a “soft lighting” (a variation on a soft opening) will be held the afternoon of July 10 for the 13-story-tall thermometer . Restoration work is to be completed this week, but Harguess decided to time the turn-on to the 101st anniversary of the recording of the world’s hottest temperature.

On July 10, 1913, in what is now Death Valley National Park, the official weather bureau thermometer soared to 134 degrees. To honor that record, Harguess’ parents, Barbara and Willis Herron, made Baker’s quirky tourist attraction 134 feet tall.

The Herrons first switched on the thermometer in October 1992, but, over time, it fell into disrepair. The temperatures were often wrong and, a couple of years ago, the display was switched off. Earlier this year, Barbara Herron decided to spend about $150,000 on restoration.


Visitors exiting the freeway at Baker, a popular Mojave Desert stop on the drive between Southern California and Las Vegas, will once again be able to snap photos of the iconic tower. They can then cool off in the air-conditioned comfort of the family’s adjacent gift shop.

“We will have thermometers,” Harguess said. “We will have T-shirts, water bottles and magnets.”

A grand opening is slated for Oct. 11. The renovated thermometer will be dedicated to the memory of Harguess’ father, who died in 2007.

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