Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Big Sur Drinking Fountains - A Snippet of Coastal California History

Big Sur Drinking Fountains - Hidden in plain sight, along a twisting, scenic corridor of the Big Sur Highway (Hwy. 1), between Salmon Creek and Big Creek Bridge are five of the original six, artfully crafted, stone drinking fountains. (above photo - Soda Springs)

The Drinking Fountains were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1933 and 1937 during construction of the Carmel - San Simeon Hwy.  A source of water was a necessity for thirsty motorists and their even thirstier automobiles as they traveled on this new remote, scenic highway.

             LOCATING THE FOUNTAINS
The Big Sur Drinking Fountains, from south to north are:  Soda Springs, Big Redwood, Willow Creek/Seven Stairs, Lucia, and Rigdon.  I can testify they can be tricky to locate. The five fountains are within a 26 mile stretch of highway beginning at the Monterey County line (mileage zero).  The county sign is located a few miles past Ragged Point on the ocean side of the Hwy.
Soda Springs is 3.8 miles after the county line, and about 1.5 miles after Salmon Creek Trail head. Pull off at Soda Springs trail head sign.  The fountain is located on the edge of the road, about 60 ft., south of the sign.
Big Redwood is 5.5 miles after the county line.  Pull off at Redwood Grove trail head, the sign is 80 feet in from the road.  The fountain is behind the trail sign.  The trail leads to the Nathaniel Owings Memorial Redwood Grove.   
Willow Creek/Seven Stairs - You have now driven about 11.5 miles.  The fountain is about 1/4 mile north of the impressive Willow Creek Bridge and is on a slight curve directly across from a large turnoff.  Seven stone steps lead to the fountain and picnic area which includes a picnic table.  A modest flow of spring water supports a colorful variety of native plants.  The view is spectacular.
Lucia is a tricky one.  The fountain is located in the center of a wide turnoff, between the Kirk Creek Bridge/Campground and Limekiln Bridge/State Park.  Distance between the bridges is 2 miles, more or less. The fountain is maybe 1/2 mile before Limekiln Bridge. The bridge is mile 21 from the county line.  Lucia is a great spot for whale watching.


Rigdon - Distance from co. line 26 miles or so.  The fountain is on a curve located mid way between Vicente Creek Bridge (mi. 25.8) and Big Creek Bridge (mi. 28) - distance between the bridges about 2 miles.  Across the road and south a tad, is a turnout.  Look for a curve with tall trees.  The Rigdon Fountain is a memorial to the late State Senator, Elmer Rigdon, who in 1922, secured funding for construction of the Hwy. 


In 1922, just after highway construction started, Senator Rigdon passed away.  In June 1937, as part of the opening ceremony for the new, scenic Carmel - San Simeon Highway, the Rigdon Drinking Fountain was dedicated.

Hidden in plain sight, five historic, hand crafted stone fountains, with ample places to sit and enjoy the view, await your visit.


12 comments:

  1. Nice job, unique content, will add much to coastal highway travelers.

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    1. Thank you Mike Baird for your supportive comment

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    2. Love this posting - and would like to continue receiving - thanks.

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    3. Thanks so much Shirley. It was certainly fun doing the research.

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  2. Wow! Who would have thought! Great investigative reporting. I would be honored to recieve your blog. Very interesting.

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    1. Better late than never in replying. When I publish a new posting you will be first in line to receive it. Thank you for the comment.

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  3. Wonderful information! Can a person collect the water at the Willow Creek/Seven Stairs spring?

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    1. Unfortunately, the water is not potable. Thank you for the question.

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  4. This is a nice history of the Big Sur area. What happened to the 6th fountain?
    If the seven stairs water was originally meant for a fountain why is it not a potable water? Is that fountain a strictly picnic area or could someone possibly camp there on a long trip down the highway?

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    1. Greetings Thewolf. Thank you for the comment. I wish I knew what happened to the 6th fountain. The most probable scenario is that it met its demise do to one of the numerous landslides that have occurred between the Soda Springs and Rigdon Fountains. The water is not potable due to contaminates such as chemicals leached from old mining operations, farming, animal grazing, and septic system of homes and ranches. Might I suggest looking at the coastal range on Google Earth. As for camping at Willow Creek/Seven Stairs, I cannot think of a more interesting place to camp, but would it be legal? Sheriffs do patrol Hwy One, and I believe, a car parked there after dark would cause them to stop. I do not see a problem though with catching 40 winks during the day. Unfortunately camping on Hwy One is highly regulated. Ah, for the good old days when one could camp where they wished and not get sick from the water. Appreciate your thoughtful comment.

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  5. Theowolf, If you are looking for water along Hwy 1 you can find it 4.3 miles south of the Big Sur Station. It is a spring that has been used by locals for many, many years. The water that comes out of the rock on the inland side of the road is clean and the water that comes out of the pipe on the ocean side of the road is used for bathing. Some call it Grimes Spring. I found it on FindASpring.com. My family has been getting water there for 2 years now. It is all we drink and cook with.

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  6. Mike and Ginny, thanks for the valuable comment. I will check out Grimes Spring next time I drive One. Be great to have some real spring water.

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