The Jacumba Hotel in its prime
Barbara Worth Cafe – a popular stop on US 80 in Jacumba
Looking east on US 80.
Today, all that remains of Jacumba’s past glory are the newly refurbished and remodeled spa, about 250 homes in various state of repair from new to dilapidated, the ruins of an old bath house and bathing pools, a swamp, small pond, a small restaurant, grocery/liquor store, three churches, community center, community park and library, middle school, fire station, water district office and system, post office, the chimney of the old hotel, county airport (glider port), a railroad yard with lots of classic and/or obsolete rail stock, tumbled-down commercial buildings and a mobile home park.
The old Jacumba Railroad Station
The ruins of the bath house in 2013
The bath house about 1920.
Detail of the ruins
A few iconic homes exist, the most interesting is the red “Chinese Castle.” Several other rock houses are perched on the south side of Old Highway 80.
the red Chinese Castle
The castle without Mao
The Jacumba Hot Springs Spa has recently re-opened after a complete remodel and renovation The spa includes a motel, hot spring-fed pools, restaurant with a large patio, and bar. The previous owner of the spa and area of the swamp and pond had allowed the pond to go dry and let the spa deteriorate. The new owner of the spa, who also is the owner of the nearby De Anza Springs nudist resort, began refilling the pond from an open tap in the hot spring in February 2012. At this writing, the pond is about one-third filled. The pond is a favored habitat for the rare tricolored blackbird, and there is talk that the Audubon Society will take over the management of the swamp and pond wetland area. As of September 2016 there have been no reports of progress on this proposal.
The nudist resort is about one mile north of I-8 on Carrizo Gorge Road. It is one of the largest nudist resorts in the US. I’m not sure if “largest” refers to the number of members or the area of the resort, about 470 acres (500 acres according the resort’s website) of picturesque desert scrub and unusual rock formations. The curious reader may inquire at the De Anza Springs web site and arrange to visit. Bring a hat, dark glasses, sun screen, and sandals. There is a restaurant and bar there. Also, cabins may be rented by the adventuresome.
Just north of the nudist resort is the famous Carrizo Gorge. The old San Diego & Arizona Railroad constructed a rail line down the gorge around 1920. The course includes numerous tunnels, one almost ½ mile long, and a gigantic wooden trestle, reportedly the largest in the US. There has been some talk of the rail line reopening. I won’t believe it until I see it. The wooden trestle is described in several web articles to have been constructed in 1936 to replace a collapsed tunnel. From the trestle one can see the old tunnel.
The wooden trestle over Goat Canyon
South of In-ko-pah there are several interesting, but isolated, attractions – Smuggler’s cave and Elliot mine. The road to this area can be seen from the underpass at the freeway. Four-wheel drive, an off-road motorcycle or a mountain bike is necessary to get to either of these spots unless you want a long hike. The Border Patrol will interview you, too. The cave and mine are shown on the USGS In-ko-pah quad map.
Jacumba has a large population of loud barkers. Most of these animals are fenced and some are chained up in yards. The Border Patrol maintains observation posts on the hilltops around town and is a constant presence. Jacumba is infested with gophers who devour most anything the hopeful gardener plants. The cats are too lazy to catch the gophers, as they are well fed by the local citizens.
For several years up to July 2012 the town had a problem with eye gnats. Very annoying and almost invisible creatures who made it uncomfortable to venture out of doors during much of the year and especially when there was no breeze to keep the buggers down. The locals took to wearing mosquito netting or employing the “Jacumba wave” to shoo-off the gnats. The source of the gnats was the Bornt Farms agricultural operation. This large “organic” farm operated on about 600 acres which adjoin the town to the east. The farm used well water liberally to irrigate and a consequence was that these tiny gnats thrived and multiplied into the billions. The farmers refused to use pesticides because they had official “organic” status. The issue of the gnats eventually made its way to the County Board of Supervisors who told the farmers to deal with the gnat problem or they would be declared a nuisance and closed. In the summer of 2012 the farmers gave up and closed the farm. The gnat problem went away. Today the farm is just a giant tumbleweed field.
Being 70-or-so miles from San Diego and 40 miles from El Centro, the night skies are dark and the area is all but ideal for gazing at the night time skies or for more serious astronomy.
Jupiter and four of its moons photographed from my backyard
The nebula in Orion 3-28–15 from my backyard
My main interest in Jacumba, besides being a cheap place to retire, are the birds that can be seen in the area. Jacumba is far enough east of San Diego to have a some species that are not usually seen in the western parts of the county.
a fixer – priceless
Bird species that are seasonally regular in Jacumba and not very common in the western parts of the county include vermilion flycatcher, Scott’s oriole, ladder-back woodpecker, red-naped and red-breasted sapsucker, sage thrasher, Lawrence’s goldfinch, loggerhead shrike and pine siskin.
Vagrant birds, birds that are not usually seen but wander around the region seemingly lost, such as a swamp sparrow, evening grosbeak, Williamson’s sapsucker, and northern waterthrush this last fall and winter. Last summer saw an Inca dove and several yellow-headed blackbirds.
Canvasback pair and Gadwall Drake
Being just beyond the edge of the Imperial Valley makes it easy for vagrants from the Valley and Arizona to show up at the “oasis” of Jacumba. Jacumba is the first sizable patch of green that a vagrant bird will encounter as it travels west, either blown in by storms, on their post-breeding dispersal, escaping the heat in the valley or on their travels from the Salton Sea to the Pacific.
December 2012, an evening grosbeak appeared at my feeder and hung around town until early April. There are few records for this bird in San Diego County.
Evening Grosbeaks 3-9-15
In February 2015 a pair showed up and stayed until at least March 28.
In September 2013 a very rare Inca dove arrived in my yard. I believe that this was only the eighth report of this dove in the county. The dove stayed around for about 2 weeks.
Brown Thrasher 10-30-14 at the community park
A Brown thrasher, common in the South and East up through Oklahoma and eastern Colorado, but very rare in San Diego County, showed up at the local park. It hung around for about two weeks.
Who knows what “fancy” birds and county/state record birds have escaped detection when they stopped by in Jacumba to fuel up or spend the Winter? I intend to find out…
Visit my gallery at smugmug.