When Idelle Hanna and her husband, Robert, need to take a breather from work and the stresses of city life, they head to Fountain of Youth Spa, a vacation resort in a remote part of the Southern California desert near Niland that most people never see.
Originally conceived as a snowbird RV resort with healing natural hot springs, the Fountain of Youth Spa has since become a diversified, year-round vacation resort with cottage rentals, vacation homes, and an increasing array of health and wellness services, including onsite hair and nail salons, massage therapists, as well as therapeutic exercise classes, including water aerobics, tai chi and yoga.
“It’s a great escape,” said Idelle Hanna, a 48-year-old registered nurse from Westminster. “I’ve been going there with my family since I was in elementary school.”
And from Nov. 11 to 15, the resort is offering special discount rates as a way to introduce more Southern Californians to this unique resort, which has twice been featured on Huell Howser’s “California Gold” program. The discount period coincides with the 54th annual Cattle Call Rodeo and Parade in the neighboring city of Brawley, which is located about 18 miles south of Niland.
“We want to introduce this resort to people who have never experienced it before,” said Jolene Wade, the Fountain of Youth Spa’s managing partner. The discounts include seven days in a park home rental for $295 and a third night free with two paid nights in a full-hookup RV site.
Some people even wind up buying vacation homes at the resort. That’s what Idelle Hanna’s family did. Her uncle bought a vacation home there many years ago and later sold it to Hanna’s dad, who owned it for several years.
Others simply enjoy coming out for the weekend to enjoy the Spa’s scenic views and therapeutic waters.
“It’s rejuvenating,” said Kim Coburn, 54, of Chino Hills, who regularly visits the resort with her husband, Rick. “They have a steam sauna that is wonderful. It takes care of your aches and pains. We also love it because of the desert air and the openness,” she said.
During the fall and winter season, the resort also offers more than 50 classes and activities, from bocce ball and cribbage to group hiking, square dancing and line dancing, all of which complement its walking and agility courses, bicycle trails, swimming pools, hot tubs and exercise room with cardiovascular equipment. The resort also has a theatre club that produces plays for guest entertainment.
Steve Staker, 44, who lives near Beaumont, said he frequently visits the resort during the fall and winter months with his wife, Paula, in their 33-foot motorhome. “We feel like we’ve gone somewhere out of state when we go there,” he said. “We like the activities, the friendly staff and the cleanliness of the resort.”
The natural hot springs that lie beneath the Fountain of Youth Spa also have an alluring history, having been first discovered by
workers building the All American Canal as they drilled for local sources of water to mix their cement. At 137 degrees, the natural hot springs proved to be too hot and too full of minerals to be of immediate use for mixing cement. So they built settling ponds to cool the water and remove the excess minerals.
Another group of construction workers who were making improvements to Highway 111 rediscovered the hot springs and the ponds after World War II, and became the first to recognize the therapeutic and healing effects of the artesian mineral water.
Clyde Hays, a carpenter from Grants Pass, Ore., who worked winters in Brawley, eventually convinced J.T. Trily, a Brawley
contractor, to build the Fountain of Youth Spa around the same well in the late 1950s. The park has since grown to become a popular vacation destination with park model cottage rentals as well as manufactured homes, which accommodate snowbirds as well as Southern California residents who don’t have an RV and are simply seeking a weekend escape, away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
“The growing array of activities, amenities and accommodations offered by the Fountain of Youth Spa really illustrate how RV resorts are broadening their business base and increasing their appeal beyond RV owners,” said Debbie Sipe, executive director of the California Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds.