Big Warm Spring is an oasis in eastern Nevada's Railroad Valley, being the state's largest geothermal hot spring and providing some of the only habitat for the threatened Railroad Valley springfish.
The spring, which maintains a temperature of about 93 degrees, is also a swimming hole with crystal-clear waters that make for an amazing swimming experience.
Lying on the land of the Duckwater Shoshone Tribe, Big Warm Spring is a sacred tribal place, with spring access open to the public at the granted by the tribe. Bouts of partying and disrespect in the past have led the tribe to threaten to revoke access to the spring. Working with working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the tribe dug out the spring, placed boulders around it, removed invasive catfish, and reintroducing the Railroad Valley springfish in 2007.
The emerald waters offer enough clarity to see perfectly to the bottom of the spring, which is around 10 feet deep at the source. The main area of the spring stretches about 35 feet across, and a metal ladder sits at the corner of the deck for access. Boulders around the spring also make good lounging spots to take in the serene movement of the clear water. From the spring, water leaves through a reed-bordered channel and flows into the valley. The water at Big Spring has a very slight sulfurous smell to it.
A vault toilet, a large fire pit and wooden deck are provided for swimmers along with informational signage that describes the springfish and efforts taken to restore their population here.
Duckwater's isolation in the rural eastern part of the state ensures that few visitors make it here, and it is likely you may end up with the spring all to yourself.
All in all, this is a sublime swimming experience in Nevada's largest geothermal hot spring. It is well off the beaten path and reserved for those who are willing to drive through the mostly-empty Basin desert to find.
The nearest services are in Ely or Eureka. Definitely plan ahead when heading out here.