Zzyzx Road / Soda Lake (California, USA)

A strangely named road in the Mojave Desert, eastern California, USA. Experiencing the world of “nothing” in the mysterious scenery of Dry Lake.

This strange name, “Zzyzx Road,” is on the way to Interstate 15, free way between “Los Angeles” and “Las Vegas”. The nearest town is “Baker”, a gas station with about 10 shops and restaurants. I was curious about this strange name on a sign board on the freeway from “Baker” to “Los Angeles”.

From the “Baker”, it is about 10 minutes running on Interstate 15 to the south. On the side of the road, I found a sign indicating “Zzyzx Rd”, and went down the freeway. There is nothing around there. There is a viaduct that straddles the freeway. Right direction was a dead end immediately, and a road continues to the left when crossing the viaduct (as of 2018, the road also extended to the right).

This road is gently descending, and after a while I found dry lake ahead. The name is “Soda Lake”. Because the lake is white color, it can be called as “Salt Lake”. When I visited here for the first time, I drove a car to check the identity of the white thing that could be seen in the distance, and to be drawn to the spectacular sight floating in front of it. I felt an extraordinary feeling in the scene, how to express it? The road is unpaved. There are no cars and people around. Rocky hills are visible in the background of Salt Lake in front. The scenery is gradually increasing.

When reaching the edge of the dry lake, the road goes along the periphery of the dry lake and continues to the back side. Stop the car on the side of the road, turn off the engine and get out. There is no sound. The temperature may have been nearly 40 degrees Celsius. No sound, no wind. It’s just silent and windless. When stepping into the dry lake, the white lake surface is bright and the extraordinary feeling is amplified. After walking on the dry lake for a while, stop and look around. I can see the car running on the freeway far left, but I cannot hear the motor sound.

There are several such dry lakes in eastern California, but the highlight on this spot is special, there is rocky hill behind the dry lake. The black-brown hill was shaped like a triangular pyramid, and I felt something divine to the way it collapsed. The word of “nothing” comes to the appropriate word. I stopped there for a while, watched the hill, and enjoyed the world of “nothing”.

Further down the road that follows the dry lake, I arrived at a desert center building area (California State University, Desert Studies Center). There was a parking lot, and while I walked in the back, I found several single-story buildings, with swings along the unpaved main road. There was a pond on the left, and the sight of the palm trees around the pond was beautiful. At the back side, there was a place like the site of a hot spring. This means that it was once a hot spring resort. When walking on the premises, there were a couple of people. So it seems to be functioning as a dessert center facility.

By the way, when I read the description of the signboard on the premises, I found that this place is named as “Zzyzx” to be the last one written in the dictionary.

When I visit “Las Vegas” or neighboring area, I try to visit this place as much as possible. That is to experience the “nothing” that exists in this place. For me it is a valuable place where I can experience the true “nothing”. There are many places in the United States where you can experience this kind of “nothing,” but you can drive for hours or drive long hours of trekking to get there. In that sense, this place can be said to be an affordable place because it can be reached by going down the freeway for a while.

Compared to the first visit of Soda Lake in the early 90’s and 2018, I feel that the area where salt exists on the lake surface has become smaller. This also seems to be narrowing in Salt Lake in “Death Valley” and “Ivanpah Lake” near the town of “Primm” on the California / Nevada border as well. There may be some climate change around here.

When driving Interstate 15, I hope you will be able to stop by even if you take a little time and experience the “nothing” space.

Visited in 1994, 1995, 2002, 2005, 2018.

​Basic Information

​​■ Name of Place : Zzyzx Road, Soda Lake, California, USA
​■ Homepage :  California State University, Desert Studies Center