Buckhorn Bathhouse and Mineral Springs -

Buckhorn Bathhouse and Mineral Springs

The Abandoned Buckhorn Baths and Mineral Hotsprings

Buckhorn Baths and Mineral Hot Springs was a quirky little roadside attraction that boasted one of the largest taxidermy collections in the state, a motel, gift shop, Barracks originally moved to the property from Falcon Field, and of course the hot springs baths.

Original owners Ted and Alice Sliger bought the land for Buckhorn Baths in 1936. They then spent a decade developing the unique roadside resort in Mesa, AZ. They originally built a store and gas station to accommodate the growing auto tourism and sold Indian curios in the store, and Alice cooked homemade meals for travelers.

Ted was a taxidermist and sportsman, and would eventually fill the lodge with a variety of trophies from his hunts. In 1938, Ted began displaying his taxidermy collection. Before this iconic landmark was the Hotel/Mineral Baths it became famous for, The Buckhorn was known to travelers as one of the few places to stop in the barren desert to fill up with gas, buy souvenirs and see a vast collection of wildlife. At one time, Buckhorn Baths was known for being home to “Arizona’s Largest Wildlife Collection.”

The hot springs were discovered by accident, as Ted happened to stumble upon the mineral water while he was looking for a source of drinking water. He and his wife had grown tired of trucking in water, and wanted something easier to source. He decided to drill for water, and struck an unknown hot spring reservoir that produced 127 degree water (average jacuzzi temps go up to 104 degrees). 

“The Buckhorn Mineral Baths opened in 1939, drawing those with arthritis and kindred ailments to their hot springs, famous for odorless water infused with potassium, silica, magnesium and iron,” according to Roadside America. Sliger dug four more wells to increase capacity as the resort expanded during the 40’s when it was trendy for rich people to use hot springs as a source of treatment. At its peak, the bath house would host up to 75 people a day.

Buckhorn Baths and the Cactus League

Every year, Arizona plays host to half of the Major League Baseball teams for Spring Training, as they prepare for the upcoming season. Starting in 1947, the New York Giants (later San Francisco) stayed at the Buckhorn Baths for 25 years, even though the Cactus League didn’t approve. Their manager during some of those years, Leo Durocher, loved the place and they loved the soothing /healing aspects of the mineral water. A silver tray  was presented by the 1952 team, and was at one time on display in the museum (cannot confirm if it’s still there).  There are also remnants of an old banner welcoming the Giants. Some of baseball’s greats like Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Gaylord Perry, Leo Durocher, Mel Ott and Juan Marichal were constant visitors to the Buckhorn.

Wildlife Collection and Museum

Once called the Arizona Wildlife Trophy Room, it once held more than 400 specimens, including a two-headed sheep, fish, deer, elk, snakes, longhorns, bears, large cats, and much more. The most famous centerpiece, is a huge buffalo named Renegade. Renegade was originally from the Grand Canyon area and had to be removed as he became aggressive towards visitors.

The Buckhorn Today - and Future Plans

Ted Sliger passed away in 1984, and Alice passed away in 2010 at the age of 103.

The bathhouse closed in 1999, and the motel managed to stay open a little longer until its closure in 2007. In 2005, Buckhorn Baths was added to the National Register of Historic Places, due to the historic Wild West trace’s of Mesa, AZ’s past, but also the history of the hospitality industry. The bathhouse and museum have sat abandoned ever since. The mineral water has continued to flow to this day. While many of the taxidermy pieces are gone (they were saved and sent to be cared for), there are still a few left behind, as well as many different paintings, including portraits of Ted and Alice Sliger.

During the time it has sat abandoned, ownership has changed hands several times, with unclear plans until recent.  According to the East Valley Tribune,  new owner Ajay Verma recently purchased the property, with a vision of “90 multifamily apartment units on 11.5 acres.” Later phases will include “further renovation of the historic site and the creation of a new spa/hotel amenity in the spirit of the original historic use.”

More information can be found at the Mesa Preservation Society.

Buckhorn Baths Photo Gallery

Scroll to Top