Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Hot Times at Diana's Punchbowl
For years, I’ve wanted to see the geological oddity known as Diana’s Punchbowl; also known at the Devil’s Punchbowl or the Devil’s Cauldron. I’d looked at photos depicting this wide, deep hole filled with scalding hot water and wanted to see if for myself.
Recently, I got my wish. While traveling through Central Nevada with the Wild Nevada TV show, I noticed that our planned route through the Monitor Valley would take us by Diana’s Punchbowl. After a bit of cajoling, the crew agreed to check out this geothermal phenomenon that had so gripped my imagination.
As we traveled along a dusty, unpaved road in the center of the valley, we could see the distinctive site from many miles away. Diana’s Punchbowl is located atop a massive travertine hill that is quite noticeable because it is nearly white.
We turned onto the road leading to the mound, which measures about 600 feet in diameter, stopping at the base of the rise. We parked and began the short climb to the top.
Then, there it was—Diana’s Punchbowl. The bowl is actually a big hole in the top of the hill. The opening measures about 50 feet across.
Inside are steep, nearly vertical walls that drop down about 30 feet to a small geothermal pool filled with water that is said to be 200-degrees (Fahrenheit) hot and reportedly exhales hot vapors and gases as well as steam.
As I cautious crept closer to the edge, I could see there is a small, grass-covered ledge inside of the bowl. Amazingly, some irresponsible and stupid souls have somehow climbed inside of the bowl and left graffiti markings on the interior walls.
As I stood at the top, looking down into the blue-green waters, I was impressed by the size and appearance of this geological marvel. It had been worth the effort to get there.
While it’s difficult to find much written about Diana’s Punchbowl, it appears to have been created when the top and center core of this limestone hill collapsed, leaving behind the large, water-filled opening.
The origins of the punchbowl’s name vary. Helen Carlson’s “Nevada Place Names” book implies that the name came from Diana, the Roman goddess of springs and brooks.
According to Phillip I. Earl, former curator of history at the Nevada Historical Society, the site has been known to native peoples in the region for thousands of years and to local ranchers since their arrival in the 1860s.
Earl has written that the Native Americans viewed the punchbowl as the home of great spirits, lost souls, and mysterious creatures.
He noted that one particularly common story surrounds the tossing of an unfaithful husband into the steaming, hot bowl by his unhappy wife—although there’s also a version of the story that has a jealous husband dropping his wife (named Diana) into the hot water after suspecting her of infidelity.
According to Earl, the first tourists to visit the site were probably local folks from nearby Belmont, Austin or Tonopah, who would picnic on the mound’s slopes and enjoy the views.
Earl has also written that a bottle thrown into the bowl’s hot waters will break as it touches the surface—but please don’t try it because littering is against the law.
In the end, the best thing about Diana’s Punchbowl is that it exists. It’s one of those unusual Nevada places that help to define what makes the state so special.
And I’m glad I finally got to see it.
Diana’s Punchbowl is located about 35 miles south of U.S. 50 via a dirt road that is 13 miles east of the Hickison Summit Rest Stop. For more information go to www.bigsmokyvalley.com/places_to_see_sv.htm.