Non-Rubber Ducky in the Baths

Adventures at the Sutro Baths ruins, San Francisco Bay area

With David Backman

June 2010


As the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash over the rocks near the Cliff House in San Francisco, the water gurgles around the remains of one of San Francisco's more interesting relics - the remains of the Sutro Baths.

Sutro Bath Overview

The Sutro Baths opened in 1896 as a private swimming pool complex, developed by Adolph Sutro, entrepreneur and former San Francisco Mayor, and was opened as the largest indoor swimming pool complex in the world. It featured  a choice of 7 indoor pools - 6 of them salt water fed by the ebb and tide of the Pacific Ocean, and one fresh water.

Sutro Baths 8

Unfortunately for Sutro, the baths turned out to be a very expensive proposition. Besides the pools, the Baths featured a concert hall and a skating rink. In addition a complex series of pumps kept the water levels circulating at low tide.

Sutro Baths 8

By the middle of the twentieth century the Baths were long closed. In 1966 the building was being dismantled when it was destroyed by fire. All that remains now are the walls, stairs and pipes for carrying water from the sea.

Sutro 6

Daily the relentless tide of the Pacific Ocean sweep over the remains.  The Baths ruins, as well as the nearby Cliff House, are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.  Just off the ruins is Seal Island, above.

Sutro 5

Visitors to the site now are greeted with exhibits of the history of the baths and, more importantly, signs warning of the dangers of the sea's ebb and flow.

Sutro Warning

People have been swept to their deaths off the rocks in the past. Luckily, NOT was not swept away this time, though he did model for his own avian warning sign.

Sutro Warning 2 

Many of the tunnels used to carry water still gurgle as the tide ebbs and flows, but also can be dangerous as the sign notes.

Sutro 3

Yet despite the turmoil, the area of the pools still remains calm and almost inviting. But this is one bath NOT is going to stay out of, it looks too cold.

Sutro 4





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Photos courtesy of David Backman

Last Updated December 2010