Do you know where the world’s largest thermometer is?
If you looked closely at the above photo, you’ve probably guessed it’s in Baker, California. You’ll also see that Baker, which is close to the Nevada border, calls itself the “Gateway to Death Valley.”
According to Roadside America,
The World’s Largest Thermometer is a 134-foot-tall symbol of the record high temperature in the U.S., in nearby Death Valley — 134 degrees Fahrenheit in 1913.
I’d heard of this thermometer before, but I thought it was in Needles, CA. (I don’t really know why I thought it was in Needles.) I had no idea I was going to see it as I drove from Barstow to Las Vegas, but there it was, rising out of the desert. I decided to pull over and see it.
It was still early in the day (around 11am, I think) and only 91 degrees. I wanted to see that sucker lit way up, but it wasn’t hot enough for that.
Here’s the history of the thermometer, from the aforementioned Roadside America Article
Willis Herron, a businessman, dreamed of a huge thermometer for 25 years before he made it real in California’s high desert.
The site chosen for the thermometer was along the main drag through town [Baker], visible from the interstate. In 1990 Herron paid to have the thermometer constructed by Young Electric Sign Co., manufacturers of many neon and bulb monstrosities on The Strip in Las Vegas. 33 tons of steel and almost 5,000 lamps went into the three-sided digital display.
But strong winds broke the thermometer, smashing a gift shop under construction. Herron, undaunted, had the thermometer rebuilt, filled with concrete…
Herron died in 2007. In 2012 the Baker thermometer stopped working and was put up for sale. Its owner blamed its shutdown on a bad economy and a thermometer-topping monthly electric bill. In 2014 the thermometer was purchased by Herron’s daughter, and his widow paid to repair the thermometer; it was officially turned back on Oct. 11.
Willis Herron’s decision to build his thermometer 134 feet tall has proved to be just tall enough, as the highest temperature it’s recorded was 127 degrees in August 1995.
When I pulled off of I-15 at exit 246, and drove through Baker to get as close as possible to the attraction, I felt as if I had been there before, although I didn’t have any memory of the thermometer. I thought maybe Baker was the place where Mr. Carolina, Sweet L, Robbie, the Fighting Couple, and I slept the night we left Las Vegas. However, as I drove through town, I didn’t see where we might have parked or where everyone would have gone after piling out of my van. Maybe we slept at a rest area somewhere right outside of Nevada and then went to Baker in the morning? If we did stop in Baker, it was only for a short time, but how could I have forgotten about seeing the world’s largest thermometer? The workings of my memory is very mysterious.
In any case, now I know I’ve seen the thermometer, and I have photographic evidence to prove it.