By Tom Garrison
Who doesn’t want to visit Jamaica? Beautiful beaches under swaying palm trees, cool Caribbean swimming, and a friendly population. However, if you can’t afford the real Jamaica (who can?), take a short drive to Little Jamaica (aka Desert Springs and Littlefield Springs) in Littlefield, Arizona. While not quite as inviting as Jamaica, Little Jamaica is much closer. What is Little Jamaica? A short hike to a unique swimming hole featuring a beautiful waterfall.
Little Jamaica is located near the metropolis of Littlefield, an unincorporated community nestled along Interstate 15 in the Arizona strip. As of the 2010 census, the population was 308. Littlefield and neighboring Beaver Dam are the only towns in Arizona along Interstate 15. Little Jamaica is approximately 10 miles from Mesquite, Nevada and 30 miles from St. George, Utah.
In mid-September Deb, my wife, and I were off to explore Little Jamaica. We left St. George and headed south on Interstate 15. About 30 miles from home we took Exit 9 (Desert Springs exit) near Littlefield. Turn right off the freeway exit and immediately turn left (west) onto (the unsigned at this intersection) Fleet Street. Proceed west on Fleet Street for approximately ¼ mile and then turn left under the Interstate 15 overpass. Upon emerging from the overpass, turn right (west) onto Farm Road (another unsigned road at this intersection) and dive about ¼ mile to the end of the road and obvious cleared parking area. The last section is a dirt road.
If you are coming from Mesquite, take northbound Interstate 15 and exit at the Desert Spring exit (Exit 15). Make two quick right turns, head west (back toward the large concrete Interstate 15 bridge) on the unsigned Farm Road and follow it about ½ mile to end of the road and the parking area.
There is a fence at the western end of the parking area. A gap in the fence is the trailhead. Attached to the fence is a large sign which reads “PRIVATE PROPERTY: No Extended Parking; No Dumping; No Liability Responsibility by the Owner; All offenders will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.” Evidently the Little Jamaica area is on private land, but the owner has graciously allowed people to access this gem. When you go on this hike, please respect the environment and the land owner and follow the simple rules, especially the one about no dumping (or leaving your trash behind).
The trailhead elevation is about 1,850 feet. The lowest point of the hike, near the Virgin River is 1,685 feet elevation—less than a 200 foot change.
We scurried down the trail and soon came to a long section wherein the trail was a stream. This section is very slippery and fairly steep, be careful. Wearing shoes you don’t mind getting wet is a better option than bare feet. Being near water, the vegetation is thick along the trail. The green riparian environment is a nice contrast with the surrounding Mojave Desert.
The hike is approximately ¼ mile from the trailhead to the Virgin River and the Little Jamaica swimming hole. The swimming hole is a human-made pool filled with clear, cool water sliding down an incline. The water emerges from a hidden spring and makes its way to the Virgin River.
We enjoyed the pool and admired the views along the river. Like the trail, the rocks around the pool are very slippery. The rock formations above and below the pool, and the wall of the pool, have a yellowish-greenish tint. No doubt from some minerals in the water or rocks.
Be sure to explore the area and the Virgin River beach nearby. There is a steep, but stream-free trail back to the trailhead a short way down the Virgin River. That was our exit route.
Little Jamaica is an amazing oasis in the desert. Two problems mar this wonderful little hike and swimming hole. The large concrete Interstate 15 bridge a few dozen feet away (nothing to be done about it) and traffic noise is ever present. Secondly, everywhere we encountered human detritus. Is it so hard to haul out the trash you haul in?
I recommend this baby adventure. Nothing beats the heat like a stint in Little Jamaica.
My name is Tom Garrison and I wrote the above essay. I am now retired and enjoying libertarian life in beautiful St. George, Utah with my wife Deb and two cats. My latest book, Challenge Authority: Memoir of a Baby Boomer (January 2014), is available as an eBook and paperback at all online bookstores. You can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org