The History of Nudity in the Western Region
“When I cast off my clothes, I cast off my cares.”
—Sir Horace Walpole
Where and How Did AANR-West Begin?
The history of nudity in California spans back to the 1930s. The national American Sunbathing Association (ASA) was founded in 1932 to coordinate activities of the dozens of small and independent nudist clubs and camps that sprang up across the country at the start of the Depression. The next decade saw a significant proliferation of nudist clubs throughout the country, so it was decided to divide the US and Canada into seven regions to more closely service nearby clubs. In the eight western states this became the Western Sunbathing Association (WSA).
Some of these early clubs included McConville (originally named Olympic Fields) near Lake Elsinore, Fraternity Elysia above present-day Sunland, and Lupin in the hills above Santa Cruz. These early parks had sparse resources and amenities, and people usually brought in their own tents and food. Hence the term “nudist camps” became the best way to describe them. The original philosophy of these camps was healthy food and exercise with no smoking or alcohol allowed. Of these originals, only Lupin remains today, the oldest park west of the Mississippi.
A New Generation of Nudist Parks
After World War II, the next generation of parks were founded. Olive Dell in Colton (the second oldest park still operating in California), Swallows in El Cajon, the Lazy K Ranch and Treehouse near San Bernardino were the most popular in California, while Shangri-La Nudist Ranch north of Phoenix pioneered that part of the southwest. The parks put up fences to keep out the voyeurs, and built swimming pools and clubhouses. Trailers were brought in for the permanent residents. Treehouse became internationally known for its annual Chili Cookoff and its Miss Nude World beauty contest. The first official nude beach weekend was organized at Davenport Landing near Santa Cruz in 1958.
In the 1960’s, many new clubs were founded on vacant land nearer to population centers: Glen Eden south of Corona, Elysium Fields in Topanga Canyon, and Rawhide Ranch (now Laguna del Sol) south of Sacramento became popular centers for nudist activity. Mountain Air Ranch, in the hills above Denver, is a popular destination during the summer months in Colorado. The 1960s saw a significant proliferation of nudist clubs throughout the country.
A New Name for the ASA.
In 1993 the ASA decided to change its name to the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR), and they asked all the regions to change their names to conform with the national branding. In 1995 WSA reincorporated and became known as “AANR-West,” or more formally as The American Association for Nude Recreation – Western Region, Inc.
Nationally, AANR membership rose to a peak of 51,000 in 1999, over 20% of that in the western region. Over 35 parks and clubs flourished.
Changes in Nudist Clubs.
By the turn of the 21st century, many of the original owners of these clubs had died or retired. The clubs found civilization was starting to encroach on the open space that had separated them from nearby cities for decades. Some parks closed and some found a new generation of owners to carry on the nudist traditions. Ed Lange, the founder of Elysium Fields, died in 1995 and a few years later his daughters sold the land to a hotel magnate because its land value far exceeded the value of the park. Swallows was nearly destroyed by a wildfire in 2003, and two years later its owner sold the property to a church. McConville, its name changed to Mystic Oaks in the 90’s, closed for good in 2008 and became a Buddhist retreat. Treehouse went through a series of changes before it too was sold in 2010. In total, seven of the nudist parks and over a dozen of the backyard and beach clubs (known as “travel” clubs) went out of business in the Western Region during the first decade of the new century.
Only two new nudist resorts have opened in the region since 2000. DeAnza Springs Resort, converted from an old Thousand Trails campground, is an hour east of San Diego, opened to the public and thrives today on its 500 acres. The other is Mira Vista, an upscale resort outside Tucson, Arizona.
But the nudists did not go away when their parks closed, they simply moved their membership to one of the remaining ones. Many of these parks responded by growing exponentially into bonafide resorts complete with motels, multiple swimming pools and tennis courts, and upscale restaurants. The days of nudist colonies and camps was long gone. When Elysium closed in 2000 there was no nearby park or resort, so its members founded the Southern California Naturist Association (SCNA). Centered in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties, it is now the largest travel club in the region, offering backyard pool parties, bowling days, nude yoga, nude comedy shows, and beach trips throughout its area. Several other travel clubs are very active in the region also: the largest are the Arizona Wildflowers (Phoenix), the Camping Bares (San Diego), NitOC (Orange County), the Bay Area Naturists, the Roadrunners (New Mexico) and the Sacramento River Dippers. In 2017, over 30 clubs promote nude recreation.
AANR-West Advocates for Social Nudism.
In this new economy, AANR-West helps these clubs by being the public face of social nudism through our participation in many trade shows and fairs, and by monitoring and testifying against legislation detrimental to our ideals and goals in the state legislatures, counties, or cities of the eight western states. AANR-West also provides helpful legal information to the attorneys of people in need of advice on nudist-related matters.
AANR-West encourages its member clubs to have a broad social media presence through Facebook, Twitter. Meetup, and other popular sites. We also encourage other nudist-friendly events and causes like the annual World Naked Bike Ride, and Free the Nipple. Our clubs have a good working relationship with law enforcement and local politicians, and many club owners and members are active in their local Chambers of Commerce, Rotary, Kiwanis, or other community service organizations. By any measure, our community education programs are a success.
Today AANR-West comprises eight western U.S. states and the western half of Mexico.
Biographies of Nudists Leaders Who Made A Difference
Since 1932, the western United States has been graced with outstanding members who created clubs out of bare land, or who gave voice to social naturism in places where it had not existed before. This web site is dedicated to honor the lives of these special people, and to give voice to their stories and achievements, and who best exemplify the volunteer spirit and mission statement of this organization.