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Desert Dry Lake Corral -- Historic Site
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Trailhead (view W from Alamo Road)


Out in the seldom visited, far northern end of Desert National Wildlife Refuge lies Desert Dry Lake, a playa that covers some 15 square miles. On the edge of the lake sits an historic corral that stands in silent testament to the hopes and hard work of ranchers, the slow progression and despair of a drying climate, and the ravages of time.

When cattlemen first arrived in these parts, the land was wetter than average and grass and cattle flourished. Before long, the drying trend resumed, and ranchers needed to make "improvements" to keep the cows watered. Here, they dug pits in the playa and long trenches to draw water off the playa into ponds where cattle could drink. A bit farther south, and perhaps later, they even dug a well (Dry Lake Well). But the land continues to dry, and now the cows are gone and the land lies silent, except for the wind whistling through the few remaining uprights of the old corral.

This 0.5-mile round-trip stroll takes visitors to see the historic site.

Link to a map.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
historic corral (view N)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about hiking in the desert, ...this is a pretty safe hike. Depending on road conditions, the trailhead might be accessible with a 2WD-HC vehicle, but inquire locally or use a 4WD vehicle just to be sure.

Don't drive in muddy places -- you may never get out.

While hiking, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, even though this hike is fairly short, it is remote, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials, even if you leave them in your vehicle. This is a wildlife refuge, so pay particular attention to respecting the land and the wildlife.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Remains of historic corral (view W)


Desert Dry Lake is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but up towards Alamo (northeast of Las Vegas), and it is a all-day trip to get there from Las Vegas.

From town, drive north on Interstate-15 for 21 miles to Exit 64. Exit onto Highway 93 northbound. Consider topping off the gas tank at the truck stop, as this is the last gas station except for going out-of-the-way up to Alamo.

At 66.5 miles out, turn left onto Pahranagat Visitor Center Road, then stay right onto Alamo Road (North). Drive south, then west, and south again. Pass North Dunes, the large and obvious white sand dunes, on the left.

Continue farther south on Alamo Road for a total of 23.2 miles to a faint road on the right. This is the trailhead for the historic corral, which can be seen out towards the playa.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Approaching the old pond (cattle tank; view SW)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Wpt. 01), the old road runs northwest towards the edge of the playa for about 200 yards to the old corral (Wpt. 02). Among other things, note that they uprights were made from railroad ties; left-overs from when the railroads pulled out in the 1920s after the southern Nevada gold and sliver mines played out. Railroads took the tracks, but left the ties to be scavenged by people living in the region.

After visiting the corral, continue west about 300 yards farther to the cattle tank (Wpt. 03) on the playa. Although the mud has filled in the basin over the years, visitors can see earthen mounds, the old pond, and the trench that runs out onto the playa to collect water. The ditch is almost entirely filled in too, but it still collects water on those rare occasions when enough rain falls.

When finished at the cattle tank, hikers might consider hiking out onto the playa to get a feeling for this broad, flat place with grand sky above and desert mountains all around. From out on the playa, the earthen mounds and corral structures can be seen from a long ways off.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old pond (cattle tank; view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, look back along the old trench (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Pattern in the playa mud
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, look back along the old trench (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, following the old trench (view W)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Piece of wood ravaged by time, water, and salt (view NE)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Piece of wood ravaged by time, water, and salt
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Piece of wood ravaged by time, water, and salt (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
A single depression in the mud -- what would cause this?

Table 1. Hiking Coordinates and Distances based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Hiking GPS Waypoints (gpx) file.

Wpt. Location UTM Easting UTM Northing Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
01 Dry Lake Corral Trailhead 660564 4096187 3,208 0.00 0.00
02 Dry Lake Corral 660426 4096230 3,203 0.10 0.10
03 Cattle Tank (pond) 660221 4096176 3,205 0.15 0.25
01 Dry Lake Corral Trailhead 660564 4096187 3,208 0.25 0.50

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170507

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