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

Overview

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 lies 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. Later they had to dig a well. But the land continues to dry, and now the cows are gone and the land lies silent, except for the wind whistling around the few remaining uprights of the old corral.

Link to a map.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Approaching the 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 extra attention to respecting the land and the wildlife out there.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Curious structure (view N)

Location

Desert Dry Lake is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but up towards Alamo (northeast of Las Vegas), and it is a full 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-your-way 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, and head towards South Dunes, smaller dunes farther ahead on the left.

Continue south on Alamo Road North for a total of 26.6 miles to a faint spur road on the right. Park here; this is the trailhead for the historic windmill.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
The old well casing

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Wpt. 01), an old road runs northwest about 300 yards to the edge of the playa and the site of the old windmill (Wpt. 02). All that remains is the well casing, a couple of rusting watering troughs, and a few other bits and pieces of historic debris.

This is an interesting site where modern visitors can contemplate the rigors of making a living in these remote desert lands in the old days and how they did what they could to stave off the day when changing climate would dry out the land and force them away.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Curious structure (view S)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historic watering trough
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historic watering trough (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historic watering trough (view NE)

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 Desert Dry Lake Well Trailhead 660689 4090866 3,215 0.00 0.00
02 Dry Lake Well 660484 4090996 3,209 0.15 0.15
01 Desert Dry Lake Well Trailhead 660689 4090866 3,215 0.15 0.30

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

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