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Catclaw Wash Road
Backroads Around Las Vegas, Gold Butte National Monument
Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
Scanlon Road, approaching Catclaw Wash Road (view W)

Overview

Catclaw Wash Road is located out at the far southwest end of Gold Butte National Monument, a side road off Scanlon Road that starts a few miles west of Gold Butte Townsite. From Scanlon Road, Catclaw Wash Road runs 7.5 miles down the wash to the edge of Lake Mead, passing several springs along the way.

Along most of the road, the wash is open, providing long views across the landscape. The road runs mostly on sand with a firm base, making for a relatively smooth ride. In places the road is overgrown with shrubs and trees that will apply desert pin-striping to passing vehicles. The Tramp and Fork Fire burned on the south side of the road in 2005, and while this helps reduce the pin-striping problem (on one side anyways), it provides a good example of how our desert is changing under the pressure of invasive grasses and a drying climate.

Catclaw Wash Road usually is passable in a 2WD-HC vehicle, but it is safer in a 4WD because parts are a bit sandy.

Link to Road Map.

Catclaw Wash Road
Scanlon Road at Catclaw Wash Road (view W)

Watch Out

Other than the standard warnings about driving in the desert, ... this is a fairly safe road without unusual hazards, but vehicles will receive some desert pin-striping. Keep hands, arms, and clothing inside the vehicle or understand the meaning of the other name for catclaw acacia: wait-a-minute bush.

This is wild and remote country without services of any kind (no restrooms, no water, no gas, no food). Bring what you need to survive. Be prepared and be self-reliant. It is a big place and someone will find you eventually if you stay on a main road, but be prepared to survive alone for a day or two, or even longer on side roads. Cell phones don't work here. Consider signalling the tourist helicopters that traverse the area coming and going from the Grand Canyon or boats on Lake Mead.

While out, please respect the land and the other people out there, and try to Leave No Trace of your passage. Also, this is a remote area, so be sure to bring the 10 Essentials.

Catclaw Wash Road
Two of three signs at start of Catclaw Wash Road (view W)

Getting to Catclaw Wash Road

Catclaw Wash Road is located out in Gold Butte National Monument at the northeast end of Lake Mead, about 3-1/2 hours northeast of Las Vegas.

From Las Vegas, drive out Gold Butte Road 21 miles to Whitney Pocket at the end of the pavement. Continue south on the unpaved Gold Butte Road 20 miles to Gold Butte Townsite.

From the townsite, the main road that continues straight (southwest) is Scanlon Road. Drive south on Scanlon Road 4.1 miles to Catclaw Wash Road, a major fork to the right with road signs. The road to the right, signed as "Overton Arm," is Catclaw Wash Road, which is confirmed several yards ahead by a Catclaw Wash Road sign. Another sign warns that this is a hunting area, not an area for target practice. The road to the left, marked "Jeep Trail," is Scanlon Road.

Catclaw Wash Road

The Road

From Scanlon Road (Site 1725), Catclaw Wash Road continues straight (southwest) down the wash when Scanlon Road angles to the left (south) and cuts up across a hillside. Catclaw Wash Road follows the bottom of the wash the entire way, so this sandy road is subject to washouts, but they are easily bypassed.

The road runs generally west, but winds back and forth a bit as the wash avoids low hills along the way. At about 2.2 miles out, a side road (Site 1790) merges from the right. This road, Quail Wash South Road, can be used to make a partial loop for the return (at forks, all roads heading east go back to Scanlon Road).

Continuing, at about 2.7 miles out, the road passes the first of several springs, this one on the left. At 3.1 miles out, the road passes Aqua Chiquita Spring on the right about 60 yards out.

Catclaw Wash Road

Continuing down the sandy wash, at about 4.2 miles out, the road passes yet another spring in a thicket on the right. The spring isn't visible from the road, but water runs along the roadway.

At 4.5 miles out, an old sign announces entry into Lake Mead National Recreation Area, and here the road becomes NPS Road #122. Shortly thereafter, at 4.7 miles out, a bad washout forces the road to turn hard to the right and cross to the other side of the wash. Some drivers try to continue straight, then bust through the bushes when the road becomes impassible, but please just stay on the main road and let the damaged vegetation recover.

At about 6.8 miles out, the road passes the historic high-water mark for Lake Mead. The road continues west dropping towards the water, but then bends left to run south along an old beach line for about 250 yards before turning down more steeply and winding down to the edge of the lake (Site 1792), a total of 7.5 miles out in February 2017.

Catclaw Wash Road
Sign at start of Catclaw Wash Road (view W)

The edge of the lake is an interesting place. Lake levels change with time, but the bottom is fairly gentle here, so the water in the cove is shallow and provides a nice place to wade and cool off on warm days. The shore is gravel here, which makes for a clean place to swim too.

At least during warm weather, the lake edge attracts large numbers of feral burros. In February 2017, there were some 25 animals in the area near the end of the road. This part of Lake Mead is also a good place to see Bald Eagles, so keep an eye out, and notice the ducks, grebes, and gulls that use these quiet waters.

The lakeshore is a good place for lunch. When ready, head back up Catclaw Wash Road, but consider taking the left fork (Site 1790) and continuing east at the forks.

Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
The road sometimes runs in a sandy ditch (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
The left side burned in the 2005 Tramp and Fork Fire (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
Bypassing a sandy washout (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Broad, open landscape (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road at Quail Wash South Road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Looking back: Catclaw Wash Road at Quail Wash South Road (view E)
Catclaw Wash Road
Smooth, sandy road with a firm base (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Smooth, sandy road with a firm base (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Overgrown roadway (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Overgrown and a bit washed out roadway (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Overgrown and a bit washed out roadway (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
First of the springs areas (view S from roadway)
Catclaw Wash Road
Spring area; animals have been digging for water (view SE)
Catclaw Wash Road
Springs area (view SE)
Catclaw Wash Road
Springs area (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Damp soil along the road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Lots of feral burro tracks heading to and from the spring (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Biggest boulder along the road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Agua Chiquita Road forking to the right (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Broad, sandy valley (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Agua Chiquita Spring on the hillside (view NW)
Agua Chiquita Spring
Agua Chiquita Spring (view NW)
feral burro
Feral burros near Agua Chiquita Spring (view SE)
Catclaw Wash Road
Long, straight road past the spring (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
Lots of Fourwing Saltbush
Catclaw Wash Road
Drivers avoiding tree by driving on bank (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Passing a spring (view W; spring in thickets to the right)
Catclaw Wash Road
Smooth, sandy road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Lake Mead NRA boundary sign (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Lake Mead NRA boundary sign (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
During wet winters, water runs on the road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
One of few saltcedar trees growing along the road (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road

Road bends left to avoid large washout (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Bending back to the left (view NW)
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road Catclaw Wash Road
Catclaw Wash Road
Heading down towards the Overton Arm of Lake Mead (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Approaching Lake Mead high-water mark (view W; note burro)
Catclaw Wash Road
Below the high-water mark (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Driving across the old lake bed (view NW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Driving across the old lake bed (view SW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Approaching Lake Mead (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Road bends left to run on old beach (view W)
Feral burro
Four feral burros near the lakeshore (view NE)
Catclaw Wash Road
Turning right to head down towards the water (view NW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Heading towards the water (view NW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Approaching Lake Mead shoreline (view NW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Happy camper eating a picnic lunch on a cool winter day (view W)
Catclaw Wash Road
Lake Mead shoreline at Catclaw Cove (view SW)
Catclaw Wash Road
Lake Mead shoreline at Catclaw Cove (view NW)

Table 1. Highway Coordinates Based on GPS Data (NAD27; UTM Zone 11S). Download Highway GPS Waypoints (*.gpx) file.

Wpt. Location Latitude (N) Longitude (W) Elevation (ft) Point-to-Point Distance (mi) Cumulative Distance (mi)
1721 Scanlon Rd at Catclaw Wash Rd 36.25157 114.25770 3,151 0.00 0.00
1790 Catclaw Wash Road at Quail Wash South Road 36.25106 114.29321 2,424 2.20 2.20
1791 Lake Mead NRA Boundary 36.24549 114.33348 1,884 2.30 4.50
1792 Catclaw Wash Road at Lake Mead (Feb 2017) 36.24554 114.38198 1,089 3.00 7.50

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 170616

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