Catclaw Wash Road is definitely way out in the boonies and this 4x4 trail barely appears on standard mapping systems. Very few people go to Catclaw Wash in a vehicle, because this spot on the edge of Lake Mead is much easier to access by boat. In fact, the Echo Bay Marina is just a short distance northwest across Lake Mead, so light watercraft can easily access this spot on a good day. For those who do the long bumpy dirt road journey, a great camping spot overlooking the big lake will be found at the end of the line and the panoramic views are simply breathtaking!
Catclaw Wash Road may not always be marked in mapping systems, but all is not lost because navigating the way to this destination is fairly easy to without a map. The main touring road in Gold Butte National Monument is the Gold Butte Scenic Byway, which runs north and south. Gold Butte Ghost Town is the end point for most tourists, but there are a few old ranching and mining roads that continue into the back country from there. By continuing south of the ghost town on the main road the signage will soon be spotted for Catclaw Wash Road, which is the main dirt road going west to Lake Mead.
The closest gas station is in Mesquite, Nevada, which means the round trip will likely be over 120 miles of slow rough dirt road driving, so topping off the tank will be necessary before getting underway. Visitors are responsible for their own survival in the Gold Butte back country, so it is best to go well prepared with a spare tire, plenty of water and survival rations. It is a very long walk back to civilization and swimming across the lake is not advisable because the distances are deceptive in the desert, so the long journey to Catclaw Wash should be taken seriously!
Just like with most of the dirt roads that go to the Lake Mead shoreline, Catclaw follows a long mountain dry wash all the way to the water's edge. Catclaw Wash used to be a river in ancient times and the geology is mesmerizing to see. There are a few seepage springs along this road and where there is water in the desert, there is life. Stray cattle, wild horses and wild burros frequent this area, so be sure to keep a camera handy for a one of a kind picture taking opportunity. A small group of wild burros were encountered during my trip, which made the arduous journey even more worthwhile. After being cut loose by the mining industry long ago, these animals have flourished in this arid environment because they can go a very long time without water.
The panoramic views just keep getting better on the way downhill and when Lake Mead first appears it is an amazing sight to see. The land surrounding Lake Mead actually is part of the National Recreation Area, so a Catclaw Wash adventurer will be able to experience two National Parks in one trip! Dispersed camping is allowed on the Lake Mead National Recreation Area side of the line, so setting up a campsite with a beautiful view of the big lake can be the icing on the cake. In this area, the steep mountains rise straight up from the water and they are very impressive to see, so be prepared to be captivated to no end. Catclaw Wash certainly is unique and this destination is well worth exploring when doing a tour of Gold Butte!
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