Visiting old ghost towns certainly is a tradition out west and these destinations can usually be found where gold and silver mining took place in the late 1800s or early 1900s. A few ghost towns are easy to access near paved roads, but most of the ghost town locations are very remote and a high ground clearance vehicle will be required to get there. The old historic Gold Butte mining camp is located next door to Las Vegas, but to get there a visitor must take the long way around Lake Mead over some rough dirt roads. Gold Butte is located inside the boundaries of Gold Butte National Monument near the Arizona border between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the Grand Canyon Parashant National Monument. There is no easy way to get to this place, but the Gold Butte National Back Country Byway does literally go to the front door.
The Gold Butte region has always been an important hunting and gathering spot for the local Paiute people. This seemingly barren desert landscape does have all the elements to support human life, but knowing where to find water in this desolate region does require some skill. There actually are a few natural seepage springs, while both the Colorado and Virgin River basins are way downhill, so it was possible for a small community of prospectors to survive in Gold Butte back in the early 1900s. This area has promising looking pockets of ore bearing material, so it is easy to see why about a thousand eager prospectors chose Gold Butte for a mining camp location around the time that the Hoover Dam project was going on.
Gold Butte actually was a tent city back in its heyday. Only a few concrete slabs were poured for buildings and the old slabs still exist. As it turned out, the gold bearing ore was not rich enough to draw the attention of anybody other than overzealous prospectors, so this old ghost town was pretty much doomed to be a temporary site from the start.
All that is left of Gold Butte is some old rusty mining equipment, a truck bed, a few water tanks and the concrete slabs. Rusty old mattress bed springs lie in state along with the remnants of ore processing equipment from the gold rush days. Soon after Gold Butte was abandoned, local ranchers took over this area and the old barbed wire fencing and wooden corral cattle chutes still remain. An old shade tree is the only living thing that survived in this ghost town, which is a welcome sight to see when standing in this sun scorched barren desert.
Gold Butte Ghost Town certainly is located in a very remote spot and the dead silence of the desert does create an eerie feeling when gazing upon this abandoned mining camp. Every so often a gust of wind causes a rusty piece of metal to creak and this adds to the otherworldly effect. Gold Butte is an interesting place to visit and doing an overnight campout near this ghost town certainly can provide more insight into the daily life of the prospectors that once lived here.
Wildlife does abound in this abandoned gold camp, but one has to be alert to catch a glimpse of the animals that hide around the fringes of this ghost town. The wildlife is well adapted to this region, so the animals tend to be naturally camouflaged and they blend in. The gray color jack rabbits sit motionless in the shade of sage brush, so they are not easy to spot. Birds of prey observe visitors from the mountain bluffs, with the hopes of seeing small game flushed out of hiding. Ravens taunt visitors as usual with their mocking caws from the distant abandoned mining equipment perches.
Even the local snakes are difficult to see in Gold Butte, because their skin has taken on the exact same color tone as the reddish pink color dirt. As can be seen in the photos above, the Coachwhip Snake that I spotted had a unique reddish orange striped coloration that blends in with the local terrain. Coachwhips are fast moving non-poisonous snakes that hunt mice and other bothersome creatures, so they are good to have around a mining camp. These snakes often raise their head high above the ground to take a look around for food or threats, so this behavior does present good photo opportunities if a visitor is lucky enough to see one in the wild.
Spending the afternoon at Gold Butte Ghost Town will provide some insight into just how wild this region really was back in the days of the old west, long before Las Vegas became a big city. The eerie feeling that one gets when standing in the dead silence of the desert wilderness is amplified when visiting this old abandoned mining camp, which can be a somber experience that is difficult to put into words. It takes a long drive over a bumpy rough dirt road to get to Gold Butte Ghost Town, but the journey’s end certainly is rewarding!
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