There are several ways to get to the Elgin Schoolhouse State Historic Site and some require a very lengthy ride over a bumpy 4x4 trail. There are dirt roads starting from both Interstate Highway 15 south of Mesquite and Highway 93 near Coyote Springs that traverse the scenic overland route to Rainbow Canyon. The dirt roads go through the remnants of a small ghost town named Carp on the way there, which adds to the charm, but not everybody drives a high ground clearance 4x4. For those who prefer a smoother approach, the road from Caliente, Nevada to Rainbow Canyon and the Elgin Schoolhouse is paved, while the 20 mile distance is perfect for a weekend scenic drive.
Starting in Caliente, State Road 317 first goes by Kershaw Ryan State Park, which is a popular spring season destination. Soon the road enters the narrow canyons and it follows a dry wash creek all the way downhill. The creek bed is green and lush with tall cottonwood trees, which is like a sight for sore eyes out in this arid desert environment. Where there is water in the desert there is wildlife, so cruising slow will enable more wildlife spotting opportunities, especially early in the morning. Railroad tracks also parallel SR 317 and there are a few tunnels through the mountains by the roadside, so a trip through these majestic canyons to the Elgin Schoolhouse is perfect for landscape artists.
SR 317 passes through several named canyons on the way to the Elgin Schoolhouse and it will become obvious when a visitor enters Rainbow Canyon. Just like the name suggests, the barren rock outcrops display vivid bright earth tone colors in this area, so be sure to take some extra time to check it out. There are a few hiking trails in Rainbow Canyon that offer a chance for a closer look, but because of the temperature extremes, hiking in this remote place is only suggested during the cool weather seasons.
Right next door to Rainbow Canyon is where the Elgin Schoolhouse State Historic Site is located and the creek through the canyon feeds the tall cottonwoods in this area too. The setting for this old schoolhouse definitely looks like a time capsule from the past during an age when pioneers and homesteaders first started eking out a living in this unforgiving desolate place. Grade school was taught in this small building from the early 1920s till the 1960s and it is a treasure trove of cultural relics. Plenty of parking and basic facilities are available, while the admission price of one dollar is a real bargain in modern times. The old Elgin Schoolhouse certainly is an intriguing window to the past, so be sure to log this scenic drive in the books!
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