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Desert Dry Lake Corral -- Historical Site
Hiking Around Las Vegas, Desert National Wildlife Refuge
Desert Dry Lake Corral
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 sits an historical 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 had been wetter than average and grasses and cattle flourished. Before long, the drying trend resumed, and ranchers needed to make "improvements" to keep the cows watered. Here, they dug a pit in the playa and long trenches to draw water off the playa into ponds where cattle could drink long after the rest of the playa dried. A bit farther south, and perhaps later, they even dug a well and erected a windmill to pump water to the surface (Dry Lake Well). But the land continued to dry, and now the cows are gone and the land lies silent, except for the wind whistling through the few remaining uprights of the old corral.

This 0.5-mile round-trip stroll takes visitors to the historical site.

Link to a map.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Saltbush on approach to the corral (view W)

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 particular attention to respecting the land and the wildlife. Enjoy what you find, but leave it for future generations to discover.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historical corral (view NW)

Location

Desert Dry Lake is located on the Desert National Wildlife Refuge, but up towards Alamo (northeast of Las Vegas), and it is a all-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-the-way up 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.

Continue farther south on Alamo Road for a total of 23.2 miles to a faint road on the right. This is the trailhead for the historical corral, which can be seen out towards the playa.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historical corral (view NW from SE corner)

The Hike

From the trailhead (Table 1, Wpt. 01), an old road runs northwest towards the edge of the playa for about 200 yards to the old corral (Wpt. 02). Among other things, note that the uprights were made from railroad ties; left-overs from when the railroads pulled out in the 1920s after the southern Nevada gold and sliver mines played out. The railroad companies took the metal tracks, but left the ties to be scavenged by people living in the region (see Railroad Tie Cabin).

After visiting the corral, continue west about 300 yards farther to the cattle tank (Wpt. 03) on the playa. Mud has partially filled in the basin over the years, but visitors can see earthen mounds, the old pond, and the trench that runs out onto the playa to collect water. The ditch is almost entirely filled in too, but it still collects water on those rare occasions when enough rain falls.

When finished at the cattle tank, hikers might consider hiking out onto the playa to get a feeling for this broad, flat place with grand sky above and desert mountains all around. From out on the playa, the earthen mounds and corral structures can be seen from a long ways off, so there is little chance of getting lost.

Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old corral (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old corral (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old corral (view SE)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old corral (view S)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Remains of the historical corral (view W)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Historical corral (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Debris outside corral (view NW)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
More debris en route to the stock tank (view SW)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Approaching the old pond (cattle tank; view SW)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Old pond (cattle tank; view SW)
Desert Dry Lake Corral Desert Dry Lake Corral
Desert Dry Lake Corral
East berm of the stock pond (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Exiting the west side of the stock pond (view NW)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Berm and filled-in trench on the playa (view W)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, following the old trench (view W)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Pattern in the playa mud
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Pieces of wood on playa (view NE towards North Dunes)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Piece of wood ravaged by time, water, and salt (view N)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Piece of wood ravaged by time, water, and salt
Desert Dry Lake Corral
A single depression in the mud -- what would cause this?
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, looking back along the old trench (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Out on the playa, returning along the old trench (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Returning to the stock tank (view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Old stock pond (view E from southwestern berm)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Inside the old pond (cattle tank; view E)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Curious texture of the dry mud inside the stock pond
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Returning towards the old corral (view NE)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Returning towards the old corral (view NE)
Desert Dry Lake Corral
Passing NE edge of the old corral (view SE)
More to come
More to come ...

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 Dry Lake Corral Trailhead 660564 4096187 3,208 0.00 0.00
02 Dry Lake Corral 660426 4096230 3,203 0.10 0.10
03 Cattle Tank (pond) 660221 4096176 3,205 0.15 0.25
01 Dry Lake Corral Trailhead 660564 4096187 3,208 0.25 0.50

Happy Hiking! All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
copyright; Last updated 171218

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