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walking box ranch

In 1931, Hollywood silent film stars Clara Bow (aka "The It Girl") and Rex Bell bought a cattle ranch in the desert west of Searchlight, Nevada (area map) for a place to get away from it all and relax. They named it the Walking Box Ranch in reference to a box camera on a tripod, which in old-time Hollywood was referred to as a "walking box camera." The ranch logo is a stylized image of a walking box camera (above, upper-left). Bow and Bell lived here, raising two boys in the ranch house they built, until the mid-1940s when they moved to Las Vegas. Bow faded into history, while Bell went into politics and served as lieutenant governor of Nevada from 1955 until 1962. The ranch property changed ownership several times, was markedly upgraded by the Viceroy Gold Corporation for a field office and executive retreat, and is currently owned by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Link to BBC documentary (YouTube) about the life of Clara Bow.

The site was a working cattle ranch from the 1890s to the 1980s. An old barn, corrals, water troughs, and other ranch features remain. In the 1990s, Viceroy Gold rehabilitated and remodeled the ranch house, replaced the bunkhouse, constructed tennis courts, and removed some older buildings. The site remains more-or-less unchanged since the Viceroy era.

A 40-acre parcel of the ranch (ranch map) now is managed cooperatively by the BLM and the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) Public Lands Institute. Plans have been made to develop the parcel into an educational and interpretive site, including a museum and interpretive center about the history of ranching in Southern Nevada, as well as a demonstration site for renewable energy (solar, wind, and geothermal). In addition, the surrounding lands are protected by Nature Conservancy conservation easements to maintain habitat for desert tortoises.

The area is watched by a caretaker, and three law enforcement officers live onsite in travel trailers. The site is available for researchers, but otherwise it is closed to the public until the old buildings and facilities are restored and new research and housing facilities are built.

UPDATE: Photos and a bit of text from our 2012 Visit.

desert tortoise
"Mr. Viceroy," (Senator Fitzpatrick, B.C., Canada) with a desert tortoise by the front porch of the Big House around 1990 (photo courtesy Senator Fitzpatrick).
Walking Box Ranch, big house
The Big House (inside and outside photos)
Walking Box Ranch, barn
Barn (inside and outside photos)
Walking Box Ranch, bunkhouse
Bunk House (inside and outside photos)
Walking Box Ranch, caretaker residence
Caretaker's Residence (inside and outside photos)
Walking Box Ranch, fire water tank
Fire Water Tank (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, Pump House
Pump House (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, weight room
Storage Shed, Weight Room (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, old garage
Old Garage (photos)
Main Gate
Access and Gates (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, Grounds
Grounds (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, Ice house
Ice House (photos)
Walking Box Ranch, caretaker's job
Caretaker's Job (photos)

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
© 2014 Jim Boone; Last updated 130308

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