Nipton, California

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This page last updated on 08/13/2017
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Directions: Nipton is 2 miles from the Nevada/California border in east San Bernardino County, 10 miles off Interstate 15 approximately a one hours drive from Las Vegas. From Las Vegas take I-15 south bound, 55 miles to the Nipton Road exit, then 10 miles east to Nipton, California (Fig. 01).

Nipton UPDATE: Nipton for Sale: It was reported on January 22, 2016 that the desert town of Nipton, with a population of fewer than two dozen, was up for sale. A realtor was hired to sell the entire town, all 80 acres, its properties and the solar panels that allow Nipton to operate 50 percent off-the-grid. The advertised asking price: $5 million. 8/4/2017 Update: For close to $5 million, American Green, one of the nation's largest cannabis companies, has purchased the entire 80 acres of Nipton, which includes its Old West-style hotel, a handful of houses, an RV park and a coffee shop. Its plans are to transform the old Gold Rush town into what it calls "an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality pot-tourism destination." American Green says it plans to expand that farm and also bottle and sell cannabis-infused water from Nipton's plentiful aquifer, joint moves that would make the town green in more ways than one. The buyers are also reaching out to edibles manufacturers and other pot-industry businesses, hoping they'll be interested in relocating to Nipton and bringing jobs with them. Currently, one of its major sources of revenue is the California Lottery tickets the general store sells to people who cross the state line from Nevada because they can't buy them there. Conveniently located in the middle of nowhere, the small hotel has become a popular destination with desert aficionados and fans of the Old West.

Description: Billed as, “The Gateway to the Mojave Desert”, today, Nipton is a privately owned, unincorporated town in San Bernardino County, California, on the northern edge of Mojave National Preserve, west of Searchlight, Nevada, with a population of nearly 60 people. (See History of Nipton below)

Hotel Nipton: Originally constructed in 1910 and refurbished in 2004, the adobe hotel, built in the Spanish Territorial style with a wrap-around-covered porch (Fig. 02), is advertised as a ‘bed & breakfast’ and has five sleeping rooms, three with double beds and two with twin beds, all featuring central heating and cooling. There is a ‘lobby-like’ open reading and sitting room and two modern bathrooms are found just down the hall. Guest privileges include use of picnic areas, reflection pond, barbecue and food refrigeration facilities.
Eco-Lodges: There are also five "eco-cabins" (Figs. 03 & 04) based on designs by Frank Lloyd Wright. Designed to provide a comfortable camping experience in the natural desert environment, each Eco-Lodge is roomy enough for a family of six and are air-cooled and outfitted with two double bed sized bedsteads, a wood fired stove, electric lights and overhead fan, table and chairs. Large picture window flaps on either end allow cross ventilation when desired and unobstructed views of Ivanpah Valley. Contemporary innovations include screened windows, wood burning stove for cooler weather and evaporative cooler for warm weather habitation.

El Oasis Cafe: Open for more than a year now, the Oasis Cafe offers either shaded outdoor seating (Fig. 05) or cozy, air conditioned inside seating (Fig. 06). It serves up a limited menu of traditional homemade Mexican food, the ever popular "World's Best Hamburgers" and traditional American breakfasts with eggs, blueberry pancakes, bacon, fresh juices, and more. We tried several items off of the Mexican side of the menu for lunch on our last stop here and found the food to be very good. The cafe is open 7-days a week.

There is also a trailer park, a small general store & a gift shop.
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04/29/2015 Trip Notes: Today's visit to Nipton was for the purpose of locating the Lucy Grey Mine in the Lucy Gray Mountains, due north of town. Click here for pictures and information on the Lucy Grey Mine ... Lucy Gray Mine. Just after we arrived we heard a train coming from the north (Vegas) heading south. I grabbed my camera and began taking photos. Click here for pictures and info on the Union Pacific Railroad … The Union Pacific Railroad Crossing at Nipton. After a morning of exploring the Lucy Grey Mine, we headed back to Nipton for lunch at the El Oasis Cafe.

09/26/2014 Trip Notes: Our final stop on today’s daytrip was to turn around at Nipton. Usually when we are here I usually just get to photograph the old station building and empty train tracks (Fig. 16) at the crossing here. On today’s visit we were lucky enough to view a one hundred plus freight train as it passed through town. I quickly ran across the tracks to get a better vantage point as it approached the crossing (Fig. 07). As it neared where I was standing, I got a great shot of its three engines (Fig. 08). The front engine, the Union Pacific #5573 -- GE AC4400CW, was the only active engine. This massive engine is a 4,400 horsepower (3,300 kW) diesel-electric locomotive that was built by GE Transportation Systems between 1993 and 2004, and features AC traction motors with a separate inverter for each motor. As of 2005, every Class I railroad with the exceptions of Norfolk Southern and Canadian National owns at least one AC4400CW. These units quickly gained a reputation as powerful freight haulers, especially in heavy-haul applications. It seemed like I waited nearly 15 minutes watching its colorful 100+ cars pass by (Figs. 09-13) before I could get back across the tracks to the van for our trip home.
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09/30/2013 Trip Notes: Harvey and I stopped here for lunch after spending the day exploring mines off of Nipton Road. We both tried some items off of the Mexican side of the menu and were pleased to find that the food was quite good. Having not eaten here for several years, we both thought the interior, refurbished with white-washed barn boards and carpeting, was well done and quite pleasant (Fig. 14).

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09/19/2013 Trip Notes: Over the past several years, I have made several stops here, either on our way to or from Searchlight, Nevada, but have never really taken the time to fully explore the ‘town’ and what it has to offer. Mostly these stops only include a brief visit to the Nipton Trading Post for the purchase of something cool and refreshing and a walk around the small cactus garden laid out in front of the hotel (Fig. 15). Just a few hundred feet west of the town is the old railroad spur (Fig. 16), still in operation, that was originally responsible for putting the town of Nipton ‘on the map’. (read more in the History of Nipton below) Looking at the Sepia picture (Fig. 17) (Click to enlarge), notice the two bright spots in the distance between the telephone poles. This is the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS), which started construction 2010 by Bechtel. Currently 92% complete, this solar thermal system is currently the largest solar plant under construction in the world. (Fig. 18) is a close-up of one of the sites’ three 459-foot solar towers.
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(Fig. 17) Title - Old Meets New

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The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System – How It Works: Over 300,000 software-controlled mirrors track the sun in three dimensions and reflect the sunlight to boilers that sit atop three 459 foot tall towers. When the concentrated sunlight strikes the boilers' tubes, it heats the water to create superheated steam, which is then piped from the boiler to a standard turbine where electricity is generated and carried by transmission lines to power homes and businesses. With a power production between 377-392 Mega Watts, the plant will be capable of providing power to more than 140,000 homes.
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08.26.13 News Update: Click below for a virtual tour of the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, the world’s largest solar thermal plant. It is a collection of still images stitched together to give 360° views of the 377 megawatt solar thermal power project. The tour features images of the project under construction taken in April 2013. The construction of Ivanpah is more than 92 percent complete, and the project is on track to begin delivering renewable, clean energy by the end of the year. To view the virtual tour, click here.
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History of Nipton: In the nineteenth century, two overland wagon trails crossed on the east slope of Ivanpah Valley. One east-west trail carried people and freight from the Colorado River to the silver mining town of Ivanpah. The other, a north-south trail went from the mining community of Goodsprings to Goffs, a station on the Santa Fe Railroad’s southern route. On January 1, 1900, Karns and some associates staked the earliest claim in the Crescent District, to be given the name Nippeno. This was later followed by adjacent claims; Susquehana, Cumberland, Northhumberland, Pennsylvania, & Osceola. Together they became known as the NIPPENO CONSOLIDATED MINE. The discovery of gold quickly drew attention to this crossroads area which soon became a place for gold miners to reside. The mining camp associated with the mine was known as NIPPENO CAMP, which was located nearby the wagon crossroads.
In the winter of 1904/1905 Nevada Senator William Clark, a Montana copper baron, completed the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake railroad line which brought new traffic to the little crossroads community. The whistle-stop on the railroad time tables was designated as “Nippeno Camp” and brought passengers bringing freight and cattle from the neighboring region as it was the most accessible railhead for transit to the east-Salt Lake City and Chicago, and to the west-Los Angeles. By 1910 the S.P., L.A., & S.L. line had been merged into Harriman's Union Pacific Railroad System and the name of the crossroads community had been changed to Nipton. A stage coach line from Searchlight, Nevada was established to carry passengers and freight to Nipton and the railhead. This same year saw the completion of the construction of Hotel Nipton.
In 1924 Harry Trehearne completed construction of the original (wooden) store and began doing business under the trade name Nipton Mercantile Company. He also made $3,000 worth of upgrades and repairs to Hotel Nipton making it more suitable for occupancy. A light plant, equipped with 2 KOHLER 5kW generators, was constructed at Nipton in 1929 to provide electricity for the townsite. Circa 1937-1940, a 550 deep water well was dug by hand. The installation of a pump provided a 8 gpm capacity.
Clara Bow, the famed "IT Girl" of the Hollywood silent film era and leading sex symbol of the “roaring 20’s” often stayed at the hotel. Bow retired from acting and became a rancher, purchasing a large cattle ranch about 16 miles up the road from Nipton in the late 20's. In 1931 she married actor Rex Bell and they built the Walking Box Ranch. When Rex drove their cattle overland to Nipton for shipment by rail to the slaughter yards, he would be accompanied by Clara, who would pick up her fan mail from the post office, and visit with her friends Harry and Ella Trehearne. Clara, it is said, preferred Room # 3 in the Hotel Nipton for her stays. Today Room # 3 is called the Clara Bow Room. Clara and Rex often entertained the Hollywood crowd at Nipton and on their ranch. Trainloads of guests would arrive in Nipton for the overland auto ride to their Walking Box Ranch.
After leasing the railroad station site (20 acres) from Union Pacific R.R. in the mid-20’s, Harry Trehearne was granted ownership of a 120 acre site known as Nipton, California on August 1st, 1935 under the ‘homestead' act by the California General Land Office. In 1940 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed over the title. Through the years leading up to 1984, the Nipton property passed into the stewardship of six various owners. In 1984, the Freeman Family (d.b.a. Provident Corporation) took possession of the Nipton town site under provisions of a lease with option to purchase. Escrow on the purchase of the Nipton town site closed in January of 1985 at a purchase price of $200,000. A bill that exempted the Nipton land parcels from inclusion in the Mojave National Preserve by Act of Congress was signed by President Bill Clinton on October 31, 1994.
Over the past 28 years, Gerald Freeman has struggled to make much of the place, spending roughly $1 million on improvements and restoration costs. Today, his goal is to make Nipton a sustainable “green” hospitality and tourist center for nature lovers headed into the neighboring Mojave National Preserve. After putting up a 80-kilowatt solar installation, enough to power 95% of the towns needs, he recently began selling hats emblazoned with the hamlet's new motto: "Nipton, powered by the sun."  The panels (Fig. 19), made by Skyline Solar Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., are attracting out-of-state visitors curious about doing something similar in their own communities. In the next decade, Freeman envisions energy-efficient buildings, an organic farm, electric vehicle charging stations and even more solar installations. On the northern edge of the Mojave National Preserve, home of the popular Kelso Dunes, it is his hope that Nipton will eventually become an eco-tourism mecca. Many park visitors favor environmentalism, and they often stay at campgrounds and hotels in Nipton. Gerald and the town are betting that stepping up its environmental reputation will drive tourism growth.

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Note: Every attempt is made to provide accurate information, but occasionally depictions are inaccurate by error of mapping, navigation or cataloging. The information on this site is provided without any warranty, express or implied, and is for informational and historical purposes only.