This page last updated on 05/01/2017
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|Directions: From Las Vegas, drive north on Interstate-15 for about 70 miles to Exit 112 (Highway 170 to Bunkerville). This exit is about 5 miles south of (before) Mesquite. The official Gold Butte Backcountry Byway starts on the Interstate 15 off-ramp.After leaving the I-15 and driving south for approximately 30 miles on Gold Butte Road, a roughly paved road that climbs steadily to an elevation of 3,100 feet, the pavement ends at a location called Whitney Pocket (Fig. 02) where it passes through a break in the mountains. This large parking area (Fig. 18 below) makes for a great place to act as a staging area for any exploration of the Gold Butte region.|
|Description: The Whitney Pocket, located at the base of the Virgin Mountains is a palette of sandstone color. ‘Whitney” is the surname of an original landowner; "Pockets" is due to the pockets of red Aztec sandstone that has been exposed by the erosion of the lower fringes of the Virgin Mountains. This grouping of yellow, tan and rusty red sandstone outcrops exhibit unusual erosion patterns full of cave-like holes and bowls throughout the monoliths (Figs. 01, 03 & 04). Rainwater that pools in the depressions here has been a valued resource for desert travelers going back in time as far as early Native Americans (the Anasazi). |
|Whitney Pocket Dam: Between 1933 to 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) built a concrete dam (Fig. 06) on the north side of the road at a crevasse (Fig. 05) in the sandstone in an attempt to catch water. (Figs. 07 & 08) show the front and back side of the dam. There is a pipe with a water flow turn on/off that leads from the base of the dam, under ground to a livestock watering trough near the mouth of the crevasse (Fig. 09). A nearby cave was walled in by the CCC. Parts of the walls are now disintegrating rapidly and a sign urges the public to assist in conserving what remains. In spite of CCC and cattlemen’s efforts to harvest the scarce water supplies, this region does not favor successful ranching. The summers are unbearably hot and often the winters are quite harsh. The area is loaded with other CCC artifacts, along with native petroglyphs and evidence of their civilization. |
|04/25/2017 Trip Notes: Harvey and I visited the dam again, this time with our friends Bob Croke and Jim Herring. While they climbed to the top of the dam, I stayed below and took pictures (Fig. 10). Though both Jim and Bob used different methods to descend the high steps of the dam (Figs. 11 & 12), both agreed that is was a little "hairy".|
10/22/2015 Trip Notes: For four out of my five visits to the Gold Butte region, I have used the large parking area (Fig. 18) at Whitney Pocket as a staging area for our exploration of the area. This visit was my 2nd visit to the dam. My first visit, chronicled in the 02/05/2014 trip notes below, was with Harvey Smith. Today’s visit on a trip with the Rock hounds from the Henderson Senior Center was with my hiking partner, Blake Smith. After surveying the trough and the area we both ascended the steep steps built into the right side of the dam (Fig. 13). Once we reached the top (Fig. 14), we were presented with a nice view looking back to the main Whitney parking area (Fig. 15). We also found that there was another step of stairs leading down the back side of the dam; even though we decided not to descend it (Figs.16 & 17). We then decided to continue walking around these outcrops looking for any signs of petroglyphs and the walled in cave (Figs. 18 & 19). We found neither. The last picture (Fig. 20) was looking north at the mountains on the back side of the outcrop.
|06/10/2015 Trip Notes: The purpose of this visit was to locate Kirk’s Grotto and Little Finland. We used the large parking area at Whitney Pocket as a staging area for this trip (Fig. 21). Upon our return from these areas, we toured Whitney Pocket until we found the dam (Fig. 22). Just south of Whitney Pocket the sandy desert is dotted by Joshua trees as well as various types of cacti. These rocks, weathered into rounded boulders, cavities, deep fissures and other formations, contain beautiful shades of orange and white mixed with the usual red sandstone, stained by iron compounds (Figs. 23-25).|