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Gold Butte National Monument - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 04/25/2017

(Fig. 01) Kirt's Grotto Area

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. Travel on 170 (West Riverside Road) approximately 2 miles to New Gold Butte Road, also known as the official Gold Butte Backcountry Byway) on the right. There is a large parking area on the left. New Gold Butte Road follows southwest along the Virgin River before turning southeast away from the river. The northern boundary of the National Monument (Fig. 02) starts approximately ten miles in on this road. As you can see on the map below, the eastern and southern boundary of the Monument is bordered by the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and the western boundary is bordered by the state of Arizona.
                                   
(Fig. 02) Map of Gold Butte National Monument
Page Notes: Due to the relatively recent designation of Gold Butte as a National Monument, I have had to completely revise and update all of my pages related to Gold Butte. Because I have been here on no less than seven times, this has been a daunting task. Because the area is so uniquely beautiful, it is nearly impossible to select a single picture (Fig. 01) to be representative of Gold Butte. This is just one of hundreds I selected of pictures I've takenover the past several years. In addition to some background on the designation of Gold Butte as a National Monument, Description and History of the area, this page is a summary page with links to all of the trips and areas that I have visited here over the past four years.

National Monument Background: On December 28, 2016, President Obama designated Gold Butte as a National Monument. Gold Butte, This area is home to countless cultural, historic, and natural wonders that make this area so unique and are now preserved for future generations. For decades, many Nevadans have been working to protect the nationally significant cultural, historic, and natural treasures in Gold Butte. The new Gold Butte National Monument, filled with brightly hued sandstone, covers nearly 300,000 acres of remote and rugged desert landscape in southeastern Nevada, and provides a stunning canvas for the area’s famously chiseled red sandstone rock art, and the desert provides critical habitat, twisting canyons, and tree-clad mountains that punctuate desolate stretches of the Mojave Desert. Permanent protection of the National Monument will provide greater protection to numerous wildlife species, including desert tortoise, desert bighorn sheep, the banded Gila monster, great horned owls and a great variety of reptiles, birds and mammals. It will also safeguard Gold Butte's abundant archaeological resources, including rock art, caves, agave roasting pits and camping sites dating back at least 3,000 years.

Description and Brief History of Gold Butte Region: Gold Butte Backcountry Byway is a 62-mile scenic drive that starts at exit 112 on the I-15, just south of Mesquite, Nevada, and heads south into a wild and rugged area known as the Gold Butte Region. The Gold Butte Region is administered by the BLM and the U.S. National Park Service. The byway is divided into four sections: (1) Gold Butte Road (rough paved road), (2) unpaved Gold Butte Road (rough graded road), (3) Red Bluff Spring Road (sometimes graded), and (4) Mud Wash Road (two-track in a sand and gravel wash). Refer to the map below (Fig. 03). The yellow high-lighted roads show the route that I traveled on my very first visit to this area. Each of these scenic roads provides grand scenery as they pass through some of the most vast, wild and remote pristine desert wilderness found anywhere in Nevada. The geology of this sandstone-limestone-granitic-metamorphic faulted-twisted-contorted-eroded land, while nearly impossible to comprehend in total, is stunningly stark and beautiful. Three major ecosystems (Mojave Desert, Great Basin Desert, and the Colorado Plateau) meet here, providing for a varied and diverse flora and fauna. The Virgin River (Fig. 04) is seen peacefully flowing alongside the first several miles of the byway as it follows many low valleys that stretch down to the edges of Lake Mead’s Overton Arm. Its eastern boundary boarders Arizona and is dominated by Virgin Peak, towering 8,000 feet above the desert floor. Pretty much everything worth exploring on Gold Butte can begin at the Whitney Pockets (junction). For one thing, it's at the end of the pavement! For another, roads go in all directions. Lastly, it makes a great base for a picnic or overnight camping. Driving the entire byway requires a 4WD, if only for insurance on Mud Wash Road, and will provide lots of history, some unique geology, and will take more than a full day.

Gold Butte is 360,000 acres of desolate, rugged mountains, Joshua tree and Mojave yucca forests, outcroppings of sandstone, and braided washes that turn into slot canyons. The area of Gold Butte is named for the historic mining town and tent city of 1,000 miners in the early 1900’s. Driving to the end of the unpaved Gold Butte Road, you end up at the remains of the historic mining town of Gold Butte. This town was established in 1908 to service the many mining operations in the area. The town once boasted of a store, hotel, stable, and post office. Long abandoned, the ghost town of Gold Butte provides glimpses of early pioneer history, ranching and mining. Other areas of Gold Butte contain dozens of examples of Native American cultures rich in history. Petroglyph carvings etched into the rocks indicates that three separate Native American cultures once settled here. Mormon colonizers settled in the Mesquite and Bunkerville area in 1877.

(Fig. 03)
(Fig.04) Virgin River



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LOG of VISITS to GOLD BUTTE

04/25/2017 Trip Notes
:
Jim Herring and I again returned to Gold Butte to check on our assigned sites as stewards of the NSSP. While on this visit we went to the CC Dam at Whitney Pocket, the Black Butte Dam and the 21 Goats petroglyphs.

11/18/2016 Trip Notes: Today, Jim Herring and I returned to Gold Butte to make more detailed reports on the three sites we had been assigned as stewards.

11/13/2016 Trip Notes:  Jim Herring and I met with Michele Betty, Tom Cluff and Betty Conway, Gold Butte regional site coordinators for the Nevada Site Stewardship Program. During this visit they took us to and assigned us three sites to monitor as stewards for the NSSP.

10/22/2015 Trip Notes
:Today I made another visit to the Falling Man Rock art site and the dam at Whitney Pocket with the rock-hounds from the Henderson Senior Center. On this visit we had a rear tire "blowout" that delayed out return home by nearly two hours. Scroll down to the appropriate links below for pictures and information on these two hiking locations.

06/10/2015 Trip Notes: Today Harvey Smith and I attempted to locate Kirk's Grotto and Little Finland. Scroll down this page to the sections titled Little Finland and Kirk's Grotto and click the links found there to see pictures and get a description of visits to these two locations.

03/05/2015 Trip Notes: The objective of today's trip was to re-visit the "Falling Man" petroglyph site. Scroll down this page to the section titled Falling Man Rock Art Site and click the link found there to see pictures and get a description of today's hike.
                  
01/09/2015 Trip Notes: Today Harvey Smith and I drove all the way down to the ghost town of Gold Butte. This journey included brief stops at Whitney Pockets and Devil's Throat along the way. Though there isn't much left to see at the Gold Butte town site, hiking the area and visiting some of its old mines certainly provided an idea of what it must have been like to work and live here more than 100 years ago. Page down and click the provided links to the above mentioned places for pictures and more information. Even though this was our third visit to the Gold Butte Region, it only made us realize that there is still much more to see and explore here.
                     
09/30/2014 Trip NotesSince our first visit here, I have been looking forward to this return visit for some time now. Research of the area since my last visit has indicated that Gold Butte is one of the richest petroglyph sites in the state of Nevada. Today Harvey and I attempted to locate the Khota Circus Petroglyph site and the 21-Goats site. Check below for links to pictures and descriptions on each of these sites. Unfortunately, there is so much to see here, we ran out of time before finding Kirts Grotto, Babe's Butte, or the Lollipops Petroglyphs. 
                 
02/05/2014 Trip Notes:
 After leaving the highway and crossing the Virgin River, you end up turning right onto a narrower, undulating, un-signposted road (the Gold Butte Byway) that passes by several farms (Fig. 03), irrigated fields and orchards (Fig. 04) run along the river, which flows through quite a wide valley. It is then about 15 miles until you reach the area known as Whitney Pockets. This was our first time visiting this area, and even with detailed maps, we took a wrong turn that cost us nearly an hour of travel time. As most of the roads here are unmarked, driving around without maps of the area is suicide. From my study of the area, there are what I consider several sites of interest that are definitely worth exploring. They are: Falling Man Site, Black Butte Dam, Whitney Pockets, Little Finland, Devils Throat, and the Gold Butte Town Site. On today’s visit we only had time to visit three of these locations, and even then, time limitations kept us from exploring some of them in the manner to which we would have liked.

NOTE: In order to keep this page down to a manageable size, where applicable, I have provided links to separate pages with pictures and detailed descriptions. 


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GOLD BUTTE Sites Visited by Title


Whitney Pockets: Located about 20 miles in, at the end of the paved road, this area has several high mounds rising starkly above the flat plains of the Mojave Desert. There is a large parking and camping area here, making it a perfect staging place for dropping ATV’s and beginning a day of exploration. Click here for pictures and to learn more about this area ... Whitney Pocket at Gold Butte.
            


Falling Man Rock Art Site: This site is a fascinating petroglyph gallery that is filled with dozens of petroglyphs. If you look carefully, you may even find some agave roasting pits and a prehistoric campsite. Walking into the Falling Man panel, people might now notice rock art on the crags along the trail. The trail is only about 0.3 miles, but the last bit of the route requires an easy scramble among the rocky sandstone crags. Off the beaten path, the farther you go and the more you look, the more rock art you find. Click here to visit ... Falling Man Site at Gold Butte.
                                                                      
Black Butte Dam: Though you can hike to Black Butte Dam  from the Falling Man Site, the easier and shorter way is to travel south on Black Butte Road to 21 Goats Road. From the end of 21 Goats Road it is only a short hike to the dam. This dam was built by cattlemen years ago. Over the years the reservoir had begun to fill up with sediment, but it still holds back a fair bit of water during a heavy rain. Click here to visit ... Black Butte Dam at Gold Butte.


Sheep Panel or 21 Goats PetroglyphsHeading south from the Falling Man Site on Black Butte Road, you will come to a sign indicating “21 Goats Road” is on the left side of the road (Fig. 04). About 1,500 feet down this road you will come to a barrier preventing any further vehicle travel. This is the trailhead for the 21 Goats Petroglyphs. Less than 200 feet beyond the trailhead you will see a side trail that leads south across the wash. This trail will take you to the Black Butte Dam. Continuing straight up the main road for about .4 miles will take you to the 21 Goats Petroglyph site. Click here to visit ... Sheep Panel at Gold Butte.
                         
Khota Circus PetroglyphsAccess to this trail head is about 5 miles off the pavement and require a four-wheel drive. The Kohta Circus Petroglyph Panel is the largest panel in Clark County, Nevada. It is 75 feet long and 4 feet tall. It also includes a smaller panel on a wall high above the main panel. The Kohta Circus rock writings span a 80-foot flat rock wall that has many different types of drawings that display a variety of possible interpretations. With big-horned sheep, strong-looking men, men with bow and arrow pointing at big-horned sheep, curving lines and even a footprint shape, all suggest some sort of deeper meaning beyond what many see as “art”. As LaVan Martineau states in his book, “The Rocks Begin to Speak,” “… It’s not art, it is information about the things that are important to the people.” Martineau also carefully reminds his readers that reading rock writings that were written by and for the people from cultures not like our own may be difficult – if not impossible. Click here to visit ... Kohta Circus at Gold Butte.

Lollipops Petroglyphs"Lollipops" is the name for a set of petroglyphs that look like, well, Lollipops – a circle with a line drawn out of it. These are difficult to locate, however, There are some other quite unique petroglyphs on the cliffs; a 0.6 mile hike along a sandy trail from the trailhead. To get to the trailhead, run about 0.5 mile up the trail from Mud Wash to the BLM post and cable barricade. The hike to the glyphs is through sand, sometimes fairly deep, but is otherwise quite flat and along the base of some nice, deep red cliffs.

Mud Wash Road Petroglyphs: Not 100 yards further along the Mud Wash road (Fig. 11), down from the Lollipops trailhead turn-off, there is an alcove in the northwest rock wall where massive amounts of either water or wind has worn a protected wall and allowed it to be covered with Desert Varnish. Native Americans then covered it with rock art. These Mud Wash Petroglyphs are probably about the most easily accessible glyphs on the butte and well worth spending some time at and photographing. They can be easily missed coming from this direction unless you are on the lookout for them. On the rock wall to the south, about chest height, is a brass geological survey marker. Click here to read about this location ... Mud Wash Road Petroglyphs at Gold Butte.

Kirk's Grotto: Kurt's Grotto is located about 2 miles off of Backcountry Byway in the middle of the Gold Butte region. From the trailhead, it is down at the bottom of the cliff's before you and through the break in the rocks. The grotto from here, is about a half-mile down the drop-off, between the two sets of cliffs. Once at the bottom, the trail is fairly flat and leads around to the right. There are ancient petroglyphs all along the cliffs in this area. Click here to read about this location ... Kirk's Groto at Gold Butte.
                                  
Little Finland, a.k.a. Devil's Fire: Heading even deeper into the back country, around an hour or so from Whitney Pocket, off the 4x4 Muddy Wash Road is an area known as Little Finland. It is a bizarre red sandstone landscape with intricate sculpted sandstone figures, formations and a spring oozing out of the rock. There are even palm trees which appear to grow right out of the sandstone cliffs. On today’s trip we were unsuccessful in reaching this location, and will have to make a return trip in the future. Click here to read about this location ... Little Findland at Gold Butte.
                               
Devils Throat: Devil's Throat is an interesting, if somewhat disconcerting, geological feature where the roof of a large limestone cave collapsed, leaving a huge sink hole in the middle of the open desert. Click here for more pictures and info about this location ... Devil's Throat at Gold Butte.


Gold Butte Townsite: Nearly 40 miles from the highway, you’ll come to the townsite for the historic mining town of Gold Butte, which was established in 1908. It supported the many mines of the area. Miners here extracted copper, gold, lead, and zinc from Gold Butte (the mountain) for several years. Unfortunately, the veins played out long ago. The Gold Butte Townsite is an interesting place to visit and commune with the mining and ranching history of this wild and rugged region. For the day, it was a full-service town with a post office and everything. Today, the area is littered with evidence of mining, including a deep near-vertical shaft, old equipment, the remains of old mills, and cement foundations, but all of the buildings are gone. Click here to see today's pics ... Gold Butte Town Site at Gold Butte.