Whitney Pocket and Arizona Road

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This page last updated on 11/22/2019

(Fig. 01)
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. 01) where it passes through a break in the mountains. The picture in (Fig. 01) was taken directly in front of the crevasse leading to the Whitney Pocket Dam.

Area 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. 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). However, today, after years of relative drought, there is virtually no signs of water anywhere. The area is best know for the Whitney Pocket Dam. Between 1933 to 1942, the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) built a concrete dam on the north side of the road at a crevasse in the sandstone in an attempt to catch water. There is a pipe with a water flow turn on/off that leads underground from the base of the dam to a livestock watering trough near the mouth of the crevasse. For pictures of this area visit the page ... Whitney Pocket at Gold Butte.

A nearby cave, in a Aztec sandstone monolith opposite the dam, was walled in by the CCC (Fig. 03). 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 contains CCC artifacts, along with native petroglyphs, though I have yet to find any evidence of their civilization. The dirt road this is known by several names: Whitney Pass Road A.K.A. Arizona Road and Ney Ranch Road. See the map in (Fig. 02) below. This road is about six miles from the CCC Store Room to the Arizona border.

(Fig. 02)
11/14/2019 Trip Notes: Today Jim Herring and Bob Croke and I decided to visit Gold Butte Whitney Pocket and travel the length of Arizona Road, and a couple of its several side roads, into the state of Arizona. As we had all been here before, we decided not to climb up to the dam. We concentrated on exploring the area of the CCC storage room opposite the dam (Fig. 03) and the Dynamite Bunker (Fig. 07). They were both built by the CCC, the same people who built the dam. During the Great Depression the federal government put men to work so they could send money home to feed their families. The right half of the wall has stood since the 1930s, but the left half already has been torn down by thoughtless campers who don't know how to respect these ancient remains. The pictures in figures 04, 05 and 06, show the detail of the remaining wall (Fig. 04), a view of the vent hole from inside the room (Fig. 05), and a large cave-like area in the sandstone directly above the storage room (Fig. 06). 

To the left, out on the far edge of the sandstone crag, a natural hole in the sandstone was modified and fitted with a heavy metal door. It is said that this was used as a dynamite bunker. All that remains is the hole, a bit of concrete (Fig. 07), and part of the door hinge (Fig. 08). In all of our searching around the outcrops here none of us found any petroglyphs, even though I have seen pictures of petroglyphs on the Internet. (visit notes continued below)

(Fig. 03)

(Fig. 04) Click picture to enlarge
(Fig. 05) Click picture to enlarge
(Fig. 06) Click picture to enlarge

(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
Visit Notes Continued: After exploring this area we started our drive east on Whitney Pass Road. Whitney Pass Road, also called Arizona Road and Ney Ranch Road, runs from Whitney Pocket east over the mountains and down into Arizona, climbing some 2,000 feet in 4.5 miles to Whitney Pass. Refer to the map in (Fig. 02). Along the way, the road passes through vegetative elevation zones where different species of desert plants grow. Near the middle of Whitney Pass Road, the vegetation is diverse. From the dry desert area at Whitney Pocket, the road ascends through several vegetation communities (zones of increasing precipitation and changing vegetation) to Whitney Pass at about 5,000 feet in the Pinon-Juniper Woodland Zone. The Whitney Pass area is vegetated with a thick and diverse assemblage of shrubs, buckhorn cholla, and pinyon pine. In 2006 230 acres burned, killing many trees. Referring to the map in (Fig. 02) you can see the several roads branch off this road. The first road we drove up was Virgin Peak Road. A few miles up Virgin Peak Road the valley narrows and eventually arrives at the Whitney Coral (Figs 09 thru 12). Arriving at an the old corral there is a large water tank to the rear of the site (Figs. 13 & 14). If you click on the picture in (Fig. 13) you can see Bob Croke who climbed up the small ridge behind the tank. There were two pipes that led into the top of the tank to fill it from the natural springs above. There was a spicket (Fig. 14) at the base of the tank that controlled the water to the coral found below. To the right of the tank there was an old vehicle (Figs. 15 thru 18). A plaque on the door jam was a plate that indicated that the truck was a GMC (Fig. 17). This area is an interesting place and we spent nearly an hour exploring it and taking pictures. The road was a bit rocky in places, but it generally was a good road. From here we backtracked to the Arizona Road. The next road we drove up was Cabin Spring Road off to the left. Again refer to the map. When we got to the end of this short road which climbed up several hundred feet, there was no cabin, however there was a great view looking all the way back to lake mead (Fig. 19). You can see lake mead better in the center of (Fig. 19A). (Visit notes continue below)

(Fig. 09)
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(Fig. 13) Click picture to enlarge
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(Fig. 15)

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(Fig. 19)
(Fig. 19A)
Visit Notes Continued: Just a few miles after taking a left at the fork, we ended up driving into Arizona (Fig. 20). If we followed this road for more than 25 miles we could have ended up in Mesquite, but we would have had to go through the mountains and without the aid of any maps to guide us, we decided not to risk it and turned around after driving in the desert for 5-6 miles. On the way back we took a short road that led us to an old abandoned house, that at the time it was built, was quite extensive (Fig. 21). The picture in (Fig. 22) shows the front entryway; (Fig.23) is looking at the house from the rear; (Fig. 24) is of the coral on the right side of the property. It was on a large property surrounded by nice views like in (Fig. 25). This picture is the view they they would have had looking out their front window. Obviously they had a couple of natural springs and had build a large pool for holding water. Even though it was still receiving a "trickle" of water today, it was mostly dried up (Fig. 26). The pictures in (Figs. 27 & 28) show an underground room to the right rear of the house that good have been used as a storage room for keeping things cool. (Fig. 29) is at the rear of the property. This large "balancing" rock could be seen as we drove through the desert areas surrounding the property. As we approached the house, Jim captured a picture of a woodpecker working on the nearly dead tree in front of the house (Fig. 30). After we got back to Whitney pockets we had lunch in one of the camping areas. While eating lunch we noticed a Mojave Green Rattlesnake just a few feet from where we were eating (Fig. 31). The rocks containing some shell fossils in (Figs. 32 & 33) were behind the water tank at the Whitney Coral. All in all we found it to be an interesting day.

(Fig. 20)
(Fig. 21)

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(Fig. 25)

(Fig. 26) Click picture to enlarge
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(Fig. 29)  Click picture to enlarge
(Fig. 30) Click picture to enlarge
(Fig. 31) Click picture to enlarge

(Fig. 32)
(Fig. 33)

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