Walking Box Ranch - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 04/27/2017

New Entrance Sign

(Fig. 01)

MAP-Wallking Box Ranch2
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Directions: From the Stratosphere Casino, head northeast on Las Vegas Blvd about 3 miles and bear right to merge onto US-515/93/95 south towards Boulder City. Follow US-93/95 for 17 miles and then merge onto US-95 South (Veterans Memorial Hwy) toward Searchlight/Laughlin/Needles. When you reach Searchlight, about 36 miles, turn right, west onto NV-164 (a.k.a. Joshua Tree Highway and Nipton Rd) towards Nipton California. About 6 miles south of Searchlight, turn left onto Walking Box Ranch Road. On a recent visit I noticed that the Red Rock-Sloan Field Office and The Nature Conservancy has installed a new permanent sign at the property road entrance (New Sign above). Then go about 0.75 miles to the ranch property (Fig. 03).

Walking Box Ranch History: The 160-acre ranch Walking Box Ranch was the desert home of Hollywood stars Clara Bow and Rex Bell in the 1930s and 40s. In 1931, Hollywood silent film stars Clara Bow (aka "The It Girl") and Rex Bell bought a 400,000 acre cattle ranch in the desert located about 6 miles west of Searchlight, Nevada. The land was originally part of the massive Rock Springs Land & Cattle Company. They built the Walking Box Ranch for a place to get away from it all and relax. The entrance to the Walking Box Ranch (Fig. 01) is from the graded Walking Box Ranch Road, about 0.75 miles south of Highway 164. 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. At one time there was more than 1,800 head of cattle on the ranch. The facilities include a two-story home, barn, caretaker’s residence, guesthouse, swimming pool, tennis court, cactus garden and a covered patio with a built-in barbecue. Still in relatively good shape, the main building is a 5,000 square-foot, two-story Spanish Colonial Revival ranch house. On the first floor is a grand living room featuring a dramatic stone fireplace that looks like it was hewn out of a cliff; upstairs, Rex and Clara’s bedroom overlooks seemingly endless waves of pristine Joshua forest. Over the years, Rex and Clara entertained many notable Hollywood figures, including Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Errol Flynn, and Lionel Barrymore. Bow and Bell lived here, raising two boys in the ranch house they built, until the mid-1940's 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 property continued as an operating cattle ranch under Bell and the subsequent ownership of Karl Weikel through the 1980's until it was sold to Viceroy Gold Corporation in 1990. It was markedly upgraded in the 1990's by the Viceroy Gold Corporation for a field office and executive retreat. They 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. The ranch area itself covered 160 acres at the time it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on January 30, 2009. It includes four primary buildings (Fig. 02) and is owned by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Public Lands Institute, in a joint management agreement with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), is developing Walking Box Ranch as an academic site for desert studies and an interpretive center. A Save America’s Treasures grant enabled the consortium client to hire a team led by ARG (Architectural Resources Group) to produce a Master Plan, a Preservation Plan, and a Cultural Landscape Assessment.  UNLV currently addresses security issues for the property through the presence of the caretaker and two Metro Officers who reside on the property in two recreational vehicles. The BLM hopes to have all the restoration activities of thr historic proprtiy completed by thr end od 2015. In addition to the gradual restoration of the original ranch house, the stated vision is to create a museum on the site. (See the “Side Note on Clara Bow” at the bottom of the page)                     

(Fig. 03)
04/27/2017 Trip Notes Today Bob Croke, Blake Smith, Jim Herring and myself had a guided tour of the Walking Box Ranch that showcased some of the recently finished renovations. Much of the work performed, parking lot, sidewalks and a visitor center, was to make the property more accessible to the public. Other renovations included needed preservation of the site's buildings and the main house. Any new pictures and information from this tour was added to the page (below) of my previous (06/30/2015) tour.

06/30/2015 Trip Notes:  The purpose for today's visit was for a special tour inside the property and its main residence by the BLM that was set up by the Henderson Heritage Parks' Senior Facility rock-hound trip organizer, Linda Groft. Having found something online last year concerning possible tours of the property, Linda has been working for nearly a year trying to get this set up. I think I can speak for everyone when I say, "that it was a great tour that lasted for nearly three hours." Click this link for pictures and information regarding my tours of the ranch ... Walking Box Ranch Site Tours.

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09/25/2014 Trip Notes: Even though I have driven by here on two previous occasions, I never made it a point to spend any time taking in the ranch property. On today’s visit, starting with the main gate, several of us walked the rugged, wooden and barbed wire fence line (Fig. 04) that surrounds the entire property (the yellow line in Fig. 02). All of the pictures from today's visit (figures 04 thru 14) were taken from outside the property. Just to the right of the main entrance gate (Fig. 01), is the original barn and ice house (Figs. 05 & 14). Looking straight back, towards the rear of the property is the main ranch house (Fig. 06). Unfortunately, because it is surrounded by Joshua trees, and because the property is not open to the public, you can’t get close enough to capture any really good pictures. As we walked around the property, views from the east (Fig. 07) and south sides (Fig. 08), revealed just how large the house really is. As we rounded the northeast corner of the property (see Fig. 02), we walked by what was once the garage (Fig. 09). At the rear of the properly, a few hundred feet from the main house is the pump house and water holding tank (Fig. 10) that currently supplies the water to the property. On the northwest corner of the property, adjacent to the barn (Fig. 14) are several cattle holding corrals (Fig. 11), one of which leads to a steel holding chute that was used for dehorning and branding (Figs. 12 & 13). I’m still waiting for the day when the property will be opened to the public and we get a chance to tour the inside of the ranch house.
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Side Note on Clara Bow: Clara Bow was the famed "IT Girl" of the Hollywood silent film era and leading sex symbol of the “roaring 20’s”. She was America’s premier silent film actress. Even today, critics and historians talk about her of her plainspoken, tomboyish sex appeal like an otherworldly force on the screen. At the height of her productivity, she was staring in dozens of exploitative films. Suffering from chronic insomnia and a grueling schedule, it's no wonder she began to succumb to a case of burnout. So in 1931 she closed her home in Beverly Hills and moved to a remote, 400,000 acre cattle ranch, with her husband-to-be, silent film actor Rex Bell. After marrying Rex, they built the Walking Box Ranch, where they lived for nearly 15 years, raising two sons and hosting frequent parties at the ranch. When Rex drove their cattle overland to Nipton for shipment by rail to the California 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 (Fig. 15) for her stays. Today Room #3 is called the Clara Bow Room. Because 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. Bow was plagued with insomnia. Bell built her a soundproof room at the ranch. But emotional disturbances and sleep deprivation prompted her to leave Nevada, which was lacking proper health facilities, and seek seclusion in Southern California where she visited a sanitarium in Culver City, trying to conquer a nervous condition developed from the insomnia. Bell and Bow separated in the mid-1940's and Bell went on to serve as Nevada's lieutenant governor for seven years. She remained married to Bell until his death from a heart attack in 1962, a couple of months after he filed his candidacy for Nevada governor. After years of health issues she became socially withdrawn and was eventually diagnosed with schizophrenia. Bow spent her last years in Culver City, Los Angeles under the constant care of a nurse, living off an estate worth about $500,000 at the time of her death. She died of a heart attack on September 27, 1965 at the age of 60.
(Fig. 15)
10/03/2012 Trip Notes:  After turning onto Walking Box Ranch Road from Nipton Road, we drove past the site of the Walking Box Ranch and continued for approximately 7.5 miles before stopping at one of at least three aging holding corrals that we passed along the way. Follow this link to the page with pictures and information on this drive down Walking Box Ranch Road ... Walking Box Ranch Road - 10/03/2012 Trip Notes.