Sunday, May 1, 2016

Caliente, NV

Lake Powell - 2011
In 2008 our son went off to college and Vicki and I went on our first vacation by ourselves in many years.  We toured around the southwest and stopped, among other places, at Lake Powell where we took an afternoon boat cruise up the lake.  We thought that was a beautiful and relaxing trip, a couple of hours up to Rainbow Arch and back.  The landscape was dominated by gigantic red rock boulders jutting up out of the water and the water and sky were deep blue and serene.  One of our fellow travelers snapped the photo that graces the top of this blog with the two of us standing on the rear deck.  Now that we are camping within a stone's throw of Lake Mead (if you've got a really good arm), we thought we'd try and repeat that experience.

Lake Mead
Lake Mead was the largest of the lakes formed by damming the Colorado River.  Currently, due to increased water usage and persistent drought, it has become very slightly smaller than Lake Powell.  But it looks quite  a bit smaller because the Hoover Dam backed the water up into several large basins so you can only see a relatively small portion of the lake from any single vantage point.  Our tour boat only went from Boulder Harbor Marina to the dam and back, so we really only saw a small portion of Boulder Basin.  The landscape here is blackish and looks more like huge mud piles than majestic boulders.  And around the entire perimeter of the lake there is currently an approximately 100 foot high white "bathtub ring" caused by the precipitation of calcium salts left behind as the water level has dropped.

Faux Paddlewheeler - the Desert Queen
The boat we rode on was a faux paddle wheeler that was actually powered by a diesel engine - the paddle wheel acting as a drag rather than a source of propulsion.  There was a snack bar and a drinks bar on board.  We had already eaten, but Vicki did try out one of their margaritas.  She seemed to enjoy it, but I must say the fluorescent aqua color rather put me off.  Once we got under way they had a recorded spiel that gave some history of the area, the lake and the Hoover Dam.  It was OK but you can't ask questions of a recording.  The entire trip was less than an hour long but I was ready to get off when it was done.  All and all I was rather disappointed with the whole thing.  It certainly did not compare with our Lake Powell experience.  Ah well...

Vicki wanted a drink to match her dress

Hoover Dam from the boat.  Note bathtub ring on the cliffs.
Duck paddles by the dock
Entry to the Lake Mead Cruise

Old Caliente train station
From Boulder City we headed north up Hwy 93, ending up in Caliente, NV.  We were scheduled to be there for 2 nights and then move on and spend three nights in Great Basin
Nat. Park.  But the weather report was for rain most of that time. We had seen Great Basin under better conditions in 2011 and it was a fair distance out of our way, so we decided to skip Great Basin and spend 5 nights in Caliente to get back on schedule. 

Rainbow Canyon - really?
This is a tiny town that was a base of operations for building the Union Pacific Railroad line in this area.  There is an old train station, a small grocery store, two restaurants, a Family Dollar store and not much else.   Just outside of town is Rainbow Canyon with a Nevada State Park called Kershaw-Ryan.  I have no idea who Kershaw or Ryan were.  The "rainbow" is for the colored canyon walls.  Sure.  Technically I guess tan is a color.  Never seen it in a rainbow though.  The park was tiny.  It had a nice looking camping area but with no hookups.  It had one hiking trail we did not explore.  The road further up the canyon was closed to auto traffic.
One of the town's 2 restaurants
This was the casino area - all of it.

Cathedral Gorge
North of Caliente about 20 miles is Cathedral Gorge State Park, which is somewhat bigger and quite a bit nicer than Kershaw-Ryan.  The campsites (which we did not stay in) have water and electric and the scenery is a little more impressive.  We wandered around for a while enjoying the views and taking pictures.  There are some caves you can hike to and there were actually a few other beleaguered tourists wandering around, but they don't get much business here in April (or any other time so far as I know).  We drove a little further north and explored Pioche, which is an old mining town.  It has a derelict aerial tram they used in the old days to transport ore from the mine to the smelting plant down on the valley floor.  Been to a lot of old mining towns, never saw anything quite like it.  Pioche is not a ghost town, but it's pretty close.  Not much entertainment.

We drove back to Caliente and sat in the intermittent rain until our sentence was up.  We clipped and bathed the schnoodles to kill time and I read and played games.  The precipitation turned our RV park into a veritable ocean of mud, so we only exited the rig when absolutely necessary.  We're thinking maybe next year we'll stay at Jojoba until Mid-May.


  1. April and even May can be rather wet and stormy. But we love the area around Caliente. I loved visiting with the locals and exploring there.

  2. April and even May can be rather wet and stormy. But we love the area around Caliente. I loved visiting with the locals and exploring there.