Gold Butte National Monument is one of the newest National Monuments in the United States and it's right in our backyard.
The roads through the monument can be rough, impassable when wet, and in some places require a high-clearance vehicle. But in the winter and early spring when the weather is on the cooler side, a drive through Gold Butte provides spectacular views and lots of things to do and see. For that reason, we're featuring it as our Sunday Drive of the week.
Gold Butte National Monument covers about 300,000 acres between the Lake Mead National Recreation Area and Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. The northern border of the monument is only a few miles south of Mesquite and easily accessible from I-15.
While it is a newly designated National Monument, the area has been home to humans for centuries. Petroglyphs can be found in numerous spots throughout the monument and the remains of the mining/ghost town of Gold Butte for which the monument was named can also be explored.
There are numerous examples of spectacular rock art throughout the monument. Newspaper rock, and the FallingMan Petroglyph are two of the more well-known examples.
There's also an enormous sinkhole called the "Devil's Throat," camping, and if you do stay the night, the stargazing opportunities abound.
March, April, and May are also the perfect time to search out some of the rarer finds in Gold Butte - the Las Vegas bearpoppy, and the Mojave Desert Tortoise.
The Las Vegas bearpoppy is a rare plant that blooms in early spring and grows only in gypsum soil. It's related to the endangered dwarf bearclaw poppy that grows only in Washington County.
The northern portion of the monument is also critical habitat for the threatened Mojave desert tortoise. The desert tortoise ( Gopherus agassizii ) is the largest reptile and the only wild land tortoise found in the southwestern United States.
For more information visit https://www.blm.gov/programs/national-conservation-lands/nevada/gold-butte or Google Gold Butte National Monument. There are numerous resources to be found online to plan your trip.
To get there head south on I-15 past Mesquite to Exit 112. Head south a little over three miles and just after your cross the bridge over the Virgin River, take a right onto Gold Butte Road. From there, it's a little over 20 miles on graded and what were once paved roads to Whitney Pocket, a primitive camping area where many visitors stage their exploration of the monument. The road to Whitney Pocket is rough but passable during dry conditions for most vehicles, even without high clearance or four-wheel drive.