Historic Nipton, California

Historic Nipton, California!

When traffic gets jammed up on I-15 between Las Vegas and Los Angeles, people inevitably attempt to navigate the two lane side roads that seemingly stretch out forever in the wide open spaces of the Mojave Desert.  Taking the alternate overland route to the final destination in Los Angeles or Las Vegas can mean many extra miles to travel. On the other hand, taking the side roads through the California and Nevada border region of the Mojave Desert a good way to become familiar with small towns that are practically unheard of and experience scenic places that the average tourist will never see.

Nipton, California, definitely fits the description of a tiny little town that is located out in the middle of nowhere in a vast desert expanse.  From the I-15 exit ramp, Niption is only about 10 miles down the road near the Nevada border. From Searchlight, Nevada, the border town of Nipton is only about 20 miles away on State Road 164. Catching Highway 95 to Las Vegas in Searchlight is what many people do only when there is a traffic jam on I-15, but this alternative route through Nipton actually is a pleasant scenic drive.

Some travelers get a kick out of taking the time to stop in one horse towns, just to take a look around and see what the mysterious little dot on the map is all about.  Getting out of the car to stretch the legs in a little town that is located out in the middle of nowhere can be a rewarding experience.  Travelers can read historical markers, take a few interesting snapshots and possibly find a place to grab a good bite to eat.  Striking up a little conversation with the locals is usually easy to do, because most people genuinely like folks that take interest in their community.  Often the conversations provide some valuable insight about the history of the little old town.  

This region of the Southwest has a long history of major gold strikes and the town of Nipton was established as a gold mining camp near the end of the 1800s.  The gold camp was officially registered as the small town of Nipton when a stretch of railroad tracks were laid through the edge of town.  Nipton then served the local open range ranchers as a railroad cattle loading stop and a place to pick up supplies.  Nipton had a fair bit of mercantile commerce back in those days, because this place was the only railroad stop for quite a ways along the line.  

Eventually Nipton turned into a stopover for tourists during the golden age of automobile travel.  A café, campground and a lodge overlooking the vast Mojave Desert expanse catered to people that really wanted to find some peace and quiet in the wide open spaces.  This little town became the residence of a few people that really like the old fashioned desert lifestyle.  Nipton also became a tiny little haven for artists too.

In modern times, Nipton has been famous for eco-tourism.  The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility is one of the worlds largest concentrated solar thermal power plants.  Gigantic mirrors located all over the valley redirect beams of intense sunlight to central towers that collect the heat of the sun to produce steam, which powers generators that produce electricity on high megawatt scale.  One look at the blindingly bright illuminated steam generator towers is enough to leave an onlooker spellbound!  This modern facility looks like it belongs somewhere on a planet in outer space!  When I first saw the Ivanpah Power Plant, I could not help but to think that I was standing in the middle of a 1950’s science fiction movie. The Ivanpah Solar Power Facility does looks really weird out in the middle of the desert, but it is interesting none the less!   

As one can imagine, the Ivanpah Solar Collector Towers produce some very intense heat.  The reflected beams of light were actually are so hot, that birds literally cooked like fried chicken when they flew through the solar field.  This raised concerns with environmentalists and this type of solar steam generating power plant has already been relegated to a design of the past.

Nipton is also famous for being a Powerball Lottery destination in modern times.  Nipton is a very busy Powerball destination, because the lottery is banned in the State Of Nevada.  When a Powerball Jackpot is worth zillions of dollars, it seems like everybody in southern Nevada that has Powerball fever goes on a pilgrimage to California towns that are just across the border. On busy Powerball crusade days, the little shops in Nipton see a little boost in business.  

In recent times, Nipton has been in the news for somewhat of an odd reason, that some folks in conservative states might not even think of. The entire town of Nipton went up for sale a couple years ago and the asking price must have sounded reasonable, because a California Legal Cannabis company purchased Nipton for $4 million dollars.  The little town of Nipton quickly became famous for being the first proposed legal recreational marijuana resort in America. Obviously, for a little tiny town way out in the middle of nowhere, Nipton definitely presented a “high” value!

On a side note, NBC News of southern California contacted me and asked to use the photos of Nipton that I published in a previous article. Apparently, there was no need to stock up Nipton photos in the newsroom till Nipton was proposed to become a legal weed resort. I gave the okay for copyrighted material usage and the Nipton photos carried by NBC brought additional traffic to my old travel blog website. For those who think the Nipton photos in this new article look familiar, well now you know!

The winter and spring seasons are the best time of year to tour the Desert Southwest, but as long as the A/C is working, then anytime is good for a scenic drive in these parts.  Taking the time to tour little towns that are off the beaten path, like Nipton, can be a rewarding experience. All it takes is stopping the car to take the time to look around to become familiar the place. Often an interesting venture in the local scene will start from there!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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