Historic Searchlight, Nevada

Historic Searchlight, Nevada!

Searchlight is a historic gold mining town that is located on Highway 95 between Las Vegas and Laughlin.  Most historians agree that Searchlight got its name when George Frederick Colton set off to find gold in this region back in the late 1800s. Colton stated that he would bring a searchlight to find gold in this desolate section of the Mojave Desert.  Colton’s remark stuck, because his gold strike turned out to be major gold bearing claim and “Searchlight” was a fitting name!  

Back in the days of the Colton gold strike, Searchlight was actually a larger town than Las Vegas. Remnants of the original Searchlight gold rush town can still be seen on the hillsides.  The old original mine-head framework is marked by white chalk letters on the embankment that spell out “Colton 1897.”  Some of the mining operations structures are still intact in the same area.  

The population of Searchlight declined around 1917 after the gold mine played out.  Searchlight then turned into a ranching community. The Colorado River is only a few miles away from Searchlight, but way back then, this river was pretty much just a local attraction.  After the Hoover Dam and Davis Dam were built, Lake Mead and Lake Mojave became major recreational areas.  Casino gaming entered the picture at about the same time too. Searchlight soon became a convenient place for Californians to gamble across the border and the access to Cottonwood Cove on Lake Mohave became a popular boating destination.  

Searchlight has a small town feel and the people there are genuinely friendly.  Even though it is a small town, a fairly high percentage of famous people called Searchlight home.  Senator Harry Reid was raised in Searchlight and has written many books about his home town.  Fans of old western movies know that Rex Bell was a real real rancher in Searchlight long before he starred in a series of Hollywood western movies.  Multiple Oscar Award winner Edith Head also came from Searchlight.  William Harrell Nellis is from Searchlight and he is the flyer that Nellis Air Force Base is named after.  Considering that this is a small ranching town out in a remote area of the Mojave Desert, Searchlight sure has more than a fair share of a claim to fame!

The scenery from Las Vegas to Searchlight and onward to Laughlin or the California border is nothing but pure wide open spaces.  The Eldorado Valley Dry Lake is about halfway to the destination from Las Vegas and this recreation area is a fun place to be on weekends.  Historic Eldorado Canyon is also at about the halfway point.  A major high tech solar energy complex can be seen along the highway across the border in Nipton, California. Nipton is where thousands of people from southern Nevada go to play the lottery, so this adds a fair amount traffic passing through Searchlight. 

The Desert Southwest is loaded with historic sites to see!  There are many living ghost towns and small communities that survived well after the mines played out.  Searchlight in a sense is a living ghost town that serves the ranching community as well as tourists looking for things to do along the Colorado River. Sometimes the local casino changes name in Searchlight, but other than that, this small town is the same as it has always been. Timeless is the word and Searchlight keeps shining on for those who pass through!


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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