The Virgin River ~ Nevada
During my first visit I stopped by the Virgin River just to take a few pictures on the way to Whitney Pockets, which is in the north end of what was called the Lake Mead National Recreation Area back then. The Virgin River is one of many desert rivers that feed Lake Mead and the headwaters can be found up north across the border in Utah near Zion National Park. The Nevada section of this river begins in the majestic Virgin River Canyon near the border and it ends where it drains into the Lake Mead basin. This is only a short section of river, but it truly is a sight to see in this vast desert wasteland!
The Virgin River is usually a small creek during dry seasons, but when a good winter snow melt on the mountains or a summer season monsoon rainstorm occurs, the river can swell to enormous proportions. The Virgin River is an old river as the geological evidence in the local terrain suggests. Distant canyons and buttes have been carved by this river in the ancient past and in some places the river must have been a few miles wide.
The Virgin River section that is most often used as a recreation area is located on Riverside Drive just south of Mesquite, Nevada. There are camping and hiking options in this area along with opportunities to do some canoeing and fishing. Seasonal canoe rentals and horseback rides are sometimes available near the Virgin River along Riverside Drive. There are also local farm stands that offer fresh produce, wildflower honey and jerky in this area, because the prized agricultural land is in the river basin.
On the east side of the Virgin River, Riverside Drive leads to New Gold Butte Road, which runs south to a vast wilderness area on the east side of Lake Mead, which is now called Gold Butte National Monument. Both Whitney Pockets and the historic Gold Butte ghost town can be found by following this long dirt road. There are some spectacular views of the Virgin River and the surrounding colorful sandstone bluffs along the first section of New Gold Butte Road, so be sure to have a look!
It is well worth the trip from Las Vegas to see the Virgin River and Whitney Pockets and both of these destinations can be experienced in one day. For those who prefer a weekend excursion, campsites can be found near the Whitney Pockets rock outcrop area. For those who have a good camera, the scenic areas along the Virgin River are a photographers paradise and there are some old antique signs to take pictures of too. The Virgin River is the place to go if you want to experience some green scenery in this desolate desert expanse!