Historic Beatty, Nevada!

Historic Beatty, Nevada!

Beatty Nevada is a small town that has a whole lot of old west history.  Beatty and the Rhyolite Ghost Town are within a few miles of each other.  Gold mining operations are still active near Rhyolite, so this industry is part of Beatty’s economy in this modern age.  Because rest stops, gas stations and food are a little bit sparse out in this vast desert region, Beatty is also like a modern day oasis for tourists traveling on Highway 95 or for adventurers going to Death Valley National Park. The road from Beatty to Death Valley ends inside the National Park at a point between Mesquite Dunes and Scotty’s Castle, so this makes this old west town a good choice for a base camp.

Beatty is located on Highway 95 just north of the Nye County line and the old Nevada Nuclear Test Site.  There are a couple of mountain passes that lead to Death Valley near Beatty and one is the Main Street in town. The second road to Death Valley is a few miles north of Beatty and this road runs down Grapevine Canyon to Scotty’s Castle. There was a major flash flood disaster a few years ago and the road to Scotty’s Castle was washed away. If going to the historic Scotty’s Castle is in the travel itinerary, it may be best to check the road conditions before setting sail.

Just west of Rhyolite, there also is a dirt Jeep trail option for getting to Death Valley. The Titus Canyon dirt road is the old short cut to Death Valley and Scotty’s Castle.  This scenic Jeep trail runs through some picturesque hidden canyons and the springtime wildflower blooms in this area are spectacular.  Only 4×4 vehicles are suggested for Titus Canyon Road, so regular passenger cars cannot do the trip.  Large motor homes will not clear the narrow passes along the Titus Canyon Jeep Trail, so the land yacht cruisers will have to stick to the paved roads going to Death Valley too.

When passing through Beatty, it is all too easy to assume that this is just a sleepy little town way out in the middle of the desert and this is only partially correct. The extreme heat of summer in this region does have a way of making everybody take a siesta or head for the shade in the daytime, so the streets can look empty around noon. On the weekends, Beatty is bustling with Death Valley tourists, biker rallies, car club cruisers and travelers on Highway 95 going to Reno or Las Vegas. The old historic saloons definitely are the place to be on weekends and the memorabilia hanging on the walls can keep the interest peeked for hours.

There are a few restaurants and old historic saloons in Beatty that are well worth checking out! Most of the mainstream restaurants are located on Highway 95 through town, while the old west saloons can be found in the historic downtown area. Dining in Beatty is like stepping back into the golden age of good old fashioned Route 66 hospitality, when dining out presented a good value.

A great way to learn about the history of this region is to visit the Beatty Museum.  The museum guides provide plenty of information that cannot be found in history books.  The Beatty Museum is small, but it is loaded with plenty of exhibits.  The Beatty gold rush era exhibits are interesting and the information that the museum guides provide will provide insight when visiting the Rhyolite Ghost Town.  

There are many old historic buildings in the Main Street area of Beatty.  Depending on the period of history, the old Main Street buildings downtown could had any number of business themes, but most had origins in the old Rhyolite gold rush era. Like most gold rush towns, illicit business fronts were common, even on Main Street and now the the history of the shady businesses of the past are mentioned on historic markers throughout downtown. Viewing a photo history of the Main Street area in Beatty will show the same old buildings with many business themes that changed from one decade to the next and this is an interesting study. 

An old historic site that most tourists do not know about can be found directly behind the Happy Burro Saloon downtown. Behind the saloon is one of the few remaining underground churches in the entire Southwest. To an outsider, this building looks like a church that is too short to stand up in because when standing next to the church the eyes are higher than the rooftop level. The lower half of the building is actually underground, just like a cellar. This old church has been around since long before the age of air conditioning.  In order to keep the congregation cool this close to Death Valley, the church was constructed so it was partially buried in the ground, so the cool moist ground temperature provided some relief from the extreme heat. The architectural design of the Beatty Underground Church is interesting to see!  

One thing that will always be retained in Beatty is the old wild west history.  Wild west reenactments take place downtown by the saloons during busy weekends. The staged old west outlaw gunfight reenactment shows are good entertainment for visitors of all ages and some of the audience participants may even end up getting locked up in jail!

Central and northern Nevada are prime time regions for antique and collectible hunting. There are antique shops and plenty of local artisan shops to poke around in when visiting Beatty.  Roadside farm stands and jerky shops can also be found in Beatty, which creates an opportunity to stock up on some hard to find specialty items. Miguel’s Country Market is located on Highway 95 in Beatty and this is where some of the best Desert Wildflower Honey can be found. For those who have never experienced Wild Desert Flower Honey, it is one of the darkest and richest tasting honeys of them all.  Miguels has a wide variety of beef, elk, venison and bison jerky too.

It is always fun to take pictures of the odd things that can be found in the desert, like brothel signs, abandoned airplanes, wild burros, desert flowers and dust devils. In Nye County, Nevada, the world’s oldest profession is legal in the state licensed brothels and even though these places are located out in the desert, they do get a steady flow of customers. Some of the local brothels have become famous on television in recent years and most of these businesses do have gift shops. A souvenir Nevada brothel hat or t-shirt is always a good conversation starter back home!

While cruising around the outskirts of Beatty, I spotted a wild burro and a desert datura plant in bloom, so I stopped to take a few pictures.  While photographing the flowers, I turned to see a small puff of dust kick up on an open valley plain.  I am pretty good at knowing when the conditions are just right for a dust devil to start, so I kept the camera glued on the scene.  Sure enough, within a few seconds a good size dust devil took shape and headed toward some farm buildings in the distance.  The series of photos showing a developing dust devil can be seen in the slideshow above.

For those who have never been out west, a Dust Devil is a dry hot air tornado that does very little damage.  About all that happens is anything in its path gets covered with dust.  Dust Devils can appear in numbers and it is not uncommon to see more than ten at one time in a single desert valley. Dust Devils also did not get their name for no reason at all and Dust Devils can be a pain in the neck when on foot or on horseback in the desert.  These dusty twisters seem to have a spirit of their own and they always seem to swoop down on somebody that is standing in the middle of an open expanse with pinpoint accuracy, then they refuse to leave. Trying to run away from a dust devil is useless, because they seem to just keep on homing in, no matter which direction the victim runs.  All that one can do when captured by a Dust Devil is to put the handkerchief over the nose and mouth, squint the eyes, then patiently wait for the dusty twister to get its fill of devilish entertainment, before it moves on.

As one can see, the historic town of Beatty is a cozy spot for weekend warriors and it is a good choice for a Death Valley adventure base camp. Beatty still has that old west small town feel and this is a cozy little spot to take a break from the road. All in all, the little town of Beatty has a lot going on, so it is well worth checking out when passing 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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