Eldorado Dry Lake ~ Nevada

Eldorado Dry Lake ~ Nevada

Nearly all lowland areas in Nevada were once covered by oceans and vast lakes in ancient times.  As the mountains raised the land and the polar caps grew during ice ages, the vast oceans in this region disappeared.  As the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range grew to a high elevation, fewer Pacific rain clouds were able to pass over the high mountains.  As a result, the American Southwest become extremely arid desert and the ancient giant bodies of water are now flat dry lake beds.

There are several dry lakes in the west that are world famous.  One is the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, which is famous for racing and world speed records.  Groom Lake in Nevada is a very large dry lake that is now famous because of the Area 51 Secret Base. Probably the most famous western dry lake of them all is Death Valley. The salt beds in a Badwater Basin are nearly 9 miles deep, so the ancient lake that once covered Death Valley must have been the size of an ocean long ago.

Of all the dry lakes in the west, only a few are designated as recreation areas. Most of the fragile dry lake bed environments are protected as wilderness habitats, because unique species of plants and animals exist in these places. There are several different governing bodies that decide whether a dry lake bed can be used as a recreation area and the Bureau Of Land Management usually has the final say. Sometimes the designation of such a place can change with no prior notice, so it pays to do some research before driving on a dry lake bed, in order to avoid steep fines. The recreational area status is not always posted on the signage at a dry lake, but the chances are good if you see a bunch of other people having a good time playing at the dry lake, then it is an accepted recreational use area.

There are many lesser known dry lake beds in Nevada where local outdoor enthusiasts congregate on weekends and the Eldorado Dry Lake is one such hotspot near Las Vegas. Eldorado Dry Lake is actually located closer to Boulder City or Hoover Dam and all that one has to do is follow U.S. Highway 95 south a couple miles toward Laughlin for the destination to come into view.

The recreational area status of Eldorado Dry Lake has changed a few times through the years. The status has changed seasonally on occasion too, especially during spring seasons when the Gopher Tortoise come out of hibernation. Pressure from solar energy plants in this same valley also contributes to whether Eldorado Dry Lake will be a recreation area in the future or not. All that a visitor can do is to either do some research or cruise on by to check on recreational activity at Eldorado Dry Lake ahead of time, before making any major plans.  

In the past, I have seen plenty of people at Eldorado Dry Lake on almost any given day of the week.  Land Sailing is a prime activity here, because the dry lake plain is flat, wide and winds regularly gust through this valley.  Radio control model airplane and drone hobbyists have a blast at this place too, because visibility is nearly unlimited. 

Early in the morning, folks that are into falconry can be seen training birds of prey to catch pigeons at Eldorado Dry Lake, because it is easy to follow the tame raptors that fly well beyond their target.  This ancient hunting sport is thriving in the Desert Southwest and there are many falconry clubs.  This sport requires years of dedication to master and the trained bird of prey literally becomes a family member for a lifetime.  There is nothing like watching the birds of prey soaring effortlessly through the cobalt blue skies over an ancient dry lake bed!

Of course some people go to Eldorado Dry Lake for a lazy day of tanning while listening to the radio and they just like to casually watch the goings on.  Parking an RV on the edge of the dry lake and having a picnic is a great way to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, especially on the weekends. Most of the weekender RV enthusiasts tow an all terrain vehicle along, so it is easy to see what the main form of entertainment is at this place. Eldorado Dry Lake has a smooth flat surface that is a few miles wide, so this place is a 4×4 ATV haven! People come out here to do endless donuts while driving on the dry silt bed basin all weekend long!

During the hot summer months, few people hang out at Eldorado Dry Lake, because of the extreme heat and the unpredictable monsoon rain storms.  Rain is fairly predictable during winter months, so it is easier to avoid the perils of the ocean bottom silt when it turns into slick mud.  When it rains, the silt mud can be heavy enough to cause vehicles and even hikers to get stuck like glue, so it is best to avoid this dry lake bed if storm clouds are on the horizon.  

On dry windy days, dust storms can cause all outdoors activities to come to a screeching halt.  Checking the weather report before going to Eldorado Dry Lake is advisable, so the time spent traveling is not wasted. Packing a dust mask and goggles is a good idea for any visitors of this desolate place.

On one end of the dry lake there is a modern outdoor gun range for shooting sports enthusiasts.  Sporting clays and combat style shooting sports are popular these days, especially while the weather is cool. The Railroad Pass Casino and Boulder City are also close by, if food and ice cold drinks are in short supply. Outdoor recreational vehicle stores and rentals of all kinds can be found in the Las Vegas area and Boulder City, which is nice to know too.

As one can see, there are plenty of fun things to do at a dry lake bed way out in the middle of the desert and the Eldorado Dry Lake is what fun in the desert sun is all about! Once again, always check the recreational area status of any dry lake destination before making the trek, in order to avoid any let downs. Other than that, Eldorado Dry Lake is a great place to spin the wheels on an ancient ocean bottom silt bed all day long!


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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