Slots and Vegas: It’s Not What You May Think

Written by Sally White

Lowell-Wash-roadJust hearing the word “Vegas” brings to mind glitzy shows, vibrant nightlife, and wall-to-wall slot machines, with their spinning reels, flashing lights, clanging noises, and clinking coins. But what most people don’t realize is that Las Vegas is host to another kind of slot, one that offers majesty and challenge and one that always leaves adventurers departing as winners.

Nothing evokes mystery like a narrow slot canyon with unexpected grandeur around every bend, and Lovell Wash leads to one of the most interesting slot canyons in the Southwest. The adventure requires a hike up the narrows of a wash that is a tributary to the larger Callville Wash in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The majority of the hike is open until suddenly the canyon walls narrow to reveal the amazing slot canyon.

As difficult as it is to imagine, the Las Vegas Valley was once a series of shallow oceans and lakes. When the lakes dried up, huge deposits of colemanite, a borate mineral, remained. With the area’s rich mineral lode, the Anniversary Mine was home to a bustling enterprise, pumping out 200,000 tons of borate before it closed in 1928 due to the high costs of transportation and competition from mines in California; however, many remnants of the old mining facility can still be seen today. More than 7,000 feet of tunnels were dug in the area, so hikers are urged to use caution and refrain from exploring the numerous, and dangerous, mineshafts.

Lovell Wash and the Anniversary Mine are an approximately 40-mile drive from Las Vegas. The final 2 miles require a four-wheel drive vehicle. A 2-mile hike to the top of the wash offers views of several old mine tunnels.

Drive to Lake Mead, then drive north on Northshore Road for about 16 miles to the 16 Mile (Anniversary) Trailhead. From the trailhead, one can walk or drive farther out Anniversary Mine Road.

The hike begins by walking on a dirt road through Callville Wash. The trail then leaves the wash and winds to the northwest on four-wheel drive roads until it enters Lovell Wash. Gypsum deposits and fading remnants of the old mines dot the surrounding landscape. As one nears the slot canyon, multicolored canyon walls can be seen in every direction. The final half mile of the hike leads one through a tight corridor of rock walls that taper to as little as 5 feet across with walls up to 100 feet in height.

Lowell Wash slot canyonThis easy to moderate hike is popular with rock hounds, hikers, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. So the next time someone mentions slots don’t jump to the conclusion that they mean a trip to the casino. Instead, pack a lunch, slather on the sunscreen, and head out to Lovell Wash and be prepared to enjoy a different kind of glitz and experience visual wonders that can be seen only in the desert Southwest.

Caution: As with all desert adventures, check the weather for flash floods before attempting this outing. This hike is not recommended during the summer months. Check GPS coordinates and let someone know your hiking route before heading out.



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