Amargosa Valley, Nevada

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For the valley, see Amargosa Valley.
Amargosa Valley, Nevada
Unincorporated community
Big Dune in Amargosa Valley
Big Dune in Amargosa Valley
Nickname(s): Valley of Faith
Motto: The Jewel of Nye County
Amargosa Valley, Nevada is located in USA
Amargosa Valley, Nevada
Amargosa Valley, Nevada
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 36°38′38″N 116°24′01″W / 36.64389°N 116.40028°W / 36.64389; -116.40028Coordinates: 36°38′38″N 116°24′01″W / 36.64389°N 116.40028°W / 36.64389; -116.40028
Country United States
State Nevada
County Nye
Elevation 2,664 ft (812 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 1,456
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 89020
Area code(s) 775
Coordinates and elevation from United States Geological Survey[1]

Amargosa Valley (formerly Lathrop Wells) is an unincorporated community in Nye County, in the U.S. state of Nevada.[1]


The community is named for the Amargosa River which flows through the valley from its origination in Nevada to its terminus in Death Valley, California. Like most desert rivers, the 200-mile (320 km) long Amargosa flows on the surface only when rare rainfalls flood the desert washes, except for a 20-mile (32 km) segment near Shoshone, California, where the river flows perennially. The name Amargosa Valley is used locally with reference to the actual geographic valley, although for the most part, it is coincident with the Amargosa Desert and is noted as such on many maps.

The populated area of the Amargosa Desert is sandwiched between U.S. 95 to the north, and the California border to the south. Some of the residential streets in the community cross over into California. Much of the Nevada-California border in this area is contiguous with the boundaries of Death Valley National Park. The national park boundary extends into Nevada near Beatty, approximately 30 miles (50 km) northwest of Amargosa Valley. Amargosa Valley is located approximately 88 miles (142 km) northwest of Las Vegas, 35 miles (56 km) northwest of Pahrump, and 24 miles (39 km) north of Death Valley Junction, California.


It is not known when the first humans settled in the Amargosa Desert. Ancient campsites have been found that date back at least 10,000 years, to the end of the last ice age. Recent[when?] examination of archaeological remains in the valley implies more extensive use by aboriginal peoples than had been previously estimated. Pottery and other artifacts have been found that date back from approximately 1000 A.D. to even earlier times. During the nineteenth century, two groups of Native Americans occupied the Amargosa Valley: the Southern Paiute and the Western Shoshone. Both were extremely adept at extracting a living from their marginal environment, subsisting on wild plant foods and supplemented by wild game.

Spanish, Indians, and mountain men first blazed a trail through the Amargosa Valley by 1800.

After the Donner Party's disastrous winter of 1847 in the Sierra Nevada mountains, which happened just before the news of California gold became public, a loose group arrived in October 1849 at the Great Salt Lake. They organized under the guidance of a Captain Hunt to head for the San Bernardino–Los Angeles area. The best alternative to risking the Donner route was to try an end run to the south of the Sierras. The Old Spanish Trail had long been used by Indians, traders, explorers, and mountain men as a convenient but rough route, confined to horseback and pack animals, to California. It ran north from Santa Fe to the Salt Lake area then back south along the edge of the mountains to San Diego, and had been used ever since the days of Cabeza De Vaca's journey through the country.

Leaving the Salt Lake area, they were overtaken by another party led by a guide named Captain Smith. He assured them that a more direct route across the southern deserts existed which was quite passable for wagons and showed them a copy of John C. Fremont's map of his explorations. The map had a large portion, then known as "The Great American Desert", left blank with the word "unexplored" across it. On this Smith's friend Barney Ward had drawn in a trail which showed plenty of graze for the animals, and adequate water for all with a description of the clear cool waters of Owens river and Lake Owens. The route would take them north and west of the then unknown Death Valley. Then, over Walker's Pass into California. Unfortunately, this map showed a fictitious mountain range, north of the Old Spanish Trail to Los Angeles and running roughly east-west across central Nevada, and it may have been this non-existent mountain range that contributed to the emigrant's decision to chance leaving the established trail, under the assumption that water, and grass for the oxen, would be easier to locate along the base of the mountains. In later times, the exploration and mapping of Nevada would show that all of the mountain ranges in central Nevada run north-south, directly across the path the Bennett-Arcane Party took.

The party was led by William L. Manly, Rev. James Brier, and Asahel Bennett, all experienced outdoorsmen and farmers out of the Wisconsin farm country who decided to risk it on the assurances that Smith, with the map, would accompany them. Hunt objected, but agreed to stay on as long as he was needed. Soon after their leaving Salt Lake, Smith's group split off as did their guide Hunt as the country got really rough for wagon passage with the main group of less adventurous emigrants and the map. Smith and Hunt both arrived with their parties in San Bernardino after tough but quick journeys around Death Valley. Manly, Brier, and Bennett led straight on into the Amargosa desert. They were followed by another small group, the Wade family party who stayed back one day. Not having to scout or break trail, the Wades had an easy journey compared to the others.

After leaving Ash Meadows, they drove over the Amargosa range, and down into Death Valley through Furnace Creek Wash where they were quickly bogged down on the valley floor. Many of their oxen had died from lack of forage and they were immobilized, as the few remaining animals were starving and were too weak to pull wagons up and over the mountains to the west and south, even if a pass were found. The Wades, not so bad off, quickly turned south and drove themselves out of the valley and on to safety, probably via Wingate Wash. The Manley, Brier, & Bennett party sent Manley and a companion, John Haney Rogers, south out of the valley for help. The Briers made a heroic climb over the Panamints to safety, while the Bennetts waited huddled around their wagons with water but no food. Four weeks later, after an incredible 500 mile round-trip trek across the Mojave Desert to Rancho San Francisco (approx. 30 miles north of Los Angeles), Manly & Rogers returned with some food supplies and a single mule (three other horses had died on the return trip), and the Bennett and Arcane families walked and rode their remaining oxen out of what they named, "Death Valley".

There appears to have been only one death among the '49er emigrants within Death Valley itself, a Capt. Culverwell. Two weeks before the return of Manly and Rogers, a small group had attempted to walk out to the southwest, and Capt. Culverwell, a middle-aged man, was unable to keep up with the younger, stronger men and had turned back to re-join the Bennett/Arcane party. He never made it, and succumbed to dehydration. His body was found by Manly & Rogers only a couple of miles short of the Bennett camp on their return trek from Rancho San Francisco. Two members of another group of emigrants, the Jayhawkers, who had been traveling with the Bennett/Arcane Party, died along the trail west of the Panamint Range; their names are given in Manly's journal as Mr. Fish and Mr. Isham.

Interestingly, the granddaughter of Chief Winnamucca of the Piutes later wrote that the Indians at the time knew of both the Donner and Death Valley emigrant parties disasters and could easily have saved them. But they considered the whites to be a cruel and a mean people.[citation needed]

While the main motivation of the emigrants was to join the California gold rush, the 1849 rush wasn't nearly as profitable as the later silver rush of the Comstock Lode in Nevada.

Death Valley's true treasure was its borax and its natural beauty.

The first community in the Amargosa Desert was founded circa 1905 as the result of extensive borax mining in the area. In 1907, two railroads started to service the borax, gold, silver, lead and other important mineral mining and processing operations in the surrounding region. The Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad (T and T) ran between Ludlow, California and Gold Center (just south of present-day Beatty), Nevada. The competing Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad line linked Las Vegas to Goldfield, Nevada. As mining yields and economics changed, the railroads became less viable. The Las Vegas and Tonopah line was abandoned in 1918, and the T and T was shut down on June 14, 1940. By mid-1942, all of the T and T's rails and scrap iron had been salvaged by the U.S. Department of War in support of World War II. Only sections of the graded railroad bed remain; the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) constructs and maintains hiking trails along some portions of the old railroad bed in California.

Modern development did not begin in the valley until the early 1950s. Electric power, other than that produced by private generators, was not available until 1963. Until the early 1990s growth in Amargosa Valley was minimal. More recently, intense growth in Las Vegas has led many new residents to settle in Amargosa Valley and nearby Pahrump. Amargosa Valley is served by the 775 area code, and most landline phone numbers in the area utilize the 372 exchange, following the format (775) 372-xxxx. The ZIP code is 89020.

Amargosa Valley is near the controversial Yucca Mountain Repository, a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) facility on federal land, designed for the storage of high-level nuclear waste. President George W. Bush signed House Joint Resolution 87 on July 23, 2002, authorizing the DOE to proceed with construction at Yucca Mountain, although the facility was not expected to accept its first shipments of radioactive materials before 2012.[citation needed] The facility's main entrance will be in Amargosa Valley, approximately 14 miles (23 km) south of the storage tunnels. In 2009 President Barack Obama stated that the repository was no longer being considered as a site for the long-term storage of nuclear waste.[citation needed]

Solar power plant[edit]

Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project was a proposed 500 megawatt (MW) solar power plant in Nye County, Nevada at 36° 34' 31.52"N, -116° 29' 35.52"W.[2] Originally designed as a concentrating solar power (CSP) project, the project was converted to photovoltaic (PV) technology. Solar Millennium went bankrupt and the project stalled.[3] A smaller 65MW PV plant on private land was proposed by First Solar in 2013.[4]


Amargosa Valley is located at 36.58001 North, 116.44487 West at an elevation of 2,640 feet (805 m) above sea level. The landscape is typical of lower to moderate elevations in the Mojave Desert, with flat expanses of sandy soil punctuated by rocky mounds and hills. Predominant indigenous vegetation is White Bursage and Creosote Bush, with some Joshua Trees and Cacti at higher elevations. Numerous non-native plant species have also been introduced.


The principal highways serving Amargosa Valley are U.S. Route 95 which runs north-south (NE-SW as it passes through Amargosa) connecting Las Vegas and Reno, and State Route 373, which runs north-south connecting Amargosa Valley to Death Valley Junction via California State Route 127.


Amargosa Valley is home to recreational attractions, both natural and man-made. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge features approximately 23,000 acres (93 km²) of spring-fed wetlands and is managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The refuge provides habitat for at least 24 plants and animals found nowhere else in the world. Four fish (Devil's Hole Pupfish, Amargosa Pupfish, Warm Springs Pupfish, and Ash Meadows Speckled Dace), one insect (Ash Meadows Naucorid), and one plant (Amargosa Nitewort) are currently listed as endangered species. Ash Meadows NWR can be accessed via SR 373 in Amargosa Valley, SR 160 near Crystal, Nevada or from Bell Vista Road west of Pahrump. Entrances to the refuge are marked with road signs.

Big Dune is a formation of sand dunes, cresting approximately 300 feet (91 m) above surrounding terrain. The dune formation and surrounding land is administered by the BLM and is open to motorized and non-motorized recreational uses. Big Dune is accessible from Valley View Road, approximately 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of U.S. 95.

Alien Cathouse[5] is one of Nevada's legal brothels. It is located near the corner of U.S. 95 and SR 373. Longstreet Hotel, Casino, and RV Resort is a full-service hotel and casino with restaurants and a RV park. The hotel is located on SR 373, near the Nevada–California border. The hotel is popular with visitors to nearby Death Valley National Park.


  1. ^ a b "Amargosa Valley". Geographic Names Information System (GNIS). United States Geological Survey. December 12, 1980. Retrieved November 7, 2009. 
  2. ^ BLM. "Amargosa Farm Road Solar Project (NVN-084359) Project Map" (PDF). 
  3. ^ Carolyn Campbell (October 12, 2011). "Amargosa Farm Road Switches From CSP to PV". GreenTechMedia. 
  4. ^ Amargosa may get solar project, Mark Waite, Pahrump Valley Times, September 13, 2013
  5. ^


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