What is Gold Butte National Monument?

The great news is out! We now have our very own national monument right in our backyard—Gold Butte National Monument. That’s bragging rights for everyone in Nevada!

Gold Butte received this designation because it contains things that are of historic and scientific interest. These include thousands of Native American artifacts; historic mining and pioneer artifacts; rare and threatened wildlife such as the Mojave Desert tortoise and desert bighorn sheep; dramatic geologic features like sculpted red sandstone and rock spires; and fossil track-sites dating back 170 to 180 million years. The National Monument designation protects these resources so that people can continue to appreciate and enjoy them for generations to come.

The next obvious question is what does that mean for all of us who currently appreciate and enjoy Gold Butte?

What doesn’t change is access. People can still responsibly enjoy Gold Butte as they always have through 2 and 4-wheeling on designated roads, hiking, camping, and hunting. All existing rights of way are maintained. In fact, the Virgin Valley Water District is pleased with the outcome knowing their interests are protected and they will have the access they always have had.

Also, unchanged is the management team. Our local southern Nevada BLM office will continue to manage the lands as they have been. That means ranger presence to educate people on responsible use and restoration projects to keep Gold Butte in the best possible shape. We are fortunate that we have some great people at BLM who appreciate the land and encourage us to enjoy it.

What does change are the available resources to help people enjoy Gold Butte into the future. As more people have discovered Gold Butte, visitation has increased. Unfortunately, with a lack of resources, there has been an increase in garbage, human waste, vandalism, and scars in the desert from those who chose to shortcut the roads.

As a national monument, Gold Butte has become part of the National Conservation Lands, a unit of the BLM that manages these special landscapes for their outstanding cultural, ecological and scientific values. As part of the National Conservation Lands, Gold Butte will be better positioned to receive additional resources in terms of money and people. Think road signs, bathrooms, campsites, etc. A new management plan will be created to support these resources. This is a multi-year process. In the next couple months, the BLM will start gathering user input through community meetings.

What you can do is to go see it for yourself! You can safely drive any car out the Gold Butte road to the end of the pavement. Enjoy the view of Lake Mead as you round the corner past Little Virgin mountain. Get out and walk around the desert and see the diverse flora and maybe even fauna. Wonder about the geology that caused the mountains to turn on end. Picnic at Whitney Pockets at the end of the road.

If you want to venture further, be prepared. The road past Whitney Pockets is unpaved and a high clearance vehicle is recommended. Have a full tank of gas and bring water and food. Tread lightly when you are there and take all your trash with you when you leave.

Then, share what you’ve learned about Gold Butte National Monument with your friends—what’s changing and what isn’t, and why they should visit too. And, if you have additional questions, feel free to contact Friends of Gold Butte at: info@friendsofgoldbutte.org or visit the website at www.friendsofgoldbutte.org.

Terri Rylander lives in Mesquite Nevada. She spends a lot of time exploring the outdoors but also giving back to the community. She has serves as a volunteer board member for the Friends of Gold Butte and is President of Mesquite Senior Games.