The Gold Butte Backcountry byway beings at the turn off to Gold Butte Road, turning off Riverside Road. You then travel 21 miles to Whitney Pockets. For more information about Whitney Pockets and driving directions read Backcountry Rambler Whitney Pockets.
Leaving Whitney Pockets heading south, you will drive roughly 7.5 miles down a dirt road, which gets occasional maintenance (maybe once a year). After traveling down this road, you will see the turn off to Devils Throat on the right (west). For more information about Devils Throat read Backcountry Rambler Devils Throat.
Once you leave Devils Throat you will be traveling west down Mud Wash. This piece of the backcountry byway sees no maintenance and is in a wash, so be aware for washouts and rocks. This is where the high clearance vehicle is a must. Heading west from Devils Throat down Mud Wash, continue traveling approximately 3.5 miles. Here you will reach the Mud Wash petroglyphs. They are found in the red sandstone cliffs, just after you come through the cut in Mud Wash. For more information about the Mud Wash Petroglyphs read Backcountry Rambler Mud Wash Petroglyphs.
Continuing down Mud Wash, just past the petroglyphs you will see an old Cattle Corral. When my grandfather ran cows on the Gold Butte allotment this was one of the gathering points in the spring and fall. Currently the road to Red Rock Springs or the Palm Trees is closed by the BLM so you cannot drive to it. This area is also referred to as Lone Palm, Devils Fire, Little Finland or just a part of Red Bluff Springs. If you are going to visit this area the easiest way now, is to park near the corral and hike north, to visit the palm trees and sandstone formations. It is about a mile from the corral all the way to the end of the ridge where the palm trees grown from the seeps.
After passing the corral it is about another 2 miles down to the end of Mud Wash. This is not really the end of the wash or road but it is where the byway turn. Back in the mining days this was the main road for the wagons transporting ore from Grand Gulch, Savanic and other mines to St. Thomas to load on the train. As you pull up out of Mud Wash and start heading west you will see another set of red sandstone hills. Hidden within the slot canyons of these red hills are the writing or petroglyphs of the areas earliest inhabitants. This area is known as KeyholeCanyon. For more information about Keyhole Canyon read Backcountry Rambler Keyhole Canyon.
As you continue west up Gold Butte wash you will find yourself encased between Lime Ridge and Tramp Ridge. Within Tramp Ridge are the remnants of a once active mining district. The Tramp Mine, Lincoln Mine and the Black Jack Mine are the three main mines that operated on the Tramp Ridge. Access to most of these historic mines, an American icon left as a legacy of the tenacity of our pioneer ancestors, is limited. However they still stand as a reminder of those early pioneers who helped settle this country. The Gold Butte Mining District is the name sake for which the Gold Butte backcountry Byway is named. The cultural and historic significance that mining played in this country is still undervalued if not lost in today’s bureaucracy.
As you continue traveling down the Gold Butte backcountry Byway you will most likely see quite a bit of wildlife including quail, rabbits, coyotes, and other small bird and game. This is sustained impart to the guzzlers and small springs that are scattered within the Gold Butte backcountry. Hunting and other outdoor recreational opportunities are abundant in Gold Butte.
After traveling between the Lime and Tramp Ridges, you will pull out of the canyon and arrive at the historic town site of Gold Butte. When Grandpa was running cattle through this country it was known as headquarters. This is the heart of the Gold Butte backcountry. There is not much left that is tangible of the old Gold Butte town site. There are a few foundations scattered about, some rusting equipment and mine shafts strewn about the hills. There is also some corrals, water troughs and an old landing strip that still remain as a reminder of the activities that embodied the American west.
The biggest attraction is the cemetery which contain the graves of Art Coleman (1876-1958) and William Garrett (1880 – 1691), Gold Buttes most well-known characters. William Garrett was a cowboy and a cousin to the alleged lawmen who shot Billy-The-Kid. Art Coleman was a miner and bootlegger. For more information about the last of the good ol’ boys of Gold Butte visit Gold Butte History: http://www.goldbuttehistory.blogspot.com/2010/10/grand-old-man-of-gold-butte-art-coleman.html
From the Gold Butte town site back to Devils Throat it is about 13 miles. The complete loop starting at Devils Throat and connecting back into Devils Throat is 32 miles. The full loop starting at Whitney Pockets and ending back at Whitney Pockets is just under 50 miles on a rough desert road. Don’t embark upon this trip unprepared or faint of heart. However it’s worth the time and effort to see this beautiful desert landscape.
If you are going to take on this backcountry rambling a high clearance vehicle is a must. Once you leave Devils Throat there is no maintenance on the roads. Sections can be washed out and large rocks will have to be navigated around or over. Four-wheel drive is highly recommended. The section that goes down Mud Wash has some sandy sections where a four-wheel drive will come in handy. If by chance you find yourself traveling this road during a cloudburst the water will come quick and fast and the four-wheel drive will be a necessity.
When out in the desert and backcountry it’s better to be over prepared than under prepared. Count on no cell service while visiting this backcountry. Four-wheelers or ATV’s are a great way to travel this country, just be responsible and stay on designated trails. It only takes a few to ruin it for the rest.
Due to the remote nature of this area and the sheer number of site and natural beauty packed within this area, I recommend camping at least one night. All of the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway is within BLM administered lands. The two best spots to camp are going to be at Whitney Pockets or at the Gold Butte town site. These both serve as great basecamps to explore the Gold Butte country. I suggest if the town site is as far as you are going to venture into Gold Butte and you are staying mainly on the Gold Butte Back Country Byway then Whitney Pockets is going to be your best spot. Also the road down to the town site of Gold Butte can be rough when towing a trailer. However if you are going to explore south of the Gold Butte town site down into the Scanlon Dug way and Colorado River area or down to Lake Mead and Hells Kitchen then camping at the Gold Butte town site is a great basecamp.
When venturing out into the backcountry, especially to a place as remote as the Gold Butte area, be sure to have plenty of water (and then a little more), full size spare tires(notice tires is plural), at least two good maps of the area, and have an updated weather forecast. This area drains a lot of country and is prone to quick setting cloudbursts so it is easy to get caught up in something that can put you in a serious situation. The main things you need to watch out for are snakes, flash floods and heat. Plan on no cell service
For the well prepared Backcountry Rambler the Gold Butte Backcountry Byway will be one of those trips that you will want to do time and time again. This covers a lot of country that is packed full of history and spectacular geologic formations. Enjoy yourself, be safe and respect our public lands by staying on designated roads and trails.