Dinner was interrupted by a bellow as a cowboy grabbed our fellow traveller, Maritza, by the wrist and dragged her off her perch. By the time her husband, Juan, stood up—GoPro in hand—the duo were already out the backdoor. What followed was a cacophony of yells and screams as the Sheriff Will Davis and other townspeople jumped into the foray, hats and dresses in tow. We peered out from behind a white Jeep as a bright flash blinded us, followed by loud bangs—gunshots. The rogue cowboy and Sheriff Davis started firing at each other until the former dramatically hit the ground, freeing Maritza.
As the crowd burst out laughing, the cowboy and Sheriff Davis took a bow. The Beatty Cowboys are a group of—mostly senior—men and women, who spend time recreating the Old West, armed with floozies, petticoats, gunfights and all. Don’t worry, they only fire blanks. The idea is to take you back to a time “when the West was wild, and the Cowboys wilder!”
A small town along the Nevada-California border with just over 1,000 residents, Beatty is often known as the ‘Gateway to Death Valley’. Roughly seven miles from Death Valley National Park—the largest national park in the US, outside of Alaska—this rural town was founded in 1904 as a part of the Bullfrog Mining District in the Mojave Desert. Beatty sits in the heart of a confluence of natural wonders and ghost towns from the time of the mining boom.
Bailey’s Hot Springs, for instance, is one of the popular attractions and is located at the former railway depot site. But that’s not all this sleepy town has to offer. Visitors can enjoy the old, wild charm of the Atomic Inn and the Sourdough Saloon, and there are also a number of RV parks if you’re in it for the long haul. The Beatty Museum and Historic Society has been preserving the history of the town and the neighbouring mining district, and has a collection of documents, books and photographs tracing their journey.
As for us, the Death Valley Nut & Candy Company ranked the highest on the list. This is the largest candy store in Nevada, and it shows. Think of any name-brand candy, chocolate, or gummy and this store sells it by the pound. They also offer quite a quirky selection of cricket, grasshopper and scorpions enclosed in sugar candy, among other creepy-crawly variants. The candy store opens at 6am and doesn’t close until late at night, but there’s also a Denny’s and Stagecoach Casino across the parking lot for some savoury options on either side of the sun.
As reminiscent as Beatty is of the old, wild American West, it is however, still a stopover town for travellers with a lot to do around. Other than the mammoth that is Death Valley, the Amargosa Valley provides a true desert experience. This nearly five square miles of dunes can reach as high as 500 feet, and can provide for quite the off-roading experience. The Goldwell Open Air Museum gives an artistic respite from the desert and you can even see the large barn-like structure in the distance where the artists live. A short walk away are the remnants of Rhyolite, the most widely photographed ghost town from the gold rush and mining boom days, which makes for quite a haunting walk. The area’s unique landscape around the Amargosa River is a haven for migratory birds crossing the great Mojave, making it a birder’s dream.
And remember, all of this is just a few hours from the glitterati of “Vegas, baby!”