Mr. Sun’s Almanac:

Crystal Springs: Old West meets extraterrestrial

Once a haven for horse thieves, now it’s about the outdoors and aliens


Matt Hufman

A tall, silver alien statute stands guard at the Alien Research Center in Crystal Springs on Monday, Sept. 16, 2013.

Crystal Springs

Population: One tall silver alien.

Location: About 115 miles north of Las Vegas on U.S. 93 and 14 miles north of Alamo. It’s a small area around the intersection of U.S. 93 and Highway 318 to the east and Highways 318 and 375 to the west.

GPS: 37.531887°, -115.233171°

Elevation: 3,810 feet

This is the first spot on the eastern side of Highway 375, which in the 1990s was renamed the Extraterrestrial Highway in honor of nearby Area 51. But this place has a history before there were rumors about little green men and UFOs.

Crystal Springs was a source of water for Indians and then pioneers. In 1865, silver ore was found nearby and a permanent settlement started. A year later, it was named the provisional county seat of Lincoln County, but the honor was short lived. The governor learned there weren’t the required number of voters in the area and moved the county seat north to Hiko. (That wouldn’t last long either.) The silver mines would quickly play out and the area was left largely deserted, though it continued to be a watering hole for travelers on the Mormon Trail.

And horse thieves.

During the Old West days, the Pahranagat Valley was a haven for horse thieves who would bring the stolen animals from Utah and Arizona and “fatten” them in the valley before heading to California. With water and shade, Crystal Springs provided a respite. It’s said that there were as many as 350 different brands in the valley at one time.

Local residents weren’t terribly pleased with the thieves and would form posses to steal back stolen horses. The thieves would do the same and try to steal them again. A successful effort, on either side, demanded a celebration that often ran for a few days.

Today, you won’t hear about horse thieves, unless they’re alien. Crystal Springs is the home of the Alien Research Center. You can’t miss it – it’s on the north side of Highway 375, past the intersection with Highway 318, and has a huge silver alien statue. The center promises “all things alien,” if you like that type of thing, which of course you do if you’re stopping there. If you’re headed north from Alamo, before you get to the silver alien, there’s a store at the intersection of U.S. 93 and Highway 318 advertising “Alien Fresh Jerky.” (We haven’t tried it – we’re on an alien-free diet. Doctor’s orders.)

Click to enlarge photo

Groom Lake Road, shown on Sept. 16, 2013, leads off of Highway 375 leads to Area 51, the federal government's secret base.

The Key Pittman Wildlife Management Area is just north of Crystal Springs. It has two lakes, Nesbitt and French, which offer great opportunities to see a variety of birds and animals. It's a state-run area, and fishing for largemouth bass, bluegill and black bullhead catfish is allowed on Nesbitt Lake for much of the year. Hunting is also allowed in season, primarily for waterfowl and dove. For regulations, the permit process and other information, such as what activities are allowed when, you can find more information here from the state. There is no camping.

The Bureau of Land Management's Mount Irish Wilderness Area is northwest of Crystal Springs, off Highway 375 and up an unnamed county road. It offers hiking, camping, fishing and hunting. The area features ancient Indian rock art, plenty of wildlife and many geological features. You'll need to go off road to get there, and before you do, click here to see a PDF map and information sheet from the BLM.

If you go: If you go to see the alien store, the springs or the wildlife area, make sure you have enough fuel to get you to the next gas station. The nearest gas is in Ash Springs. There is no gas in Rachel. If you go to the wildlife area, check to see if there are any restrictions before going. And it's always a smart idea to check locally for conditions before heading off into the wilderness. And always carry the basics, including plenty of water and food, just in case.

Join the Discussion:

Check this out for a full explanation of our conversion to the LiveFyre commenting system and instructions on how to sign up for an account.

Full comments policy