Nuclear waste disposal. Pre-War, people figured there was so much desert in Nevada, you might as well turn it into a big dumping ground.Arcade Gannon
This string of locations included here may look generally close together in game, but in our world they cover a huge swath of land south and east of Searchlight, the vast majority of which is unnamed and unmarked roads.
# 177 – Matthews Animal Husbandry Farm
# 183 / 406 – Old nuclear test site / Nuclear test shack
# 182 – Caesar’s Legion safehouse
# 184 – Crashed vertibird
# 186 – Fire Root cavern
# 187 – Cottonwood crater
# 290 / # 130 – Yucca Mountain / Toxic dump site
# 184 – Crashed vertibird – Although there are no signs of a crashed aircraft in this area, in my research I learned about a crash that happened west of here, near Barstow. Instead of a crashed vertibird, it was a crashed valkyrie – the prototype XB-70A 002 Valkyrie to be exact – in June 1966.
This crash cost the lives of two veteran pilots – Air Force Major Carl Cross and NASA Test Pilot Joe Walker. You can read about the sad story here. There is a memorial to both pilots in the Mojave where the crash took place, but I could only find one. I am not sure of any correlation, but I wanted to add it here regardless.
# 177 – Matthews Animal Husbandry Farm – If you continue south down the road that Walking Box Ranch is located on (first called Walking Box Ranch Road, then Ykl Ranch Road, then Viceboy Mine Road) for about 7 miles, you will reach what looks like an old farmstead, with outbuildings and ranch fencing. This road is probably do-able in the normal car, but just drive slowly and use caution on big dips.
# 182 – Caesar’s Legion safehouse – The safehouse would be located in our world around the proximity of Malpais Springs. I wonder if this is a coincidence or not. I know that translated, Malpais means “bad country” or “badlands” and you can see several things called that around the area. Maybe it had an influence on the character’s name or vice versa, as the two places that have the name (this one plus the cut location Malpais Legionaire Camp, located on Malpais Mesa) are Legion related. There are no buildings present, but it was a very beautiful – albeit challenging – drive to the spot.
In the game, it is where I used console commands to access the place and find my favorite clothing item on a dirty bed – the Lucky Shades!
If you are at the real-life Matthew’s, take the road that loops through the fenced in area itself (seen faintly in the photo below, in the upper right hand corner) and continue southwest towards the mountain range.
In about a mile and a half, you will loop through the remains of another ranch. A half a mile or so past that, you will see some ridges and abundance of foliage – that is Malpais Springs. In the game, there is an unmarked sort of spring that is close by, it emanates a weird and unique fog, drifting towards the north.
# 183 / 406 – Old nuclear test site / Nuclear test shack – Thankfully for me, this location does not exist in the same location. It likely refers to the Nevada Test Site, an area located about 65 miles northwest, that was established in the early 1950s for the purpose of testing nuclear devices. I drove as close to this area as I could on my birthday.
During the detonations in the early 1950s in our world, a host of politicians, military leaders, and distinguished individuals were allowed to observe the tests from wooden benches, located several miles away. The authority glasses up on the cliff in the overlook may be a reference to these nuclear spectators, who would wear eye protection.
# 130 / 290 – Yucca Mountain / Toxic dump site – I had Arcade Gannon with me in game when I arrived in the above location, and he made a comment about how the government “figured there was so much desert in Nevada they might as well turn it into a big dumping ground” which would lead me to believe the location may be based on the now-scrapped plans to store nuclear waste at the real world Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository – you can read about it here. This location was mentioned only in the game, but I wanted to mention it since I spent so long reading about the place.
# 186 – Fire Root cavern – In our world, the location aligns with Summit Spring, southeast of Searchlight. The elevation starts to increase east of Searchlight into the Spirit Mountain Range, the southernmost range in Nevada. You can get here by heading east towards Cottonwood Cove and hanging a right about 2 and a quarter miles after you pass the Searchlight police station.
# 187 – Cottonwood crater – The area to the south of Cottonwood Cove is wide open. The Spirit Mountain Range falls into a wide valley leading to the shores of Lake Mojave to the east. There is no crater, but a lot of offroading fun to be had here if you (and your vehicle) are up for it. To cut through the open expanse, take a right on Mead Davis Powerline Road off of Cottonwood Cove Road right after the NCR checkpoint, then a left on Six Mile Cove Road. It will take you right to the water. Or you could continue on Mead Davis all the way through Cottonwood Valley and turn off on any road to the left for various coves along the lake.
It could potentially be a reference to one of two southern Mojave Desert craters – either Amboy or Pisgah Crater. They are only about an hour away from one another on the southwestern side of the Mojave. They were thankfully not created by nuclear war, though, just ancient volcanic activity. The aqua green water could be inspired by the Bristol Lake Salt Beds, right next to the Amboy Crater or Sugarloaf Canyon, closer to Cottonwood Cove. The salt beds near Amboy confused me at first – it looked like it had just snowed but it was well over 80 degrees.
If you are interested in seeing Amboy Crater, I climbed to the top of it and can give you the details. It is located along the famous Route 66 in California. I approached from the Cleghorn Lakes Wilderness Area, heading northbound on Amboy Road through the Sheep Hole Mountains. I was coming from the Joshua Tree / Lucerne Valley area on my way back to the Mojave Reserve. It is a beautiful drive.
Once you have driven for a spell, you will run into Route 66, and Amboy Crater is a minute or two west of that intersection. A point of interest here is Roy’s Motel and Cafe, which is neither a motel nor a cafe, but a tiny gift shop with a sign that was featured in the concept art of the game. It also has a car that looks like a Highwayman. You can click here to see my info on all the concept art locations if you fancy that type of thing.
Now back to the crater. You will see it on your left if you approach from the south. It looks kind of bizarre in such a flat surrounding area. You can park in the parking lot and follow the marked path all the way to the top.
I would say it is not too challenging. There are two scramble parts but taking it slow makes it totally do-able. The rocks are really porous and can mess you up, so wear gloves if you have them. It took me a little over one hour to go up and back.
There are a few man-made shelters for rest but absolutely no shade and you should not try this when it is hot outside. The ground is made of black rock and the surrounding area is disorienting because of the radiating heat and rolling foothills. I know I say this a lot but please please please be careful. While I am writing this, there have been seven fatalities in the last three years at Amboy Crater, all of which occurred between May and August.
I hiked it in January when it was 55 degrees and I drank 1.5 L of water which is about 50 oz. Thankfully there are toilets at the parking area but they are gross and you need to bring your own TP.
Speaking of peeing, I always bring my water backpack with me on every hike. I do not have a fancy one, it is called Field and Stream Sportsman, it holds about 2 L / 64 oz of water and gets the job done. I recommend bringing one and refilling it every chance you get. I personally don’t use water bottles because I lose them constantly or drop them down cliffs or forget them in the car etc. The backpacks are cool because then you can throw your other stuff in there and won’t forget water. If it is hot, you have to keep an eye on the water level, too. I just poke the little jiggly bag every time I stop to drink some and it and if it is getting to around half gone, I turn back. I know it sucks but I remember reading somewhere that if you were driving somewhere and back and your car was at half a tank of gas or half a charge, you would turn back. So it should be the same for your water level when hiking. When you get back home, just put it the bag part in the freezer until your next vacation or otherwise it will get all nasty.
There are a few other interesting things to see here before heading north on Kelbaker towards Kelso Dunes. There are some sweet abandoned buildings around to the north of Route 66, and two mysterious statues alongside the south of the road. They are solid marble Chinese guardian lions, spaced a quarter-mile apart. Logbooks, trinkets, and notes for good luck surround both. No one knows how they got here, why they were placed, or who placed them.