Nicknamed a "Little Slice of Nowhere," Goodsprings, Nevada may be the best vacation spot you didn’t know about. The town of Goodsprings is just a stone’s throw 30 minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip, making it a must see attraction of its own.
Clark County’s oldest bar, the Pioneer Saloon, was built by George Fayle in 1913, and it’s definitely worth the side trip if you’re already in Sin City. Just head south on I-15 about 20 miles, then hang a right on Highway 61 at Jean (which by the way was named after Fayle’s wife) and you’ll run right into Goodsprings. If you want to really do it up right, schedule a wild ride with Vegas Off Road Tours and take in the full adventure!
Though it may seem tough to pry themselves away from the casinos, many folks do take the time to come out to see one of the ABC’s Top 10 Bucket List Bars, and the saloon itself has been on the historic registry since 2006.
Be sure to check out the bullet holes in the Sears and Roebuck tin walls; these are remnants of the gunfight between card cheat Paul Coski and the man who refused to let him steal the ten dollar pot, Joe Armstrong. You can read about the sordid tale in the telegram from W.H. Harkins, to Coski’s brother Davis, which hangs right above the bullet holes.
The Pioneer Saloon is worthy of its name, a throwback to pioneer spirit, with the original poker tables, a wild west style potbelly stove and a fishnet-stocking lamp, along with hundreds of other artifacts to take in. Beside the bullet holes, the most historic item in the bar, is the bar.
Built by Brunswick in Maine in the 1860’s, the single surviving section made the ocean voyage around Cape Horn to San Francisco. The cherrywood bar was carried by ox-wagon to the mining town of Rhyolite in the early 1900’s. When that mining town’s burgeoning industry went bust, this renowned bar made its final wagon trip to Goodsprings where it sits today, with its original brass rail intact.
George Fayle also built a general store and hotel (which burned to the ground in 1966) before his untimely death during the 1918 flu epidemic. It’s this rich, layered history that attracts tourists to the Pioneer Saloon. Who wouldn’t want to feel the cigarette burns in the bar left behind by legendary actor, Clark Gable?
In 1942 he holed up in the bar for 3 days while waiting to hear whether the love of his life, Carole Lombard, had survived a plane crash just over the hills in the Potosi Mountains. Unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
The name of the town was originally two words – Good Springs – named after Mr. Joseph Good, a cattle farmer. With a land area of 1.43 square miles, and no water source, this mining town was known for its zinc and ore, and a steady crop of miners kept business pumping at the Pioneer Saloon, swelling Goodspring’s population to a surprising 1000 back in 1915. Its surrounding mines are still referred to as the Yellow Pine Mining District. The Keystone gold mine started up in 1892, bringing in the original 200 residents. By 1952, after the end of World War II, the mines had earned over 31 million dollars from lead and gold, as well 85 million pounds of zinc!
If you belly up to the Pioneer Saloon bar, you’ll hear lots more stories from the locals and the bartender – it’s a given. Along with its lively history, there’s also a miniscule community of roughly 200 residents which still exists today, along with a scattering of houses, an elementary school and a church. Miss Winifred Hardy was the first teacher at Goodsprings Elementary, which started in a tent in 1907 and still functions, with a student population of 10, give or take. The present building dates back to 1913, and is on the National Register as the oldest school still in use in Clark County.
While Las Vegas is a favorite of the stars, the movie industry has also chosen to include the town of Goodsprings, with scenes from "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" and "The Mexican" filmed here. Country superstar Travis Tritt stopped in at the Pioneer Saloon. The most recent TV show filmed here was during the saloon’s centennial year of 2013, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. In 1947, the film “The Bells of San Angelo” featured shots of the old Yellow Pine Mill in the background, which is no longer in existence. You’ll also find photos of Cheech and Chong swilling beers, as well as "Miss Congeniality II" star Sandra Bullock.
Vegas Off Road Tours take you through the surrounding wild desert, where you can snap photos of the animal life and wild flowers. Unlike the hustle and bustle of city life, your ATV tour will cross paths with wild horses, assorted cacti, and maybe you’ll even hear the rattle of real sidewinders that call the open frontier home. And, what better way to end an ATV adventure than looping back to this historic watering hole, where the sign reads "Open Everyday Till the Drinking Stops!"
Meet and greet locals, other adventurists, tourists, and history fanatics for a drink or two,and enjoy one of the famous burgers. Walk out on the patio, and share some BBQ and a game of billiards. Tourists will quickly discover that the Pioneer Saloon’s regulars embrace the bar’s quirkiness, so be sure to join in the fun and pick up one of their "Where the Hell is Goodsprings?" shirts.
Whatever attracts your visit to the Pioneer Saloon, whether it’s the history, libations, burgers and BBQ, or ATV tours of the surrounding desert, you will leave having experienced a bit of the real wild west, beyond the neon.