When a Bar is more than a Bar

When a visit to a bar is as much about the experience as it is about the beverages, it’s time to grab some friends and make a day of it. The Desert Bar is one of those places that’s quirky, unique and fun, and the drive to get there is part of the entertainment.

Desert Bar Parker Arizona
The main road leading into the Desert Bar

We were first introduced to the Nellie E. Saloon, otherwise know as the Desert Bar, five years ago, and when blogging friend, Laura, expressed interest in going, we were quick to invite ourselves.

bloggers strolling along Lake Havasu Arizona
Al, me, Kevin, and Laura

We met Laura and Kevin of Chapter 3 Travels for the first time a few days earlier for a tasty lunch at the Mudshark Brewery followed by a stroll along the Bridgewater Channel here in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.

The Desert Bar is one of those places where the more the merrier. So gather your friends and prepare for the fun to begin with an interesting drive for starters.

Getting there is part of the fun

The Desert Bar is located in the desert southwest boonies in the heart of the Buckskin Mountains just north of Parker, Arizona.  Once we turned east off Highway 95 on Cienega Springs Road, we continued into the undeveloped desert on a rough, dusty dirt road for about five miles (which took about thirty minutes …. yep, 30 minutes to drive 5 miles).  Although driving a truck was a plus, I’d venture to say an all terrain vehicle would be the perfect mode of transportation.

UTV and the Desert Bar
perfect mode of transportation to get to the Desert Bar

We did see vehicles of all kinds traversing the rough road, but personally, I wouldn’t recommend a low clearance vehicle. It shouldn’t be a problem for a  CRV,  SUV, or any kind of truck. We drove our Toyota Tacoma and Laura and Kevin drove their Nissan Xterra with no problem.

Desert Bar road

For the more adventurous or those off-road enthusiast, you have the opportunity to drive to the Desert Bar via the “back way”. Nothing like experiencing more extreme hills, rocky terrain and unique desert scenery. You might even find the landscape dotted with old, abandoned mining shafts and relics. Obviously, the back way is for 4×4 vehicles only.

Desert Bar
These folks drove in the “back way” … over them thar hills!

The Desert Bar is an open air establishment and powered 100% on solar.  The bar is only open on Saturdays and Sundays from noon to six.

Desert Bar Parker ArizonaWe went on a Sunday afternoon and this place was buzzing with activity … drinking, dining, dancing, and live entertainment.

I thought the live entertainment was really good and with plenty of people dancing, I think others shared my opinion.

There were three different food vendors to choose from that day and each offers a specialty. Al and I went with the hamburgers, and were not disappointed. Yum! There were two bars that are both fully stocked, and although the choice of beer is limited, our margaritas were tasty.

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona
The Desert Bar – powered 100% on solar
Desert Bar solar
Solar panels act as shade cover from the intense desert sun
live entertainment at the Desert Bar
I really enjoyed the live entertainment. The band played a little bit of everything.

In 1975, Ken Coughlin built the Desert Bar at the site of an old copper mining camp. Although the remnants of the original mining camp are mostly gone, the western spirit lives on. The parking lot is located on the very site where the mining camp once stood. At first, the saloon was a three-sided enclosed room, not much bigger than a small storage shed. Today, while maintaining its Old West character, the owner continues to expand it along with adding more vintage relics adorning the landscape.

Not a church, but yet a church

Another novelty stands outside of the saloon in the bar’s parking lot. What appears to be a “church” rising from the desert floor, is more of a façade than an actual building. The well-aged patina of its copper roof, adds unique character to this one of a kind structure.

The church is constructed of solid steel with walls and ceilings made from stamped tin. There is a tiny inside area. On the interior walls are plaques bearing the names of people who donated money to help build it. There are no actual services held here. The structure simply provides a picture perfect backdrop with old west appeal.

During our first visit back in 2013, we did see a couple renewing their vows on the church steps …. complete with minister, witnesses, flowers and dressed in old west wedding attire.

A true taste of Arizona

If you ever find yourself in western Arizona, consider visiting the Desert Bar. It’s an entertaining, fun one of a kind experience in the desert southwest!

Desert Bar, Parker, Arizona
one of a kind bar

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Home Brewing Kit
 Fraulein  Novelty Apron Bar Maid T-shirt

67 thoughts on “When a Bar is more than a Bar

    1. There’s always reason to return to a place and explore those sights not previously visited. We’ve enjoyed our stay here in Havasu and even though we’ve been here over 2 months, there’s still things we didn’t get a chance to see or do. So I know we’ll be back.


    1. The RVing and blogging communities are the best. We’ve met and made so many great friends these last few years … makes the journey that much more enjoyable.


  1. I’m so sorry we missed this place while we were there! I heard about it, but we just couldn’t work it out. 😦 Looks amazing, and it’s definitely somewhere I want to go next time. Looks like you had a blast! Dawn


  2. Wow, I LOVE the pictures you got. You were smart to go early and really capture what the setting is like. It truly is a one-of-a-kind place and somewhere everyone should try to visit… and it’s even better with some fun friends! I’m glad we all got to check it out. It was one of our favorite days in Lake Havasu!


    1. Thanks Laura. It was indeed a fun day and glad we got to share it with you. We really lucked out with the gorgeous weather. I was happy we got there as early as we did. Even so, there were still some places I wanted to hike around before too many people showed up. Oh well, might have to do a repeat next season.

      How’s the Xterra running? Happy with Ed’s work? I’m always worried when I make a recommendation.


      1. It’s been great! No problems at all! Actually, there are some other things we want to have taken care of at some point and we’re thinking we’ll make an appointment with Ed next time we come through the area. He was awesome and it’s always a challenge finding a reliable mechanic on the road… so thank you again for that!

        By the way, we made it to San Diego today…. the downside: I foresee some frizzy hair in my future thanks to the increased humidity. The upside: everything is so GREEN here! We enjoyed the desert, but are excited for the change in scenery. Hope you guys enjoy your last few weeks in LHC!!


        1. I’m so glad to hear the car is running well. Sometimes it’s worth driving out of the way for a good mechanic. You’ll need to grab one of those awesome campsites at the Lake Havasu SP when you want the car worked on.

          Ah, lush vegetation!!! Oh, how I’ve missed Thee!!! Yeah, I’m about ready for a change of scenery and would love lush greenery (I’m jealous) but green isn’t happening for a while. Actually, I was ready for a change of scenery a few weeks ago. But we’ll hang around a little longer by doing some house and dog sitting while our friends go out of town. Two more weeks and we’re on to newer pastures. Although we have enjoyed our time here very much.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Your comment about San Diego makes me laugh.We’re from Michigan, which is GREEN. My mom’s best friend moved to San Diego area almost 40 years ago, and she told my mother (decades later) that her one regret was that southern California is so brown. It’s all a matter of perspective, eh? 🙂


          1. I love MI. We were thinking about a Lake Michigan loop late summer so we could catch MI in the fall for all the colors, but due to some family things, we’ll need to postphone and add those travels to our 2019 calendar. I think this former Midwesterner has spent so much time out west, that I’ve gotten used to ‘brown’ 😄


  3. What an awesome bar, Ingrid!! The setting, the atmosphere, the drinks, the company… and, I have solar panel envy! 🙂 I’d love to go there one day, but we don’t have the right vehicle for it. Maybe we will have to make friends in Palmer first and then pile in the back of their truck for a visit. 🙂


    1. Well, you can always pile into our truck 😉 I can see ourselves visiting western AZ again and again. Lots to see and do. That is some solar, isn’t it? Very cool place, I think you’d enjoy!


  4. I’ve heard of this place! It’s huge! How fun for ALL of you!

    Have you been to Cleators Yacht Club in the desert? It’s pretty close to us. It’s right outside of Bumble Bee on the way to Crown King. We stop there quite often when we head up that way. We have taken guests there as well.

    If you have not been… then you and I are going! It’s primitive road but fairly easy.


    1. We’ve been wanting to go to the Cleators Yacht Club ever since you first told me about it. Let’s make a plan to get a group together in the fall and do a desert excursion. Love these off the beaten path quirky joints. You guys would love the Desert Bar …. another outing to consider next winter!

      We’ll be in Prescott Valley May 1. If you guys are still in town, let’s get together either in the valley or in Prescott!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Sounds perfect! The desert excursion to Cleators must happen and then some! Crown King is a must see as well. At least the ride to it.

        We hope to take a ride called the Back Road to Crown King next weekend but… that bad 4 letter word is forecasted for that area. Talk soon!

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Looks like a great time. I love ‘travelling’ on your adventures. How I would have loved to enjoy the Arizona winter/spring. We get to see the Cubs and White Sox in spring training from Arizona and I am paying attention to the Astros in south Florida. It’s still mighty chilly here in northern Illinois. I am sure a cold frosty beer is very refreshing. Keep sending warmth and sunshine!


    1. I love spring in Arizona. I don’t think you can beat the weather here. Probably why the Cactus League has grown by leaps and bounds. Sounds like it’s been a rough winter in northern IL. Hope spring pops soon – stay warm!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Glad you got to meet Kevin and Laura:) We never seem to be in that area on the weekend and therefore, have never been to the Desert Bar. Something still on the list!


    1. Since you’ll probably be spending more time along the Colorado River, you’ll need to grab some friends for a unique adventure. It’s even dog friendly. We volunteer to keep you company 😃


    1. Absolutely … you guys would love it. We’re enjoying our time in Havasu so much that we’ve extended our stay several time, but in two weeks, we’re committed to heading to Lake Powell… another fave!


    1. The music and food is always good, then add hanging with like minded folks, and it’s a great way to spend a day. We did see some folks boondocking, but keep in mind, this is a popular spot on the weekends for target practice.


    1. Any musician, music lover, would enjoy spending an afternoon hanging around the Desert Bar. Definitely worth experiencing at least once.


  7. We went there a couple years ago, a fun quirky spot everyone should see at least once. Too funny, we drove north yesterday and I thougt about the bar as we passed the road.


  8. Been to the Desert Bar several times. Always an awesome time! I bands have always been great. Glad y’all had a terrific time.


  9. This is the first year in many that we did not make it to the Desert Bar. Great place to meet friends, have a bite to eat and listen to music. Truly a unique place!


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