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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We 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.
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!