Gypsum Cave

Clark County
  36.23191, -114.88381

"(#103) I haven't been in Clark County but a few hours, and I run into my first MIA. Lovely. I knew full well going in Clark was going to be a thorn in my side because of the large amount of MIAs, but I didn't know just how difficult they were going to be. Let's just say I had a slap on the wrist today, but it didn't go without a bit of retaliation. I'm car camping tonight, a few minutes outside of the city just east of the canyon from Apex. Why? A much needed break from people. Lying in my truck bed the glow of the city radiates on the horizon, but if I cock my head just a bit, the glow dims just enough for a flurry of stars to glimmer overhead ... the perfect anecdote for a flustering day. At least I can forget about this MIA for the time being. It is now, and only now, that the stars go blue. How fitting." -- Journal Entry, March 2009

According to the State Marker System ...
"Located off Interstate Highway 15 at Apex, south six miles."
Today, this marker is currently missing

Original Date Visited: 3/17/09

Signed: No

Currently Missing -- Last Seen: May 2001
Sit back and relax your fingers, folks. This'll be a long one thanks to some tainted shenanigans and outrageous allegations.

[103] Gypsum Cave, or its supposed located off of Lake Mead Blvd is just a few skips away from the busy streets of North Las Vegas. Now in order to understand the ridiculous nature of this case you need to find this location on the map first and start by traveling east out of North Las Vegas on Lake Mead Blvd. At the edge of the city the road will transition to a rural two-lane highway that winds through some scenic canyons and grottos. At Mile 7, our pleasant drive suddenly meets an ominous intersection with "PABCO Road." It's here the drama begins. Those who frequent the road to Gypsum Cave might be shocked when they find it "CLOSED TO ALL VEHICLES." What was then ten years ago are now liberally posted signs that read "Private Property", "Private Road," and "No Trespassing." The question is: do they mean it?

I found myself in a sticky situation during the spring of 2009 during my conquering of Clark County. I knew going in that this marker was going to be a tough, if not impossible find, but in the business of being thorough, I started the search for this pesky marker. As sundown approached I accessed the turnoff to Apex from I-15, following the directions of the SHPO as if it were a fine Italian recipe: "Apex interchange, six miles south." Let me make it clear that Apex Road is a deceiving little bugger. What we have is an unsigned, two-lane blacktop that doubles back around the mountain to cross the interstate before continuing over a "Private RR Crossing" a few miles further. From here, the road winds its way through shallow canyons for exactly six miles without signage or postings for a control destination. It just goes with no apparent destination in mind, no telling what's around the corner. To make it more frustrating, the entire six-mile length of road lacks any warnings of "Private Property" until it suddenly comes into view of the PABCO Gypsum Corporation.

It was a Sunday and I had planned this conquering specifically so crowds wouldn't be an issue and my visit wouldn't coincide with any of the possible workings in the area. I was wrong. Within five minutes of exiting the canyon an employee from the plant slowed as he passed me and asked what I was doing and where I was headed. I told him who I was and specifically asked about "State Historic Marker 103, Gypsum Cave" to cover my own tail. Thankfully, he gave me a little lee-way considering how far I had driven (from Carson City) to capture it. According to him "the blue landmarker" was taken down to prevent "people like you" from viewing it. As far as he knows it was destroyed "six or seven years ago."

This is another sad case of ignorance from people who fail to understand that history belongs to everybody. Even if an historical site may lie on your private property, the historic marker itself belongs to everybody and contains valuble history that should be rightfully accessible to the public. Thanks to the loss of this marker millions of people in the greater Las Vegas Valley may never know about the fascinating relics uncovered from the ancient past. These are the main problems I have with this case ...

1. Placement - When the SHPO chose this location in 1994 PABCO dominated the region as they still do today. In fact, PABCO even lined both shoulders of the road with a barbed wire fence. Although the road was still signed as "Private Road" people were allowed to use it for access to I-15 at the Apex interchange. That being said, with a high probability of private property issues, why did the SHPO did even choose this location to begin with?

2. Illusions - Here's what we got. Today, you'll see this sign at the dirt road leading to Gypsum Cave ...

Acknowledged, but here's the issue ...

As you can see, the actual Gypsum Cave (the blue arrow) seems to have a few visitors. I highly doubt PABCO officials fancy a red minivan (on the right edge of the photo.) If the site is truly "private" isn't this vehicle technically trespassing?

PABCO: Either enforce your signs or remove them!

According to PABCO, Gypsum Cave is "closed to the public" for liability reasons. Even if the road leading to the cave is indeed "Private," enforcement is a hit-or-miss as is the case with the photo above and my encounter in 2009. Regardless, all of the falsities in this case certainly doesn't warrant a reason to remove the marker.

3. Truth - To clear up this smelly case I made a few phone calls to all of the road departments in the Las Vegas region. As I suspected both NDOT (covering Clark County) and the Las Vegas Roads Department told me that "PABCO Road" "is not owned by PABCO." As one official stated ...

"They tend to think they own it."

Confirmed! The truth is, the alleged PABCO Road ("Private Road") is fully accessible to the public and commuters are allowed to use it to and from Interstate 15. Google Maps and most Nevada atlases still label this route as "Private Road" but rest assured that this road belongs to everybody!

As it were, my little encounter was totally uncalled for as well as the removal of [103] and visiting [103] does come with a bit of a warning. Despite the recklessness of this section, none of this should inspire authority to retaliate against a PABCO worker who may try to stop you like they did me. Instead, be polite and respect their wishes. Leave if they ask and just reassure them you aren't there to loiter or trespass. Maybe with enough badgering PABCO will request to either close the road permanently, or even place the marker far away from their facility. A good spot for relocation would be at the PABCO intersection with Lake Mead Blvd, or even the Apex interchange along I-15. Only time will tell.

  • Marker 103 has been missing from its location for over twenty years
  • This sign will greet you at the southern entrance to the PABCO Mining Company along PABCO Road
  • Missing Marker 103

Exact Description:
Gypsum Cave was once thought to be one of the oldest aboriginal sites in North America. The cave is 300 feet long and 120 feet wide and is filled with dry, dusty deposits in all six rooms.

When excavated in 1930-31, the cave yielded the skull, backbone, nine to twelve-inch claws, reddish-brown hair and fibrous dung of the giant ground sloth, a vegetarian species common in the more moist environment known here about 7,500 to 9,500 years ago. Bones from extinct forms of the horse and camel were also found.

Pieces of painted dart shafts, torches, stone points, yucca fiber string and other artifacts were found mixed in with the sloth dung. When the dung was dated at 8,500 B.C. by the radiocarbon method, it was believed the man-made tools were the same age. Two radiocarbon dates on the artifacts themselves, however, indicate that the ground sloth and man were not contemporaneous inhabitants of the cave. Man probably made use of the cave beginning about 3,000 B.C., long after the ground sloths had abandoned it.

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