What is that quirky little town in Red Rock Canyon?
There are two towns out there, both populated by indie thinkers and dusty mavericks. One of these enclaves is the bedroom community of Calico Basin; its turnoff is along Nevada State Route 159, just north of the Red Rock Conservation Area Scenic Loop. Calico Basin has no businesses, but at the end of Calico Basin Road, you’ll find the Red Spring trailhead. Less traveled than most areas in and near Red Rock Canyon, Red Spring offers paved parking, some covered picnic tables, a wooden boardwalk with interpretive signage, and trailheads for several easy-to-moderate hikes and bouldering areas. Just don’t trespass; those folks live all the way out there for a reason.
But you’re probably thinking about the other place, near the southern access to Red Rock Canyon off the Pahrump Highway: Blue Diamond is a picturesque town of about 300 residents, featuring a motel, a park, a post office, a library, a fire station, a bicycling outfitter and, in true small-town style, a general store that triples as the sheriff’s office and gas station. The store is a handy way station for provision-seeking adventurers on their way to Red Rock. In welcome contrast to the serial transformations of the metropolis on the other side of the hill, Blue Diamond hasn’t changed much in the past half-century.
Initially known as Cottonwood Springs, the town was born in the early 1800s as a stop on the Old Spanish Trail. It adopted its current name when the Blue Diamond Company took over the nearby gypsum mine beginning in 1923. The company built more homes and a school, and offered mine employees wage-deductible credit at the market.
The area was the subject of media attention when developer Jim Rhodes envisioned a master-planned community of 4,700 homes and a town center atop Blue Diamond Hill, resulting in outcry from residents and outdoor enthusiasts. Most recently, Rhodes, who purchased the mine and land in 2003, was awarded a $920,000 settlement from the State of Nevada over a protective zoning law found to be unconstitutional. A potential land swap could ultimately help preserve the area, but while the saga continues, please, for the love of Frank, don’t call it “Red Rocks.” That’s some place in Colorado.