Sometimes our RV trips have lofty aspirations: hiking at Mount Rainier, seeing wild bison in Custer, camping at a wild tiger sanctuary in Arkansas. Other times, our motivations are simpler: get a cold beer at a weird place. Such was the case in Parker, Arizona!
The multi-level areas of The Desert Bar provide people-watching galore. Add in live music, a horseshoe pit, bbq’ed food, fun rusty mementos, and a place that is completely kid-and-pet-friendly, and you’ve got a lively place that you’ve just got to see to believe!
Parker is an interesting place, existing solely to indulge outdoor pleasure-seekers along the Colorado River. The Arizona and California sides of the river are clogged with mobile homes, RV parks, hotels, casinos and marinas. Streets are full of Razr’s, Jeeps, four-wheelers, boat trailers and motorcycles. Everyone has that ruddy, slightly exhausted, crispy sunburned glow about them from days filled with hours on the water or desert trails like these.
We planned this stop specifically to experience the dive bar uncreatively known as The Desert Bar (formerly Nellie E Saloon). The Desert Bar can only be reached by a miles-long journey in a high-clearance vehicle down a dirt road through the middle of nowhere. Oh, and you’ll be making this journey with others doing the same, creating a dusty path through the Buckskin Mountains that can likely be spotted from outer space.
Suddenly, like a literal mirage in the desert, shazam! There it is. Being completely outdoors, The Desert Bar is only open during the cooler months of October through April, and only on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 6 pm. It’s the kind of bar scene you might find in a Star Wars movie, on a desert planet.
This does not deter, in fact perhaps it encourages, hundreds if not thousands of people from descending upon it, in search of good times and beer foam mustaches. The trash tells the tale of hydration at The Desert Bar … a little water, a lotta beer.
Even the restrooms are outdoors — here, “sinks with a view” in the ladies’ room — an opening that lets the views in, and presumably any lingering odors out. There’s no glass in that opening, so if you wanna chat with the people walking below while you clean up, go for it.
The original bar was built on land that was an old mining camp. Here it is, preserved for posterity but no longer serving frosty brews.
Whereas the “new” Desert Bar is being constantly expanded upon, now so popular they need separate entrance and exit lanes.
What does it take to operate a bar in the middle of nowhere? Well, originally it took an old fire truck, which was used to haul water in. Now, they have drilled a well that runs on solar power. In fact, the entire place runs on solar power stored in inverter batteries. Take that, climate change!
A “church” was built here, strictly for photo ops and weddings — no services are held and the inside of the inner area is only about 8′ x 8′.
There are three Arizona State Parks campgrounds near Parker, and we’ve previously stayed at Buckskin Mountain State Park. This visit we stayed at Cattail Cove State Park, about 15 miles closer to Lake Havasu City.
Its location right along the Colorado River makes for gorgeous cliffside hiking.
It’s difficult to kayak the river because despite its relatively calm appearance, that water is flowing fast under the surface, and don’t even get me started on speedboats racing by with the threat of imminent capsizing. Kayakers prefer the nearby Bill Williams National Wildlife Refuge, where non-motorized paddlers can meander peacefully.
And of course, Arizona sunsets over the water never get old!
But lest you think you need a reservation to stay in Parker, you’d be very wrong. Huge encampment of “boondockers” (RV’ers who just plunk down and camp without any electric or water hookups, called dry camping) also can be seen everywhere throughout this area. So come on down anytime!
We left Arizona and headed to Nevada … next up, a visit to a wildlife refuge where some of the descendants of the original MGM lion are lazily living lion-y lives, and then on to the stunning Valley of Fire State Park!