When someone says they’ve patronized a desert bar in Arizona, you might think that isn’t a big deal since Arizona is mostly desert. In fact, you might be envisioning driving down a regular, paved two- or four-lane road, seeing a brightly-lit neon sign that reads BAR with an arrow pointing to a run-down hole-in-the-wall on the side of the road surrounded by barren landscape with scraggly brush and a few cacti.
But those in-the-know know that when we say we visited THE desert bar in Arizona, we had an experience, not just a cold beer or two. On the outskirts of Parker, Arizona, about an hour from our boondocking site in Quartzsite, and five miles off the main road—and when I say OFF the main road, I mean five miles on a dirt/gravel/rock/rough road—is the Nellie E Saloon. Only open on Saturdays and Sundays, high noon until 6pm, October through April.
We love taking our truck on dirt roads. In fact, I think our truck enjoys the adventure of the rugged ride and untamed scenery that we experience when we venture off main roads. And this five-mile ride was one of the more rugged ones we’ve been on. Nestled way back in the desert mountains, passing make-shift shooting ranges and trails for hiking and OHVs, was party central. It is an outdoor bar with power generated by solar panels designed to provide shade as well, a stage for bands, a dance floor in front, plenty of tables and seating in various sections, bathrooms with a view, cold beer and beverages, and a grill selling burgers and fries.
I doubt that much policing takes place at Nellie E Saloon—not that it’s needed—because it takes about a half hour to drive those five miles, unless one wants to tear up his vehicle. OHVs and dirt bikes probably make it back there in half that time. Plus, it is only open during daylight hours, since solar is needed to keep the placed powered. In terms of the pandemic, however, one rolls the dice when visiting Nellie E Saloon right now. The staff were wearing masks, and several patrons (including us) wore their masks as they moved around the location. But seating wasn’t exactly spaced out for social distancing, and many people were not wearing their masks as they should. That being said, the country band playing the day we went was entertaining, the beer we drank was deserved (since we survived the ride back there), and the food we ate was good.
Locals probably frequent the desert bar, and those who travel to this part of Arizona for the winter (it is about the same distance from Lake Havasu City as it is from Quartzsite – two hotspots for snowbirds) might visit a time or two during the season. We are glad we went to say we’ve been, but we will continue to seek out other off-road adventures.
For the history and other information about the Nellie E Saloon, visit thedesertbar.com.