Dry Lake Bed Sprouts Travelers’ Oasis

clark mountain, ca

Now this is what I moved West for- the chance to get to know places like the Ivanpah Valley, where the settlement of Primm stands as a punch line counterpoint to the surrounding Mojave desert landscape, forming a perfect theater of the absurd and the sublime. →

whiskey pete’s-looking south

‘Settlement’ seems as good a term as any to describe Primm.  It’s first and foremost a rest stop, but because it sits on I-15 just over the NV state line, it has 3 distinct resort/casinos, 2400 hotel rooms, an outlet mall, and various gas stations and fast food joints.  There’s also housing for the workers and a natural gas fired power plant nestled in the hills to the west.  The accident here is the intersection of the state line and the 15 right at the north end of the Ivanpah dry lake bed, one of those bright hot places where the road goes straight for miles. →

buffalo bill’s

My favorite jewel in the Primm crown is Buffalo Bill’s: a 15 story, multi-tower 1200 room hotel done in the traditional red barn board and batten style, all encircled by one of the world’s highest roller coasters (couldn’t forget that part).  This thing should have a giant Foghorn Leghorn affixed to it. →

buffalo bill’s, looking west

Sharing the stage with the architecture, doing their best to steal the show in fact, are the barren Clark Mountains, great mounds of stacked fans, random outcroppings, and cascading buttresses, all with that vaguely gothic aspect typical of Mojave mountains.  Next trip I think I’ll actually stay in Primm and take a day to walk into them. →

whiskey pete’s

Whiskey Pete’s, on the other side of the freeway but served by a nifty monorail, employs the more typical toy castle design strategy. The Primm Valley Resort?  I guess it’s supposed to be in the Southern plantation style. A little piece of Kentucky brought to the desert. I can almost smell the fresh cut grass and minty ice tea! ◊

primm valley resort


8 thoughts on “Dry Lake Bed Sprouts Travelers’ Oasis

  1. Alan Hess

    Great piece. Primm is mesmerizing. Did you know that Jean Baudrillard spoke at a conference at Whiskey Pete’s, in 1996 I think? Even more hypnotic. And I noticed last time I drove through there that the two paddlewheelers that were in Jean, up the road, have been demolished. Keep up the good work!

    1. hypotheticalpasserby Post author

      Thanks so much for the comments! I should have mentioned that Baudrillard connection. Perhaps there could be a post on that conference.
      Re Jean: Apparently there is going to be a major airport built there.
      Primm is one of those places that is a premise all by itself, a hypothetical made real…

  2. Yawny

    Speaking of Baudrillard, there is a great survival horror video game called “Fallout: New Vegas” that takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland featuring a town, er, simulacrum of a town, called Primm, with a casino, a few drifters and dogs, and a robot or two.

    I know this because I have a 14-year-old son and these are the spaces in which he spends half of his time.

    Great theme here.

  3. Peter Rockwell

    Buffalo Bill’s looks to me like a giant mine headstock building. Kind of an apt metaphor for an establishment designed to mine the gold out of travelers’ pockets.


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