SEARCHLIGHT — The Bureau of Land Management is offering guided tours of the 160-acre property known as Walking Box Ranch located 7 miles west of Searchlight. The ranch, once owned by 1920s film stars Rex Bell and his wife Clara Bow, was known as an escape destination for the couple’s Hollywood friends.
“We began offering once a month guided interpretative tours of the property in July,” said BLM spokesman Robbie McAboy. “At this time, tours are only offered on the third Tuesday of every month until (restoration) construction begins.”
The BLM hopes to have all restoration activities of the historic property completed by the end of 2015.
Actor Rex Bell purchased the ranch in 1931. Bell and Bow constructed a two-story, 5,060-square-foot home in the Spanish-Colonial Revival style popular in Southern California during the 1920s and 1930s. Film stars Clark Gable, Carole Lombard and Errol Flynn reportedly visited the ranch.
Walking Box Ranch gets its name from the ranch brand, a camera box on a tripod. Structures on the property include the house, a barn, caretaker’s residence, guesthouse, tennis court, a 60- by 120-foot swimming pool and a 575-square-foot cactus garden.
Bell and Bow separated in the mid-1940s and Bell went on to serve as Nevada’s lieutenant governor from 1955 until his death in 1962.
Walking Box Ranch continued as a working cattle ranch until Bell sold it to rancher Karl “Cap” Weikel in 1951.
Weikel sold the ranch to Viceroy Gold Corporation in 1991, which restored the ranch house for use as an executive retreat. The Nature Conservancy acquired the property in the 1990s and the BLM purchased the ranch and surrounding ranch site in 2004. The property was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2009.
“There is still a lot of planning that needs to be done regarding Walking Box Ranch,” said McAboy. “Given our current funding and staffing, we have chosen to focus our efforts on making sure the centerpiece of this historic site is in good condition and available to the public until some of those other decisions are made.
“During construction, we will determine our capabilities for re-establishing guided tours of the property. Our goal is to train volunteers regarding the history of the site so that we can provide tours on a more frequent basis after construction.”
For information about scheduling a guided tour, contact Project Manager Glen Marsh, BLM Red Rock/Sloan Field Office at 702-515-5350.