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Gypsum Cave

Listed under Caves & Caving in Las Vegas, United States.

  • Photo of Gypsum Cave
  • Photo of Gypsum Cave
  • Photo of Gypsum Cave
  • Photo of Gypsum Cave
Photo of Gypsum Cave
Photo by gregorybrick
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If you tire of your losses in the casinos of Las Vegas, and would like a quiet cave for some philosophical reflection, go to Gypsum Cave, on the outskirts of the city. Gypsum Cave is best known for the remains of the extinct Ice Age ground sloth, excavated in the 1920s.

The cave entrance is located on the side of a low range that separates the area from Nellis Air Force Base to the north. You get there by driving east on Lake Mead Boulevard toward Hoover Dam. Along the way you’ll begin to see gypsum wallboard fragments on the sides of the road, which fell off trucks from the local wallboard plant, which feeds the voracious building boom of Las Vegas. A short gravel road, dead ending near the cave, allows you to get closer. Hike uphill on the foot trail to the cave, which is located on public lands.

The slot-like entrance of Gypsum Cave is embellished with several, obviously faux pictographs of dancers, spray-painted in red on the rock face. I suppose it’s an evocation of the eternal Las Vegas showgirl! Anyhow, follow the switchback trail downwards along a staircase of terraces inside the cave; these resulted from the wooden cribbing built by the scientists who excavated the cave.

The cave is very dry and dusty. At the bottom, you’ll see excavation pits in the floor, but no actual sloth bones. Here you'll find a room whose walls are studded with the large, white namesake gypsum crystals.

M.R. Harrington’s 1930 article, “The Mystery of Gypsum Cave,” published in Scientific American magazine, made the cave known generally. If it amazes you that giant sloths once lived here, note that the western United States had a much wetter climate back then.

Written by  Greg Brick.

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I couldn't find it. I'll keep trying till I get it right though. Has to be around here somewhere ;)

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