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The Desert Bar, Parker Arizona

Updated on March 19, 2012

The Nellie E. Saloon aka The Desert Bar.. A Parker Arizona landmark

If you're ever in the Parker, Arizona area on a weekend between Labor Day and Memorial Day and want to check out a bar that's truly unique,The "Nellie E Saloon", aka Desert Bar, is definitely something worth the trip. Just ask some of the locals. And not just the Parker locals. Talk to people from Lake Havasu City, which is north on Hwy95 a bit, and they'll tell you the same thing.

The "Nellie E"/ "Desert Bar"/"Bar in the Desert" located 5 miles off the Cienega Springs Rd exit on Hwy-95, approximately 5 miles north of Parker. But keep in mind that they are only open on Saturdays and Sundays during that time and only from high noon until sunset. Also on the holidays during these months they are open. The only night that they're open is New Years Eve and that's only if it falls on a weekend.

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The question is.."WHY??"

Well, when Ken purchased some land with an old mining camp on it in 1975, there was nothing left of the camp except one small structure. With a liquor license from an old business and this land he now owned, he thought he'd give the "Bar in the Desert" a try. In 1983, Ken opened for business. The bar was in a temporary three-sided "structure" and he ran the bar from here over the next five years. In the beginning Ken hauled water in a 50-gallon tank on his truck. Then he bought an old fire truck to haul the water. In 1989, he started using a well

in the canyon as his water source. In the summer of 1997, Ken drilled a new well on the north side of the saloon that operates on solar power.

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The "Nellie E"

Although in Ken's eyes the bar is always a work in progress, the "Nellie E" saloon was completed in 1988. The name originates from the old mining claim. The inside of the saloon is unique in many ways. It has windows that are old glass refrigerator doors, the bar stools are made of steel and they sway from side to side. The top of the bar is brass and the ceiling is made of stamped tin purchased from a factory in Missouri. The saloon is powered by solar energy which is stored in batteries and run through inverters. Some of the other "bars" are just chairs and tables set up here and there with a roof to provide some shade.

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The Bridge

Built in 1981, the covered walk bridge was the next big project. It was dedicated in October of that same year. The bridge makes the walk from the parking lot shorter and easier.

The tall structures are "cooling towers". They work similar to an evaporative (swamp) cooler, except they don't have a fan. When you wet the pads on top, cool air falls and you get a nice cool airflow.

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And the church.

The church was started in 1993, completed in 1996 and dedicated in October. The church is made of solid steel and the walls and ceiling are made of the same stamped tin used inside the bar and the roof is made of copper. The names inscribed on the plaques in the church are people who donated money to help build the church. The church is a unique place for weddings. There are no services held in the church and all religions are welcome. At the right time of day, the sun shines through the door of the church and makes a fabulous photo op. (yep, that's me!!)

Before You Go.... - Some advice to consider

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As you can see in the photo, The Nellie E Saloon is nestled in the Buckskin Mountains outside of Parker. It's about five miles of rough mountain road. Lots of dust and some large rocks make the trip a little difficult without the proper vehicle. Not that it can't be done in a Corvette but it's definitely not recommended! Something with 4-wheel drive and a bit more ground clearance is preferred. Also remember that the bar is only open during daylight hours. If you stay until dark, that five mile drive through the desert can be quite an ordeal. And you are in the desert! Bring water! You never know when you may have to change a tire along that road. Trust me...I've been there!!

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Still Growing

It seems that the "Nellie E" is a work in progress and is constantly growing. What started in a small three-walled shack has grown to inside and outside bars with entertainment. Across from the saloon is an outside bar. Behind the outside bar is a horseshoe pit and to the right is a stage for live music or D.J. There is also a cooking area and a stage.There is live music on Saturdays and Sundays from 1pm until 5pm, October through March, depending on the weather.

Ken has big plans for a future town, so be sure to visit every year! He is always working on a new project.

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It can get VERY crowded.

Thanksgiving weekend is one of the biggest for the "Nellie E" and they are open Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with music on Friday, Saturday & Sunday. Many other weekends you'll find the parking lot packed but this weekend is just amazing! Again, keep in mind that with so many people trying to navigate the road in or out, the trip could tale a while so be patient and courteous and stay hydrated. Many people arrive from all around the bar on ATVs and four-wheelers and it's really a great atmosphere of fun and good times.

A Camera is a MUST !!

There are photo ops galore in and around the desaert bar. From the church to the bar itself. And if you walk around you'll find rusty old cars, an old fire engine, beautiful rock formations and sunsets that are breathtaking.

Photo Gallery

Click thumbnail to view full-size
This was the original barThe outside barChillin' at the Nellie EThe men's bathroomsThe "open air" ladies roomOld Mining Wagon ??The churchNot the ideal place for a tire change..
This was the original bar
This was the original bar
The outside bar
The outside bar
Chillin' at the Nellie E
Chillin' at the Nellie E
The men's bathrooms
The men's bathrooms
The "open air" ladies room
The "open air" ladies room
Old Mining Wagon ??
Old Mining Wagon ??
The church
The church
Not the ideal place for a tire change..
Not the ideal place for a tire change..

Some other Arizona finds

Thanx for stopping by and hope to see you at the "Nellie E"

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