The heart of this tiny border town keeps beating through its owner.
By Floyd Allen
Nevada’s pioneer spirit is alive and well in Cal-Nev-Ari, and is embodied in the town’s owner and founder Nancy Kidwell. Since 1965, when her husband Slim first saw the area from the air, Cal-Nev-Ari has been first a dream, and then a dream come true for Nancy.
“Slim knew about the Pittman Land Act,” Nancy explains, “which allowed anyone who was willing to drill a well and help combat the arid nature of Nevada to get a section of land to develop—as long as they could show proof of having a well that could sustain life on that land.”
The Kidwells accepted the challenge and began the nearly impossible task of building a town. They opted for a section of land that contained a delta-shaped airstrip that had been built as a staging field for Gen. George S. Patton’s desert training of troops in WWII. Once they determined the property they wanted, they flew to Reno to file a claim. Six months later, after they completed the task of drilling and casing their well and testing the water—which turned out to be of excellent quality—they fenced a 20-acre plot of land and raised a crop of Arivat Barley. Their first harvest proved to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) there was sufficient water to warrant future development, and they were granted a patent to some 627 acres.
The undertaking was an arduous one. They sold a five-acre gated estate in Rolling Hills, Calif., and moved to a mobile home with no utilities smack dab in the middle of Piute Valley, south of Searchlight, on U.S. Route 95. Their first undertaking was to develop a mobile home park so they would have some place to live.
“Some friends of ours,” Kidwell says with a grin, “flew out from the Torrance Airport in their airplanes to visit the first year we were here. They took one look around, got back in their planes and never came back again!”
Slim and Nancy, however, did not leave. In the beginning, the town’s population was four —Slim, Nancy, and their cat and dog. After they got the mobile home park established, they built a full-service service station. Then, in 1968, they opened the casino. The Blue Sky Motel became a reality in 1983, and the market and RV Park in 1988.
Along the way, the Kidwells were able to accomplish the infrastructure that makes a town possible. Electricity and phone lines were brought in. They were able to “tap in” to the same natural gas line that provides gas to Las Vegas and also establish a post office. They now have a total of three wells, which provide water to both sides of U.S. Route 95 via a network of pipes that run under the highway. The first well is powered by a 100-horsepower, three-phase pump that produces 700 gallons of water per minute.
The facilities of the town, however, are only a part of its grandeur—and a small part at that. The town’s true worth is the people who live there.
“At present,” Nancy explains, “we have about 350 people, most of whom are permanent residents.”
The town has some rental properties that are available on a monthly basis and, as a result, there are a few residents who classify themselves as “snowbirds.” All of its residents, however, come together to create what Kidwell refers to as the “camaraderie of community.”
“The casino,” Kidwell explains, “is open 24-7 and closed only one day a year—Christmas. On that day we put on a community celebration where everyone comes in for a potluck buffet and we exchange gifts and so forth.”
That isn’t the only time the community gathers at the casino, however. Everything from weddings to anniversary parties and baby showers to celebrations of life are held there. Potlucks are often held, just so folks can get together to share each other’s company.
If you have time and want to drop in and be a part of the community for a while you would be wise to do so. The motel features clean, well-lit, comfortable rooms. The RV park is equipped with wide streets, 58 pull-through spaces, a laundromat, and showers. As well as enjoying the community itself, you are close to both Cotton Wood Cove and Katherine’s Landing on the Colorado, where you can enjoy boating, fishing, and skiing. As mentioned, the casino is open every day, as is the restaurant, which features tasty food, generous portions, and reasonable prices. The airstrip (one mile long, 75-feet wide, unpaved) gives visitors the choice to drive or fly in for their adventure.
“Perhaps nature provides some of our best amenities,” Kidwell shared. “We have terrific views and clean water and air you can’t ask for much more than that.”
After 50 years, Kidwell is looking to sell the town. With no children, the responsibilities of owning and operating the town are becoming more and more challenging. While you might think her major concern in selling would be to cash in on her investment of time and money, that isn’t the case. Her concern is the people who live there and her quest is to find someone willing to put their heart and soul into it, caring for and meeting the needs of the people who live there. If you’re looking for the ultimate Nevada adventure, this just may be it. But remember; real pioneers only need apply.