Travels in the American Southwest

Pahranagat Valley and Lakes

See Also:
CmdrMark's Report from 1997 on Pahranagat Valley & Lakes

Road factor/Accessability - Two lane paved
90 miles from Las Vegas

An important stop on the Great Pacific Migratory Route, dozens of bird species can be found here. With the abundant water source, fishing is great too! Just like it was not so long ago when the valley was a haven for cattle rustlers and their ill-gotten beef. The valley was made famous by a hoax, perpetrated by Dan deQuille (William Wright) of the Territorial Enterprise newspaper. Prior to writing for the paper, deQuille's background was mining and he was considered an acknowledged expert in matters dealing with mining and geology. His vocabulary was said to be "truly remarkable".

On slow news days, deQuille wasn't above spinning a yarn for the paper. One such story concerned "solar armor" which today we'd call "personal air conditioning". It was a suit made of indian rubber with a compressor attached. When the wearer felt warm, he'd flip the compressor's switch until sufficiently cooled, then flip the switch off. To test his suit, the inventor went into Death Valley one day when the temperature 117 degrees (in the shade, of course). Hours passed and a search party was formed. Shortly thereafter, the invenor was found dead. Apparantly the poor man couldn't switch the compressor off and froze to death. deQuille "reported" that from the inventor's nose hung an eighteen inch icicle. It's written that London newspapers took this story as true and endorsed the product!

One day deQuille wrote a article intending it to be filler, a piece of fluff if you will. Instead, he created a monster which haunted him to his death. Working alongside a fellow from "back east", deQuille concocted a story about the "Moving Stones of Pahranagat Valley". (Not to be confused with the Sliding Stones of Racetrack Playa which really exist in Death Valley! Scroll down after clicking on link). Using the powers of "magnetic waves", deQuille claimed that the iron ore bearing stones, when placed in a circle no wider than three feet in diameter, would slowly inch their way to the center. Stones placed further apart would act as normal stones and remain where placed. As a respected miner and geologist, his story was immediately accepted as fact...Even by the "learned men of science". Later, he was scorned and hounded by the scientific community...For not sharing his discovery with his fellow scientists! Even decades later, he would receive requests for quantities of the stone. Despite his denials, retractions, confessions and admissions, the story refused to die.
I've no doubt that deQuille's tale spinning had an effect on that fellow from "back east". That tenderfoot wrote a book about Nevada titled, "Roughing It". One of the many books penned by Mark Twain.

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