The desert landscape south of Las Vegas can be a desolate, harsh and foreboding place. The clear skies and diverging lines of US 95 (Veterans Memorial Highway) and US 93 will lull an aviator into a sense of complacency. Reach for the Phoenix sectional, grab a sip of water or even blink at an inopportune time and you’ll miss the town of Cal-Nev-Ari, Nevada and Kidwell Airport (1L4).
Kidwell Airport is just one of the hard packed, dirt airstrips flanking US 95 south of Boulder City. From the air you’ll see the Cal-Nev-Ari water tank. Look further south and a large painted KIDWELL will appear on the roof of one of the town’s out buildings. The tattered and faded orange windsocks gently swaying in the breeze will lead you to the approach end of Runway 33.
Cal-Nev-Ari is what happens when dreams meet hard work. In the early 1960s, pilots Nancy Kidwell and her late husband Slim wanted to run their own airport. Slim noticed an abandoned military training base (Stage Field) approximately 70 miles south of Las Vegas. After acquiring the land for free under the federal Pittman Land Act, and proving they could find sufficient water, Cal-Nev-Ari was born. “Population 4 - Watch Us Grow” (Nancy, Slim, their dog and cat). Everette G. “Slim” Kidwell died in the 1980s after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. Years later Ace, Slim’s son from another marriage, married Nancy and they grew this serene little place to more than 300 residents. Verne William “Ace” Kidwell passed in early 2011 and now Nancy just can’t take care of her town any more.
Sound quirky, picturesque and intriguing? It’s for sale. Nancy, now 73-years-old, listed the whole kit-and-caboodle for a mere $17 million. Write a check and become the proud owner of just over 600 acres of dirt. The deal includes the three deep-water wells, sewer system, utility company, voluntary fire department, market, mobile home and RV park, the airport and the casino and restaurant.
Cal-Nev-Ari Casino and Restaurant, the Kidwell’s dessert culinary oasis, is a cross between a truck stop, a greasy spoon and a seedy little off-strip Vegas casino. It certainly has charm. The parking lot is a snapshot of small town America. Several pick-up trucks towing weekend fishing boats mingle with compact rent-a-wrecks, extra wide RVs and the occasional semi-tractor trailer. A friendly wave and a “hello” will great you almost the minute your mains touchdown. The peaceful exterior masks the heart and communal gathering place of the town. There’s a steady flow of highway travelers, aged aviators and local retirees expressing opinions about politics and picking-up food to go.