The view east across Africa at RyanHenge. Varied column widths make the solar calendar work correctly.
The view east across Africa at RyanHenge. Varied column widths make the solar calendar work correctly.

RyanHenge

Field review by the editors.

Coyote Springs, Nevada

The U.S. is home to a startling number of Stonehenges: circular temples of sarsen stones with auras of mysterious juju. Our vote for the most oddly placed and obsessively designed? RyanHenge, completed in 2017 under the open skies of the Mojave Desert -- and it's next to a landfill.

Entrance walkway --
Entrance walkway -- "Starlight Avenue" -- marks the winter solstice.

"Yep, I'm Ryan," said Ryan Williams, CEO of the company that runs the landfill, and the guy who came up with the RyanHenge idea.

"I grew up in Las Vegas," he told us, "and with all the lights in the city you couldn't see any stars." So Ryan began spending nights at the landfill ("It's an hour drive to the middle of nowhere") just to enjoy the dark nights, and the sunsets and sunrises as well. "Until then, I had no idea that the stars and sun even moved in the sky," he said. Ryan started hammering stakes into the ground to mark celestial positions, and saw that the heavenly objects moved in cycles. "Before too long," he said, "I realized I could build a solar calendar, a Stonehenge."

Space alien and Little Dipper constellation atop the northernmost lintel.
Space alien and Little Dipper constellation atop the northernmost lintel.

Since Ryan's birthday is the winter solstice, December 21, he decided that his Stonehenge would clock the 21st day of every month, year-round, based on the rising and setting of the sun.

The flat earth at your feet.
The flat earth at your feet.

"You don't realize how many cloudy days there are until you do that," he said. "I only had to be there one day each month, but it took me over ten years to get it done."

For RyanHenge to work on its monthly schedule, it needed 57 upright megalith columns -- more than any other Stonehenge that we know of -- and Ryan found that "I had to make the columns different widths depending on how fast the sun was moving between every month." That took a lot of time, work, and expense, but Ryan Williams was very particular, and that's something you want to see in a Stonehenge creator. Based solely on its usefulness, RyanHenge sets a standard that will will be difficult for future heaven-gazers to surpass.

The columns surround a map of the world, and the map surrounds a tall center pole with a tiny hole cut into it. "The only time that a ray of sunshine can get through the pole is at high noon," said Ryan. "At night, if you stand on Antarctica and look north, the North Star will sit right at the top of the pole." Yin-Yang symbols mark the equinoxes, and on Ryan's birthday the sun sets at the end of "Starlight Avenue," a tapered concrete walkway that stretches from RyanHenge to the adjacent road.

Christmas lighting at RyanHenge.
Christmas lighting at RyanHenge.

Aside from its status as possibly the world's heaviest calendar, RyanHenge also offers mystery. What, for example, is the significance of the Greek, Latin, and English phrases written on the map? Does the center pole mark Atlantis? Why isn't RyanHenge marked on the map? Why does a green space alien stand atop the northernmost lintel?

Paddock of llamas, zebras, horses, and goats.
Animals are calm outside of RyanHenge, unaffected by its aura of mystery.

Ryan has answers to all of these questions, but divulging them would spoil his fun. "I built it specifically so people would start guessing things," Ryan said. "I like hearing their stories."

Although RyanHenge stands on private landfill property, respectful tourists are welcome to enjoy it along with other oddities added by Ryan and his family, including some old Pullman railroad cars salvaged from a Las Vegas casino, and a paddock of llamas, cows, horses, and goats that Ryan said are definitely not meant for eerie rituals at RyanHenge, despite what's been speculated on the interwebs. If you visit on the 21st of the month, you might also see Ryan himself. "I come just to look at the sunrise or sunset between the columns," he said. "It makes me happy."

Ryan said that he told RyanHenge's design engineer that he "wanted it to last more than 5,000 years," perhaps anticipating the zany theories that will explain it in the 26th century. He has no doubt that RyanHenge will survive at least until then. "The sun will always rise and set between those columns," Ryan said. "If it doesn't, we got problems."

RyanHenge

Western Elite Landfill

Address:
US-93, Coyote Springs, NV
Directions:
Western Elite Landfill. 65 miles north of Las Vegas. I-15 exit 64. Drive north on US-93/Great Basin Hwy for 43 miles. Entrance is on the west side, just past the "Truck Crossing" sign. RyanHenge is a couple hundred yards inside the entrance. All visitors must check in at the scale house.
Hours:
M-F, usually 7am-3pm. Local health policies may affect hours and access.
RA Rates:
Worth a Detour
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

E.T. Fresh JerkyE.T. Fresh Jerky, Hiko, NV - 40 mi.
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Alien Research CenterAlien Research Center, Hiko, NV - 41 mi.
In the region:
Tunnel Of Love: Drive-Thru Weddings, Las Vegas, NV - 57 mi.

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November 27, 2020

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