the vegas

based in vegas, wandering the desert

Ancient relics spotted in Northern Nevada

Ok, fine, ancient relic may be a bit of an exaggeration, but finding payphones these days is almost as rare as finding coin-operated slots in Las Vegas. Can you blame me for feeling a bit nostalgic?

My husband and I stumbled upon two reminders of our life before cell phones at the Border Inn Casino and RV Park in Baker, Nevada. A motel with a casino, restaurant and gas station, it’s located on Highway 6 and historic Highway 50, near the Utah border and Great Basin National Park. One of the payphones was located on the inside. The other one, a phone booth, was outside.

Though we didn’t use them, it’s pretty great that the Border Inn has these phones. Cell coverage is quite spotty in this neck of the woods so a payphone may be the only way for travelers to make a call. Highway 50 was, after all, named “The Loneliest Road in America” by Life magazine. Plus, it’s free to call 911 on a payphone, in the case of emergency.

Phone booth outside the Border Inn in Baker, Nevada. It’s where Superman changes on his way to Great Basin National Park.

Payphones are quickly becoming an endangered species in our country. In a 2018 telecommunications report (PDF), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reported fewer than 100,000 payphones remaining in service in the United States (as of the end of 2016). That’s down from 2.1 million in 1999.

I couldn’t find more recent statistics, and math is not my forte, but I’m willing to bet there are substantially fewer payphones remaining in 2022.

At least two of them are in Baker, Nevada.

Any estimates on how many payphones remain in the country nowadays?