Rhyolite Ghost Town

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“… the quartz was just full of free gold… it was the original bullfrog rock… this banner is a crackerjack! The district is going to be the banner camp of Nevada. I say so once and I’ll say it again.” Shorty Harris

If you love exploring and photographing old ruins and abandoned towns, head to the Bullfrog Hills on the eastern edge of Death Valley National Park. Here you will find Rhyolite, a ghost town near Beatty in Nye County, Nevada. We had heard about and seen photographs of the run-down old buildings of Rhyolite and the adjacent “ghosts” of Goldwell Open Air Museum, an outdoor sculpture park.  Both places were high up on our bucket list, so on our drive south from Yerington, Nevada to Yuma, Arizona, we just had to pull off of Highway 95.

In 1904, Shorty Harris and E. L. Cross were prospecting in the area when they found quartz up on a hill. Soon several mining camps spread out in this desolate area, including the townsite of Rhyolite. It’s said that over 2000 claims spanned a 30-mile area of the Bullfrog district, including the successful Montgomery Shoshone mine which was eventually purchased by Charles Schwab. Rhyolite boomed with buildings, hotels, stores, a school, two electric plants, foundries, machine shops, a hospital, and of course, a thriving red-light district. The community enjoyed an active social life with dances and picnics, baseball games, and shows at the opera house.  There was even electricity.

Rhyolite’s success started to fade with the financial panic of 1907. By 1911, the Montgomery Shoshone mine and mill closed, and in 1916, the electricity was turned off.

Today you can explore the remnants of Rhyolite’s prosperous past including the privately-owned old train depot, the restored Bottle House, the old Porter Brothers General Store (HD &LD Porter, 1906), and the iconic three-story Cook Bank Building. It is astounding to stand in history, and witness where hope, prosperity and community growth flourished so fast, only to be snuffed out in less than a decade.

 

 

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