2008 Nevada-Mojave Trip


Ghost towns, mines, trains and more!

Every year I spend my five-day vacation camping and exploring the desert, mostly in Nevada but also in the Mojave Desert. I explore old ghost towns, mines, mining camps and anything else of interest, while enjoying the beautiful scenery and wide open spaces.

Atolia, CA

My first stop on this trip was Atolia, CA. This site on Highway 395 was once a mining town.

Tungsten was mined here beginning in 1905. At its peak the town boasted a population of about 2000 people. Not much is left now. On the west side of the highway there are a couple decaying buildings and a modern, occupied home.

Extensive mine diggings, shafts, and ruins of the mill are located on the east side of the highway but this area is strictly off limits to trespassers.

Red Mountain, CA

My next stop was just a few miles up the road, at the town of Red Mountain.

The most interesting thing here is the ruins of the Kelly Mine and mill. Unfortunately it is all fenced off and inaccessible to visitors.

I recall reading in Desert Magazine that they used to give tours into the mine back in the 1960’s.

Silver was the principle ore here.

During Prohibition, Red Mountain was “wide open” and the saloons were booming.

This year I found that the mine’s steel headframe has collapsed since the last time I’d seen it.

Johannesburg, CA

Just to the north is the town of Johannesburg. This former mining town was also a supply center for the region and was the terminus of the Randsburg Railroad.

The ruins of the King Solomon Mine are the most prominent structures in “Joburg”. This site is inhabited and protected against trespassing.

Randsburg, CA

Just over the hill is the town of Randsburg, the most picturesque town in the area. Many old buildings still stand, some dating from the town’s beginnings.

Several of these classic “Old West” structures have been immortalized as kits for model railroads in various scales.

A small 0-4-0 mining locomotive is on display along with other artifacts at the town’s museum.

SPNG Locomotive #18, Independence, CA

This 4-6-0 steam locomotive is on display in the town of Independence, CA. The Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge line operated in the Owens Valley region of eastern California, and was once part of the Carson & Colorado RR based in Carson City, NV.

Mazourka Canyon, CA

Continuing north on Highway 395, my next stop was Mazourka Canyon. There are several mines in this area, however on this trip I didn’t have time to explore up the canyon. I did see this large ore bin at the mouth of the canyon.

Arriving in Nevada sometime after midnight, I spent the first night of the trip at a geological feature known locally as “The Sump”. It’s a colorful area of highly eroded mudhills, sandstone and volcanic deposits.

In the morning I launched one of my small camera payload rockets and got some interesting aerial photos of the site. Click here to see them.

Silver Peak, NV

After crossing the Silver Peak Range, I came to the town of Silver Peak, NV.

Gold was discovered here in the 1860’s, making it one of the oldest mining areas in Nevada. The town experienced the usual cycles of boom and bust. In 1906 the Silver Peak Railroad was built, along with a 100-stamp mill at Blair, a few miles to the north.

These days, the major source of income is mining lithium from beneath the dry lake east of town. This is the primary source of lithium in the United States.

Tonopah, NV

From Silver Peak, I headed over to Tonopah, the only place in the region to get gas and supplies. There are a couple of great mining museums in Tonopah, but I didn’t have time to visit them on this trip. I did spend an hour or so exploring some of the side streets and shooting pics of several interesting old buildings.

Tonopah started in 1900 after gold and silver ore was discovered by Jim Butler while tracking down his runaway burro.

From Tonopah I headed east, then north, passing a small herd of antelope and eventually taking the trail up Silver Creek (right).

Barcelona, NV

The trail climbed nearly 9000 feet up into the mountains, to the ridge of Barcelona Summit. Just below the summit I found the remains of Barcelona, NV, an old mining camp. The first serious mining activity began here in 1874. Several small, crumbling stone walls and a few mine shafts are all that remain. A wildfire had scorched the area sometime in the past few years, destroying any wooden structures that might have existed.

Round Meadow Canyon, NV

Coming down the other side of the ridge, I passed through Round Meadow Canyon. Along the way I spotted an old wooden cabin and the ruins of a large stone building. So far I’ve been unable to find any information about these structures.

Daugherty Ranch, NV

Crossing over the Monitor Range via House Canyon, I came to the ruins of the Daugherty Ranch, where I spent the second night. This site has several stone structures in various states of decay. The best is this picturesque ranch house made of local stone using only mud as mortar.

Hot Creek Canyon, NV

In the morning I went east through Hot Creek Canyon. The scenery here is terrific, but access is limited to through traffic during daylight hours only, as the road passes through several ranch properties.

At the east end of the canyon is Hot Creek Ranch. The main ranch house is a beautiful old stone structure with large porches and a complex roof. A short distance away are the crumbling remains of an ancient stone cabin.

Willow Creek, NV

At Hot Creek Ranch I turned north. One interesting site I found was this old ranch at Willow Creek in the Little Smoky Valley, consisting of several stone buildings.

I needed to reach Eureka, NV before my gas ran out. But in the mountains southwest of Eureka, I encountered a maze of trails and took a couple wrong turns. Instead of coming into Eureka from the south, I ended up at the highway 15 miles west of town. By that time my gas gauge was hovering just above the empty mark, and I thought I wouldn’t have enough to reach town. But after I pulled onto the highway, the needle shot up to the 1/4 mark! I made it into Eureka with a little to spare.

Eureka, NV

Eureka is a pretty little town in the heart of Nevada. The town was first was settled in 1864 by prospectors who discovered silver-lead ore in the surrounding mountains. The population peaked at about 10,000 people in 1878.

Several buildings date back to the town’s earliest days, including the county courthouse which was built in 1879.

Many of the old buildings have been maintained in good condition, and others have been restored. Some, especially on the back streets, are dilapidated and uninhabitable.

Eureka was once served by the narrow gauge Eureka & Palisades Railroad. A tiny boxcar displayed on the main street has been converted into some kind of office and made to look like a passenger coach.

Newark, NV

East of Eureka on the sunrise side of the Diamond Mountains, I explored the site of Newark. I found little of interest -- just a short mine tunnel and some equipment scattered about. The mine was “inhabited” by the carcass of a cow.

Hamilton District - Belmont Mill, NV 

Hamilton District - Belmont Mine, NV 

Shortly before sunset I arrived at the Belmont Mine, high on the side of Pogonip Ridge in the White Pine Range. (Not to be confused with the town of Belmont which is in Nye County.)

The Belmont Mine is one of my favorite sites, along with its mill located three miles away at the base of the mountain. There are several interesting old buildings there, including a large tram house for the aerial cable tram which was used to transport ore to the mill. I spent the third night of my trip at the mine and headed down to the mill in the morning.

Nevada Northern Railway Museum - Ely, NV

My next stop was Ely, Nevada, home of the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. I had hoped to see one of their two steam locomotives in operation, as they usually do tourist runs all through the summer. Unfortunately both locos were sidelined for repair of cracked axles.

But I still got plenty of photos! As long as you use common sense and don’t endanger yourself or act like a jerk, you can freely roam the yard and photographic the many interesting structures and rolling stock.

They have many items of interest to railroad enthusiasts, including a steam-powered wrecking crane, a rotary snowplow, wooden boxcars with steel frames, and extensive shop facilities. The original blacksmith shop is intact and complete with forge, anvil and tools!

Current Creek, NV

After leaving Ely I turned southwest on Highway 6. Along the way I stopped at a site in the Current Creek area. This had been a very interesting site with several abandoned buildings, including a former store with an old-fashioned false front.

It had been several years since the last time I’d been there. This year I was disappointed to find that all the buildings on the south side of the road were completely gone. Not even rubble or foundations remain. On the north side of the road, a log cabin and other small structures were gone too. All that is left are the log-framed barn and a large concrete-walled dugout.

Left: I passed through this area of red sandstone bluffs after leaving Current Creek.

Callaway Well, NV

This old ranch site in the Grant Range has a windmill and well which still provides water for local cattle.


I chased a large thunderstorm eastwards toward Caliente, NV. It was moving away from me and I missed most of the action, but I did manage to get a few cool shots of lightning over the Delamar Mountains.

I spent the night in the hills west of Delamar Dry Lake, NV. The next morning I worked my way south into California. I ended up in the Ivanpah Mountains, where there are numerous old mines and mining camps.

Evening Star Mine, CA

This former tin mine features an impressive wooden headframe. Several other shafts and a couple small structures are nearby.

Riley’s Camp Area, CA

Just up the hill from the Evening Star mine is this interesting abandoned mining camp surrounded by small mines. A few other camps are nearby - most are more recent, and not as nice as this one. I spent the last night of my trip at Riley’s Camp.

Cima, CA

Founded in 1906 along the Union Pacific tracks, Cima was primarily a railroad town and supply center for mines in the region.

There are a couple of occupied buildings there, a large microwave tower, a wye, and some railroad maintenance materials. There are also several decaying structures from the towns’ early days, and a deep mine shaft.

Death Valley Mine, CA

Located south of Cima, this mine isn’t anywhere near Death Valley. This was my first visit to this site. I found a few very old ruins, plus a home and other structures that appeared to be recently inhabited. These have been carefully boarded up and are lit by a large street light at night.

There is a very interesting, small, steel headframe at the mine, complete with a hoist house and three intact hoists.

This was my last stop before heading home.


Note to modelers:

Many of the structures I’ve photographed would make great additions to your model railroad. It is my hope that these photos can be a useful reference resource. If you need larger, higher resolution images, just let me know. Also, in some cases I have additional detail photos that have not yet been posted online.

Return to Ghost Towns Page

Return to Photography and Graphics page