Ghost Towns and Mines


Rhyolite, NV

Rhyolite is possibly the most famous, and most visited, of all the Nevada ghost towns. It’s easily accessible, has many large, photogenic ruins over a wide area, and has been featured in many newspapers and magazines. It’s even been used for location shooting in movies. Although it’s not a state park like Berlin, NV  or Bodie in California, Rhyolite has been somewhat protected by various caretakers over the years and by the historically inclined residents of Beatty. Since 1990 it has been in the care of the Bureau of Land Management.

Rhyolite began in 1905 after a gold strike in the nearby Bullfrog Hills. Gold fever had already been whipped up by big strikes in Tonopah and Goldfield, so Rhyolite boomed big. By 1907 the town had running water, electricity, telephones, a hospital, a school, banks, and railroads. Eventually Rhyolite was served by three railroads: The Bullfrog Goldfield RR, the Las Vegas & Tonopah RR, and the Tonopah & Tidewater RR. Peak population was somewhere in the range of 3500-5000, plus many more in the surrounding area.

But the boom quickly turned to bust. The initial strike had some rich ore, but the rest was low grade. By 1910 the largest mine, the Montgomery-Shoshone Mine, was losing money. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and the financial panic of 1907 also had an impact, hurting investors and making it difficult to raise capital. By the time the big two-story school was completed, there were no longer enough students to fill it.

In the 1920s Rhyolite was already becoming a tourist attraction. The unreinforced concrete buildings were beginning to crumble and had been stripped of their finery. Many of the smaller buildings had been moved to nearby Beatty or to other boomtowns, or were scrapped for salvage.

Because there is so much to see here, I’ve created a separate page for each area of interest...

Posted September 2014.

Return to Ghost Towns list

For a detailed history of Rhyolite’s major buildings, including dozens of historic photos, I highly recommend the following website:

Rhyolite, NV:  The South End

(Click the title or any photo to see more pics of each structure and its surroundings.)

As you enter the area from the west, the first thing you’ll see is this mine with its wooden headframe standing on a low hill. The headframe and tiny ore bin are in good condition, as is the timber-lined, three-compartment shaft. Several foundations and a blacksmith’s forge can be found nearby.

Rhyolite, NV:  The Major Ruins

The mill was located farther up the canyon.

The ruins of the mill’s wooden building have burned down, leaving only concrete foundations which cover a large area of hillside.

A large, picturesque ore bin with a long chute and trestle stands on the hill just east of the mill ruins. On the ledge above it there are foundations and debris from another mine, plus a deep pit, the remains of the mine’s caved-in shaft.

Rhyolite, NV:  The Bottle House

The largest and most recently active of the mines. The Simon Mine no longer has a headframe and the concrete collar around the shaft is partially collapsed, but a large and interesting building stands at the site.

Nearby is a riveted steel tank from a railroad car, sans wheels, apparently used to hold water for the mines. A relatively modern sheet metal building is also at the site.

Rhyolite, NV:  The Railroad Station

A strange concrete shack overlooks the mill ruins. There is a door at each end, and two openings on the north side. The interior is divided into four sections linked by a narrow walkway, and drainage channels are cast into the concrete floor. Four concrete pads are located adjacent to this shack. I suspect the shack once housed electrical equipment.

To the east, atop another hill, is a small corrugated shack with an unusual frame of iron pipes.

Rhyolite, NV:  The Caboose

In 1930 a Union Oil distributor built several gas stations in the area, including one in Rhyolite. The Rhyolite gas station served tourists and consisted of an old caboose, a fuel tank and a gas pump. The tank and caboose are still there.

Rhyolite, NV:  The Jail

This large concrete jailhouse is located at the southeast corner of the town. The jail cells make up about two thirds of the

building, and are permanently sealed. (On my first visit in 1988 the interior was still accessible.)

The front third of the building was the office of the jailer and/or law enforcement. This end is damaged, with the roof and front wall missing.

Rhyolite, NV:  The East Side

The area east of Golden Street had many homes and smaller businesses. Most of them are gone now, leaving only foundations and low, crumbling stone walls.

Two small buildings remain intact. One of them is a two-room, stone and adobe cabin that may have housed a brothel in its later years.

The other is a wooden, one-room miner’s cabin with a shingled roof.

There is also a solitary grave in this area, reputedly belonging to a local prostitute.