Tonopah Historic Mining Park

08/09/2013 - Scroll down to the “08/09/2013 Trip Notes” section to learn more about this most recent visit.
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Image Title Bar 04 Mitzpah Mine & Hoist House
Mining History: Originally an Indian campground known as Tonopah Springs, the town of Tonopah surrounds the site of one of the richest mining booms in the West. On May 19, 1900, Jim Butler made a somewhat accidental discovery of some silver ore. After taking the samples to William Gayhart, an Austin assayer, he found the assay ran as high as $600 a ton. Finally on August 27, 1900, he and his wife filed on eight claims near the springs. Six of these - Desert Queen, Burro, Valley View, Silver Top, Buckboard, and Mizpah - turned into some of the biggest producers the state has ever had. Work was begun on the Mizpah mine in October 1900, and a camp called Butler formed nearby. The town (camp) of Butler began to grow by leaps and bounds. On March 24, 2001, the first stagecoach, coming from Sodaville, arrived in the Butler camp which no consisted of seven shacks, a number of tents and a population of 60. Within weeks, the population had grown to 250. In 1902, when Jim Butler sold out his claims, they were consolidated into a new company called the Tonopah Mining Company. The company's property included 11 claims covering more than 160 acres. There were two deep vertical shafts, 1,200' and 1,700', with workings covering almost 39 miles. In 1912 a 60-stamp mill with a 500 ton capacity was built at Tonopah. During its years of activity, 1912-1923, it was regarded as one of the country's best equipped and most efficient silver cyanide mills. Mine production from 1900 to 1921, the peak years, was almost $121 million. The biggest single year was 1913, when almost $10 million in gold, silver, copper and lead was mined. By the end of the WWII most of the mines were closed down. The final blow came in 1947 when the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad folded and its rails were torn up. By this time, the total production from the Tonopah district was just more than $150 million, a figure few other places could boast. For even more detail, read the following account by Roger McPhearson ... Article on Tonopah and Goldfield.

08/09/2013 Trip Notes: On this return trip from Lake Tahoe, we decided to spend a night at the Mitzpah Hotel. Staying overnight in Tonopah for the first time provided us with the opportunity to spend more time to exploring the history of the area. Though this was the second time I got to explore the mining park, it was the first time I got to go into visitor’s center that was closed on my previous visit. Once inside we got to view an excellent 20-minute movie on Tonopah’s mining history and look at one of the most extensive rock and mineral collections I have ever seen. Because the park’s uppermost mines, Desert Queen, North Star and Montana-Tonopah, require considerable hiking, I decided to leave them for yet another return visit. On this visit, my self-guided walking tour (Fig. 02) allowed me to explore what is probably the park’s most famous mine, the Mitzpah Mine (Fig. 01). See details below.

10/25/2012 Trip Notes: Every time I travel back and forth between Las Vegas and Lake Tahoe visiting family, I pass through the town of Tonapah. Because it is about 1/2 way on the 450-mile, seven hour journey, I usually only make a pit-stop for gas and a quick bite at Burger King. However, on this and my previous trip, I decided to take a little extra time to check out a few things and made quick stops at the 100-acre Historic Mining Park and the Central Nevada Historical Society Museum. This post provides pictures and information on my visit to the mining park. On my next trip I hope to stay at the restored Mizpah Hotel and provide pictures and info on this 1907 landmark.
Tonopah Mining Park Map001
(Fig. 02)
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park: Located on the end of McCulloch Street on the east side of town, on the slopes of Mount Oddie, the 100-acre Tonopah Historic Mining Park is situated on the site of the original mining claims that started the rush to Tonopah, making it “Queen of the Silver Camps”. Jim and Belle Butler’s strike in 1900 brought the United States into the 20th Century. Many of the mining processing techniques developed during that time are still being used today. The remaining structures and underground works of four old mines are being restored to working condition, with exhibits, displays and a Visitor Center (Fig. 02) in the 1905 Tonopah Mining Company power house. You can take the self-guided tour of these magnificent ruins and acquire souvenirs in the small gift shop inside the Visitor’s Center.
(Fig. 03)
Silver Top Mine and Hoist House: Due to its location, the silhouette of the head frame and hoist house (Fig. 03) of the Silver Top Mine (1902-1948) is visible from the moment you begin your drive into town. The head frame, containing the mine hoist, was operated from the accompanying hoist house to the rear. The next four pictures were taken inside of the hoist house. (Figs. 04 & 05) show the engine room and the massive gears that ran the hoist cables that pulled the ore from shafts nearly 1200 feet below ground. The hoist operator stood in a small room behind the main gears, using the levers in (Fig. 06) to lower and raise the ore buckets. The mine level indicator in (Fig. 07) let the operator see how far down the ore buckets were being lowered. Once the ore reached the surface, the buckets ran on tracks over to the Silver Top “Grizzly” (Fig. 08). Built in 1905, and one of only a couple of complete facilities left in the west, the grizzly housed a hand-sorting crew that separated the ore and aggregate by size, removing the unwanted and oversize materials and bypassing the smaller particles. The good ore went into bins and shoots (Fig. 09) that then dropped (Fig. 10) it into wooden, horse drawn ore wagons (Fig. 11), where it was then transported to a crusher and processing plant; while the bad ore went out onto waste piles that still remain today along sides of the "grizzly".
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(Fig. 12)
The Mitzpah Mine: Sometimes referred to as Belle’s Mine (Fig. 12), the Mitzpah (Fig. 01) was by far the richest of all the mines. It had the first steel head frame (Figs. 13-15) and hoisting works in the country. As a result of the restoration of the collar in 2003, today visitors can stand on a grate over the lighted mine shaft and stare down the throat of a 600-foot deep mine. The large, red hoist house (Fig. 16) contains an impressive array of machinery and complete set of hoisting works, along with large air compressors where they were placed back in the early 1900’s (Fig. 17). Called the “glory hole”, the pictures in (Figs. 18 & 19), are the result of a cave-in of a large square set mine stope on the 200-foot level in the Mizpah Mine in 1911. (Stoping is a step like excavation made in an underground mine to extract the wanted ore that leaves behind an open space known as a stope; these stopes frequently collapse at a later time, leaving craters at the surface.)
(Fig. 13)
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(Fig. 20)
Desert Queen Hoist House & Mine: Though I have yet to hike to this mine, the Desert Queen Hoist House and mine, shown in (Fig. 20) above, offers the third complete hoisting works that can be found on the property. Its head frame is one of the most famous and recognizable structures of its type in the entire west.