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Ghost Town of Rhyolite, Nevada - Summary Page

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This page last updated on 05/31/2017
Town of Rhyolite
(Fig. 01)
MAP - Bullfrog Mining District
(Fig. 02)
Directions: From Las Vegas, follow US-95 North for approximately 115 miles to the mining town of Beatty, Nevada (Fig. 02). In the center of town, turn left (west) onto SR-374 towards Death Valley. Drive approximately 4 miles and turn right to the ghost town of Rhyolite. The ruins of this famous ghost town are just up the hill past the Goldwell Open Air Museum.
                   
            
History of Rhyolite: Rhyolite is just another of several short lived boom-towns from the late Gold Rush era. It proudly sits just outside the eastern edge of Death Valley, approximately 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas. This legendary ghost town lies in the Bullfrog Hills of southwestern Nevada near the small Amargosa desert town of Beatty in Nye County (Fig. 02). The transformation of this area, eventually known as the Bullfrog Mining District, was due to the discovery of gold by two prospectors named Ed L. Cross and "Shorty" Harris. Having no luck mining around the Funeral Mountain Range to the south near Death Valley, they stopped at Buck's Springs and camped on their way to Goldfield in August of 1904. While prospecting around the area they stumbled upon the Original Bullfrog mine, which showed high values in free gold. According to historic accounts, the rock (mineral) was green and spotted with chunks of yellow metal, looking similar to the back of a frog – thus the name bullfrog. A stampede followed and soon the hills surrounding the new find were filled with eager prospectors.   Gold discoveries at the Ladd and Benson, the Denver, the National Bank and several others followed in rapid succession, but it wasn't until November 1904 when the excitement reached its zenith with the discovery of a nice ore chute on the Montgomery-Shoshone mine. The site of Rhyolite, sprawled along a sloping alluvial plain between Bonanza and Ladd mountains, attracted more boomers, and by the spring of 1905 the streets of Rhyolite were lined with canvas-sided tents and wooden shanties, along with 1500 people. Click here for more info on the Bullfrog Mining District ... The Bullfrog Mining District.
                           
The town of Rhyolite was founded and platted during February 1905 on $300 borrowed by Frank Busch. About a mile to the north of the Shoshone-Montgomery mine, Rhyolite captured the wandering population and eventually became the central city of this desert area. Dug-outs, tents and adobe houses were the first dwellings of the new civilization. Soon, "grubstakers" came to the front, advancing supplies and funds to mining prospectors, as well as additional capital to develop the district. By the end of 1905 Rhyolite had 50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, a red light district complete with cribs for prostitution, boarding houses, 16 restaurants, 19 lodging houses, a public bath house, weekly newspaper, and six barbers. Progress was rapid, and through 1906 tents and shanties had been replaced by solid wood-frame structures and beautiful but expensive cut rock and concrete buildings, some as tall as three stories. The rhyolite and granite rock was cut, dressed and transported from local quarries.

Industrialist Charles M. Schwab bought the Montgomery Shoshone Mine in 1906 and invested heavily in infrastructure, including piped water, electric lines and railroad transportation. As evidenced by the photo in (Fig. 01), Rhyolite had electric lights, water mains, sidewalks, telephones, a hospital, a two-story school, an opera house, police and fire departments, a train station servicing two railroads (the Las Vegas & Tonopah, and the Tonopah and Tidewater). Two daily newspapers, a magazine (only one issue), two churches, auto stages, a stock exchange, doctors, dentists, real estate offices, law offices, banks, eight grocery stores, 50 saloons, restaurants, 19 hotels and boarding houses, a flourishing red-light district, opera house, a baseball team and a 14’ x 40’ public swimming pool that gave the community something few mining camps had. There were many other businesses, all befitting a growing city. Published estimates of the town's peak population between 1907 to 1908 vary widely, but generally place it in a range between 3,500 and 5,000.

Unfortunately, Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell dramatically. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made it more difficult to raise development capital. Coupled with the panic of 1907, Rhyolite was dealt a death blow, but it really didn’t know it.  Even though the money dried up, Rhyolite continued on its merry way, booming while it was busting.   In 1908, an independent study of the Montgomery Shoshone Mine’s value proved unfavorable, causing the company's stock value to crash, further restricting funding. By the end of 1910, the Montgomery Shoshone mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911. This was just the start of the decline. By 1908 Rhyolite was finally in distress and in 1910, the door slammed shut.  The city that would "last a lifetime" died with its boots on. As more and more mines fizzled out, people began leaving in vast numbers. By 1910-11 only an estimated 675 people remained in Rhyolite. The lights and power were turned off on April 30 in 1916, and the streetlights were turned off. Next, the water companies were notified they would receive no money from the county, and businesses began to close. By the time the federal census takers found the town, only 675 people remained. By 1919, the post office had closed. By 1920 Rhyolite’s population dropped to 14 and by 1922 to one. By 1924 it became a true ghost town. Though the remnants of some concrete and stone buildings still remain today, almost everything else, from canvas to wood, and even some small adobe structures, were salvaged for building materials and hauled to the town of Beatty.                               
                        
05/30/2017 Trip Notes: It’s a real shame shame that so many of this towns magnificent buildings have been reduced to shambles. In its day, it had some of the most lavish buildings in the state of Nevada. The remains of its more outstanding buildings that still stand today are barely recognizable, and succumbing daily to Nevada’s extreme desert environment. Click here for pictures and descriptions of today's remaining structures ... Rhyolite Town Site - Trip Notes for 05/30/2017.
                  
MAP - Rhyolite Topo-2
(Fig. 03)
11/07/2013 Trip Notes: The goal of today’s visit to Beatty today was to locate the Ordovician fossils at The Great Beatty Mudmound. Unfortunately, we were unable of find the location of this fossil bed until the very end of the day. As a result, we decided to do some exploring on the dozens of 4WD roads in the old Bullfrog Mining District that surrounds the ghost town of Rhyolite (Fig. 03). Our first discovery near Mongomery Mountain was, what we later learned, the smallest (Figs. 04 & 05) of Barrick Minings’ three open pit mines, know as the Barrick Bullfrog Mine. The largest operation (Figs. 06 & 07) was located on two sides of Ladd Mountain just southeast of Rhyolite and can be seen from NV-384. Between 1989 and 1998, the Barrick Bullfrog Mine company recovered $910 million in gold from this site. Though mining expenses ate up nearly 70% of this, it was still a healthy profit. Note: This was back when gold was going for less than $400 an ounce. At today’s price of gold this would have been 2.9 billion dollars. To add further insult to injury, Barrick noted that one of the earlier mines missed the richest vein by less than 35 feet. Click here for more info on the Bullfrog Mining District ... The Bullfrog Mining District.
              
EFP-P1040964
(Fig. 04)
EFP-P1040965
(Fig. 05)
EFP-P1050040-P1050039-2
(Fig. 06)
EFP-P1040966-2
(Fig. 07
After visiting the open pit area we drove east, past the back side of Montgomery Mountain (Fig. 08) and up the neighboring hillside of Paradise Mountain, to a mine that I have yet been able to identify (Figs. 09, 10 & 11). Notice the “overage” in (Fig. 08) that was dumped on the back of Montgomery Mountain from the excavation on the other side. We were actually able to enter quite far into the adit on Paradise Mountain (Fig. 10), however, this area somewhat confused us. First, the tailing pile in front of the adit appeared too small for the size and length of the adit. Second, we couldn't figure out where the white tailings in the large pile to the right of the adit came from. From this hillside vantage point we actually had a view of Rhyolite to the southwest (Fig. 12). Notice some of the ruins in the right side of the picture. From here we backtracked to the west side of Montgomery Mountain and drove north up the long valley past Rainbow Mountain (Fig. 03). The road led us into the Bullfrog Hills which eventually took us to the top of Sawtooth Mountain (Fig. 03), elevation 6,005 feet, the highest peak in the area. The hills, which are steep, rocky, and practically bare of vegetation, rise sharply from the gently sloping desolate plains that border them on the north and south. The view in (Fig.13) is east towards the direction of Beatty. The view in (Fig. 14) is southeast back towards Rhyolite. The darkish ‘hump’ below the horizon near the center of the picture is Ladd Mountain. On the way back we drove up a side canyon (Fig. 15) to Mason Spring (Fig. 03). On our way out we stopped at the Goldwell Open Air Museum, just south of town. I dedicated a whole page to this museum, click here to view … Goldwell Open Air Museum.
                      
EFP-P1040976-P1040977
(Fig. 08)
EFP-P1040974
(Fig. 09)
EFP-P1040967
(Fig. 10)
EFP-P1040971
(Fig. 11)
EFP-P1040975
(Fig. 12)
EFP-P1040999
(Fig. 13)
EFP-P1050005
(Fig. 14)

EFP-P1050018
(Fig. 15)
05/05/2008 Trip Notes: Connie and I visited Rhyolite back in 2008 with our neighbor Marc Resnic on our way to see Scotty’s Castle in Death Valley. Pictures from this visit were incorporated into the following post ... Rhyolite Town Site - Trip Notes for 05/30/2017.