Gamblers come from far and wide to try their luck at the casinos in Las Vegas and hope they win big playing the slots or black jack. Long before the casinos made Las Vegas into the gambling capital of America, prospectors traveled to Nevada hoping they would strike it rich finding gold or silver in the ground. One city that boomed and busted with prospectors is Rhyolite.
In 1904, a couple of prospectors found high grade gold ore in the area near the Nevada California border, not far from what is now the entrance to Death Valley National Park. The region was given the name Bullfrog Mining district, because it was littered with rocks that had a greenish color and covered in spots that made them look like a bullfrog. Several mining camps sprang up in the area that grew into towns. Among them was the town of Rhyolite named after the silica-rich volcanic rock in the area.
As people came to Rhyolite to work in the mines the towns population quickly expanded along with the buildings and houses they worked and lived in. In 1906, steel magnate Charles M Schwab invested heavily in the mines and town. By 1907 the town had its own electrical plant, school, hospital, paved sidewalks, police and fire departments. Railroad tracks were ran to Rhyolite and tree railroad companies ran trains to the bustling town.
The prosperity did not last long. A few short years later in 1910 the mines no longer yielded the gold they once did and closed down. As people moved away the town began to quickly decline and by 1914 the power plant was shut down. Without electricity most of the remaining citizens moved away. Lumber in the desert region was in short supply so most of the wood buildings were either moved to nearby towns or dismantled for the lumber. A few of the concrete and brick buildings remain including the old school and train depot.
What remains of the town is partially owned by the federal government and other buildings are owned by private citizens. Rhyolite has been used as a filming location for a few movies, including the 2005 film The Island staring Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson. It is an interesting place to visit if you are going to Death Valley National Park. It is about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas near the town of Beatty. You can see it on Google maps HERE
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