Nevada Ghost Towns – Rhyolite and Gold Point
We did a lot of road tripping around the western parts of the United States this summer in our motorhome. Besides our planned out destinations, we always tried to enjoy the lesser known stops along the way. On our journey to Yosemite National Park, we decided to make a couple of spontaneous stops at some ghost towns in Nevada. The pictures looked pretty interesting online so we thought, why not?! It ended up being a really fun experience that I am so glad that we took the time to do.
Rhyolite Ghost Town
Our first stop was at Rhyolite in Beatty, Nevada. Rhyolite is an old silver mining town that started in 1904 and became an abandoned ghost town in 1916. By 1920 the population dropped to zero. It is one of the largest ghost towns in the state of Nevada. The Montgomery Shoshone Mine was the biggest mine for silver in the area and the reason why people were excited about working and living in Rhyolite.
Rhyolite quickly became a booming town with about 10,000 residents at its peak. Buildings were popping up everywhere. There was a general store, a train station, hotels, an opera house, a stock exchange, dance halls, public swimming pools, an ice plant, and two electric plants. The bank pictured above, was a three-story building that cost around $90,000 to build. There was a school that occupied 250 children. There was even a red light district that attracted women to work in Rhyolite. There were electric lights that lined the roads and piped water. It was a great little setup. Many people considered Rhyolite home.
How Did Rhyolite Become a Ghost Town?
Things started to go south during the panic of 1907, only 3 short years since the town began. The United States had a major financial crisis when the New York Stock Exchange fell 50%. Many state and local banks went bankrupt. There was a study done in 1908 on the Montgomery Shoshone Mine showing that it had been overvalued, causing the investors to pull their money out. The mine closed completely in 1911, leaving the Rhyolite community with no choice but to move.
We had so much fun exploring through Rhyolite and taking pictures by the abandoned buildings. This would be the perfect place to have a Halloween party or a haunted house. It was a little spooky for me when visiting. I think I’ve watched too many scary movies. Despite my irrational fears, I found it fascinating thinking about the people that used to live there. So many memories made here during those 12 short years. It must have been hard for them to leave everything behind and move their families in hopes of finding a better life. What a disappointment for them when they realized the silver mining wasn’t going to be as profitable as they had hoped. So many dreams shattered I’m sure.
Even when Rhyolite became abandoned in 1916, it still was used but in a completely different way. The town of Rhyolite became a popular place for movie filming. Many old westerns have been filmed here such as, The Air Mail, The Arrogant, Cherry 2000, Delusion; Ramona!, The Reward, Rough Riders Round Up, Six String Samurai, Ultraviolet, Wanderer of the Wasteland, and The Island. It is the perfect setting for a Western movie set!
Glass Bottle House
This house is known as the glass bottle house. This little house fascinated me. All of the outside walls are made with glass bottles from Budweiser. Paramount Pictures restored this little bottle house in 1925 for the film, The Air Mail, and then it was restored again later by nearby locals.
Goldwell Open Air Museum
Right next to the town of Rhyolite is a quirky and unique permanent outside museum featuring several interesting art pieces. The museum began in 1984. It is open 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. There is a gift shop there too with varying hours. This wasn’t open when we visited. Here is a run down of some of my favorite art pieces displayed there.
The Last Supper – 1984 – Albert Szukalski
The piece that stood out the most to me when visiting The Goldwell Open Air Museum were the sculptors done by Albert Szukalski titled, “The Last Supper.” It is a ghostly interpretation of Christ and his disciples that is very spooky. To create it, he wrapped live models in fabric that was soaked in wet plaster and posed them, making them stay put until the plaster set. When it was set and dry, the models slipped out and the sculptors were formed. To make them weather resistant, they were coated with fiberglass. Since Rhyolite is a ghost town, I thought this sculpture was the perfect addition to an already eerie place.
Ghost Rider – 1984 – Albert Szukalski
A local resident donated his bicycle for this spooky art piece.
Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada – 1992 – Dr. Hugh Heyrman
A play on Greek mythology with a modern twist. This sculpture depicts a naked blonde haired woman in bright colors.
Icara – 1902 – Dre Peeters
This figure was hand-carved on site. It represents the Greek myth of Icarus, the boy who tried to fly to the sun with wings bound with wax.
I don’t think this pole wrapped with shoes was originally intended on being an art display at The Goldwell Open Air Museum. However, it was one of my favorite displays there because of what it symbolized. Seeing all of these shoes made me think of the people that use to call Rhyolite home. I know these shoes aren’t their actual shoes, but to me, it was a symbol of them and what they left behind.
Silver State Shooting Club
Right down the road a little ways is an abandoned shooting range. There was a sign that said, “Silver State Shooting Club, Beatty, Nevada.” There were a bunch of wild donkeys roaming around the outside of the shooting range. There was an old swing set that looked like it hadn’t seen a child in years. We had a blast looking around and snapping a few pictures.
Gold Point Ghost Town
After we left Rhyolite, we headed for the next ghost town along our route called, Gold Point. Gold Point was more successful than other silver mining towns of its time. At its peak there were 2,000 occupants. Today there are 6 full-time residents and up to 6 part-time residents. Gold Point started in 1868 and thrived until the 1960’s. There were once 125 different dwellings within the city including homes and businesses. Gold Point is still in good standing today because of two men, Herb Robbins and Walt Kremin. They own most of the buildings in Gold Point and have restored them, keeping them as original as possible.
When we visited, it was starting to get dark. Despite the day coming to an end, we decided to try and go anyway, even for just a few minutes if possible. We really wanted to see it. Now that this evening is in the past, I wouldn’t recommend going to a ghost town at night, unless you want to get spooked like we did.
When we arrived it was practically dark. We found a spot to park the motorhome. I decided to stay in the motorhome and feed the starved Jimmy some dinner while Nate got out and checked out the town. He seemed to be gone for a while and I was starting to get a bit nervous. I noticed he didn’t take his cell phone with him. Panic started to come over me. What would I do if he didn’t come back? Go out and look for him in the complete dark, in the middle of nowhere, while carrying Jimmy? To my relief, about 10 minutes later, Nate came back. He looked a little worried and told me that we needed to eat quickly and get out of here as soon as we could.
I am usually the worrier in our marriage and Nate is the one who is even-keeled. I know after 8 years of marriage that if Nate is panicked about something then it is serious. We shoved the cheese sandwiches and tomato soup down our throats as fast as we could and then got the hell out of there.
Why was he panicked? Nate had gone out to roam around, and an older man approached him in his off road vehicle. At the time, we didn’t realize that people still lived there so it startled him. Nate was taking pictures of some of the old buildings and the man had told him sternly that taking pictures there was illegal, fortunately he was only joking with Nate a little. The man then told Nate that he had lived at Gold Point off and on since the 70’s. Nate asked what people do there for work and he said, “Retire.” They began to have a little discussion and the man volunteered to show him around. They went into the saloon. Nate said all was well until he realized the guy was open carrying a gun on his hip. Nate said he had watched too many horror movies and started to get a little worried. He didn’t know if he could trust this man who was carrying a gun and leading him into a dark saloon. The man seemed friendly enough, but Nate barely met the guy and realized that maybe he was being a little too trusting.
Nothing bad happened in the end. Nate said later that that experience was either one of the coolest human interactions that he had ever had or one of the scariest. He couldn’t decide. He felt like he had walked back into time and met an old Gold Point resident who then showed him around his town. Nate said the saloon was the most realistic old saloon that he had ever seen. He said it would be perfect for movie filming because it represented an old saloon so accurately. We both agreed later that our fear of Gold Point was a little skewed and really there was nothing to be afraid of. Our imaginations were getting the best of us. If we could of visited when it wasn’t dark, I think our minds would of shifted and realized how not scary this place really is.
What to Do at Gold Point Ghost Town?
For the perfect haunted Halloween overnight getaway, go to Gold Point and spend the night! The residents of Gold Point strive to make it a friendly place for tourists to visit to continue to make money for their little town. Visitors can stay at the Gold Point Bed and Breakfast, eat and play pool at the local saloon, and star gaze in one of the darkest areas of Nevada. They guarantee you’ll be greeted by jack rabbits when you exit your room in the morning. It’s far from a luxury experience but definitely one that you’d never forget. The locals love to tell you stories about the history of Gold Point and show you their old mining photo album with over 9,000 pictures in it. Every Memorial Day weekend they have, “Dinner with a Ghost,” where you enjoy a homemade dinner and a guided tour of the town, searching for the spirits that once lived there. Sounds spooky to me! If you’re looking for a unique adventure, go stay a night at Gold Point. You will definitely have a lot of stories to tell your friends and family, if you get out alive.
If you’re in Nevada, love history, and have some extra time, go check out the ghost towns of Rhyolite and Gold Point. What ghost towns have you visited? Have you been to any others in Nevada? Tell me about your experiences in the comments below!