Searchlight Nevada

Searchlight Nevada is a unincorporated town with a history in mining. The small town in Clark County is located south of Las Vegas in Clark County, Nevada and honored with Nevada State Historic Marker number one hundred and sixteen. The Nevada Start Historic Marker is located on the west side of the highway as you enter town.

Nevada State Historical Markers identify significant places of interest in Nevada’s history. The Nevada State Legislature started the program in 1967 to bring the state’s heritage to the public’s attention with on-site markers. Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost of damaged.

Main Street of Searchlight, Nevada
Main Street of Searchlight, Nevada

The town is founded after George Frederick Cook prospected the area beginning May 6th, 1897. It is said that he would take a searchlight to find gold in the area, lending the town its name. Following the discovery of gold, the area boomed, which caused its population to raise. At the time, the mining town was part of Lincoln County, and for a time its population was larger than that of Las Vegas. When Clark County is created the town was briefly considered to be the county seat.

Between 1907 and 1910, the gold mines of Searchlight produced $7 million dollars in gold and boasted a population of 1,500. Ore is shipped to Barnwell via the Barnwell and Searchlight rail service. In order to reduce costs, the Quartette company constructed a twenty-stamp mill on the Colorado River. The new mill utilized a 15 mile narrow gauge rail is constructed down to the mill in an attempt to further reduce costs. The rail is completed in 1902. Several tent saloons are erected during this time and named Cyrus Noble, Old Bottle and the Little Brown Jug.

Quartette Mill, Searchlight, Nevada
Quartette Mill, Searchlight, Nevada

Later in 1903, enough water is is on hand in town to support a second twenty-stamp mill. The onsite mills capacity is further increased in 1906 when the Colorado Mill is closed and relocate near town.

During its peak in 1907, Searchlight boasts well-furnished stores, about a dozen saloons, telephone exchange, forty four mines and several mills. The Chamber of Commerce advertised some 5,000 people living in the little haven. Searchlight’s decline began in 1917.

Today, the town is home to about 500 people. Its location on the 95 highway offers a rest spot for travelers between Las Vegas and various Colorado River how spots, including Lake Mojave, Laughlin NV, Bullhead City and Havasu. The small community is home to a few small casinos, gas and food. Senator Majority Harry Leader Harry Reid is perhaps the towns most notable citizen. Harry Ried proudly raised the American Flag over his property, when he was home which was visible from the highway.

Nevada State Historic Marker Text

Initial discoveries of predominately gold ore were first made at this location on May 6, 1897.  G.F. Colton filed the first claim, later to become the Duplex Mine.  The Quartette Mining Company, formed in 1900, became the mainstay of the Searchlight district, producing almost half of the area’s total output.  In May 1902, a 16 mile narrow-gauge railroad was built down the hill to the company’s mill on the Colorado River.

On March 31, 1907, the 23.22 mile Barnwell and Searchlight Railroad connected the town with the then main Santa Fe line from Needles to Mojave.  By 1919 trains travelled over the B. and S. Railroad only twice a week.  A severe washout on September 23, 1923, halted traffic completely.  Train service was never restored.

Searchlight is the birthplace of U.S. Senator Harry Reid (b.1939) who became the first Nevadan to serve as the Senate Majority Leader, a position he assumed in 2007.


Nevada State Historic Marker Map

Town Summary

NameSearchlight, Nevada
LocationClark County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude35.4744, -114.9307
Nevada State Historic Marker116
Populationup to 5,000
Elevation3,547 ft (1,081 m)
News PaperSearchlight Bulletin Jan 1, 1903 – Jan 3, 1913


One Reply to “Searchlight Nevada”

  1. Pingback: Barnwell and Searchlight Railroad - Destination4x4

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.