Rhyolite Nevada

Rhyolite is a ghost town location just outside of the Eastern edge of Death Valley National monument in Nye country, Nevada.  Founded in 1904 by Frank “Shorty” Harris when he discovered quartz with load of “Free Gold”, Rhyolite started as a gold mining camp in the surrounding Bullfrog mining district. As with many discovery’s during this time period, news quickly circulated and the Bullfrog mining district was formed.

Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun
Rhyolite, Nevada photo by James L Rathbun

Assays of $3000 per ton were reported by the mining press of the day, and the fall and winter saw many people converge on the area despite the weather conditions. Tonopah and Goldfield saw hundreds head south in the spring of 1905, and the migration caused “a string of dust a hundred miles long”.

It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.
It is an encouraging sign that the Ryolite Jail still stands. Also noteworthy, a brothel crib still stands as well.

The townsite of Rhyolite was found in a draw close to the most important mines in February, 1905. To start, the town was a mining camp with tents and canvas walled building. Fuel shortages caused the populous to burn sage brush and greasewood as fuel for their stoves to cook and keep warm. Food and fuel were teamed into the area on daily stages and water was bought over from Beatty for $5 per barrel.

A trains cabose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada
A trains cabose as found in Rhyolite, Nevada

However, as was common with gold rush towns, Rhyolite quickly developed all of the modern amenities of day, including newspapers, schools, hospitals and electrical power. Six thousand people called the town home in 1907. Luxuries unimaginable just two years before include, hotel rooms with private baths, and opera house, dozens of saloons, four banks, a butcher shop were brought to the town by three different trains.

The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 - 1911
The mines of Rhyolite, Nevada operated from 1905 – 1911

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 and a financial panic of 1907 dried up capital investment which doomed the town along with many others in the region. Rhyolite ceased to be and closed in 1911.  

Today, several building shells still exist, along with the infamous Bottle House, and outdoor museum.  The town is accessible via paved roads, which ruins the “ghosttown” effect and detracts a bit from the location.  In spite of this, it is easily accessible and worth a stop when you are in the area.

“The Last Supper” and other art pieces hold court just outside of Rhyolite

Rhyolite is a wonderful place to visit when you are running Titus Canyon and Leadfield trail.

Rhyolite, Nevada 1909
Rhyolite, Nevada 1909

Rhyolite Map

Resources

Titus Canyon

Titus Canyon has it all, rugged mountains, colorful rock formations, a small ghost town, mines, petroglyphs, wildlife, rare plants and spectacular canyon narrows as a grand finale! Titus Canyon is the most popular back-country road in Death Valley National Park and just plain fun to run.  The canyon is easily accessible from Stovepipe wells and Furnace Creek.

Titus Canyon, a narrow canyon drive in Death Valley National Park, CA
Titus Canyon, a narrow canyon drive in Death Valley National Park, CA

Although the Grapevine Mountains were uplifted relatively recently, most of the rocks that make up the range are over half a billion years old. The gray rocks lining the walls of the western end of the Canyon are Cambrian limestone. These ancient Paleozoic rocks formed at a time when the Death Valley area was submerged beneath tropical seas. By the end of the Precambrian, the continental edge of North America had been planed off by erosion to a gently rounded surface of low relief. The rise and fall of the Cambrian seas periodically shifted the shoreline eastward, flooding the continent, then regressed westward, exposing the limestone layers to erosion. The sediments have since been upturned, up folded (forming anticlines), down folded (forming synclines) and folded back onto themselves (forming recumbent folds).

Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California
Leadfield Gost Town, Death Valley, California

Although some of the limestone exposed in the walls of the canyon originated from thick mats of algae (stromatolites) that thrived in the warm, shallow Death Valley seas, most of the gray limestone shows little structure. Thousands of feet (hundreds of meters) of this limey goo were deposited in the Death Valley region. Similar limestone layers may be seen at Lake Mead National Recreation Area and at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.
At one of the bends in the canyon, megabreccia can be seen.

Leadfield was an unincorporated community, and historic mining town found in Titus Canyon in Death Valley National Park.

Titus Canyon Trail Map

Elizalde Cement Plant

The Elizalde Cement Plamt as seen from US 95 south to Beatty, NV
The Elizalde Cement Plamt as seen from US 95 south to Beatty, NV

While travelling north on Highway 95 from Las Vegas to Beaty, I spotted the Elizalde Cement plant from the road. We did not stop on that first passing as I was headed out to Race Track Valley, in Death Valley, CA. However, the memory of this missed destination occupied my mind for the duration of our camping trip.

A couple of quick trips across the “Interwebs” and I had misidentified the ruins I had seen as the remains of the Nevada ghost town of Carrara. Happily, I researched the “marble quarry” town of Carrara. A few months later we stopped at the location and open closer inspection, it didn’t feel “right”. Ghost Towns typically were built as tent cities and have few foundations. This site had a concrete walls, and was not laid out like a city.

Elizade Cement Plant, near Carrara, NV in Nye County
Elizade Cement Plant, near Carrara, NV in Nye County

Elizalde Cement Plant

Further research and I have found my error. The ruins I had found were of the Elizadle Cemet Plant. The Elizaldo Cement Plant was built in the early 1940’s by the Carrara Portland Cement Company. The nearby Carrara quarries were used to produce crushed marble, which was used in the white cements produced by the plant. Forty five men poured foundations for the plant between April 1941 and July of the same year.

The plant was named for Angel M. Elizalde, who was the President of Elizalde & Co. Ltd and a principal investor of the Cararra Portland Cement Co. Plans were already under-weigh to build a large advanced cement plant when Mr. Elizalde was elected President.

A large “fiesta” was scheduled for the opening on the plant in August, 1941. However, before a single pound of concrete is produced, a fire engulfed the site and the plant was badly burned. The fire claimed the machine shop, field office, blacksmith shop. This set back stopped construction at the site while the company searched for capital and replacement equipment.

Despite plans made for expanded production levels and reinvestment in the plant site, the start of World War 2 and increase in fuel costs doomed the plant. Today, a lot of concrete foundations lie in testimony to the unseen victims of World War 2. The plant is fenced off to curtail access, however, it has fallen prey to those with spray paint cans.

Now, I need to go back and find Carrara and its marble quarry! oh darn….

Resources

Carrara Nevada

Cararra, NV as seen from US 95 south to Beatty, NV
Cararra, NV as seen from US 95 south to Beatty, NV

Carrara Ghost town is a small ghost town and marble mine located about ten miles south of Beatty in Nye County, Nevada on the east side of US 95.

In 1904 first attempts to quarry the high quality marble at the Carrara site. These initial efforts failed with the inability to produce larger slabs from the highly fractured and unstable marble.  More suitable deposits of marble are found in 1911. The American Carrara Marble Company laid out the Carrara town. The town was named for Carrara, Italy, which produced world class marble. 

A Metropolis in waiting

The marble is hauled by a standard cable railway down three miles from the quarry to town. This designed utilized town cars on a single track. At the midway point, siding in the tracked allowed the two trains to pass each other in opposing directions. The car at the top of the track loaded with marble would supply all the pull the empty car at the bottom of the track up the mountain on a free return.

Rail lines were already available in the Vegas and Tonopah Railroad. Water is pumped from Gold Center, NV using a nine mile long pipe line. The supply was generous enough to allow the town to boast a town fountain, which would shoot water six feet into the air. The fountain was built by the Marble Company to promote the appearance of longevity for the fledgling town.

The rail road line to town is completed in 1914. Soon thereafter, large marble blocks, which could weight up to 15 tons, are shipped to Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, the large marble blocks are cut to size, finished and polished.

Eventually, the company with founded the town lost profits. The towns people saw hardship and soon moved away. With the exception of a few hangers on, the town is gone in 1924.

Carrara Nevada in Nye County
Carrara Nevada in Nye County

The town boasted a newspaper appropriately named the Carrara Obelisk ( 5/8/1913 – 09/1916 ), a post office, hotel, store, saloon and restaurant to serve the 150 people who called the place home. The site contained  about 40 buildings. The post office was open from May 5, 1913 to September 15, 2914.

[mapsmarker marker=”3″]

Resources

Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps

Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps - By Stanley W. Paher
Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps – By Stanley W. Paher

Nevada Ghost Towns and Mining Camps is a wonderful book written by Stanley W. Paher and published by Nevada Publications. The book is Copyright 1970 and contains 492 pages of “Brillantly illustrated with 700 historic and modern photographs; with numerous maps, complete index, appendix and bibliography.” This book contains information and stories from more than 575 mining sites and ghost towns in Nevada.

My copy of this book was purchased by my father for $15 at a thrift store. The pages are dog eared and well worn and covered in yellow post-it notes for later reference. The book is wonderfully organized, the source of a lot of great information about the early days of Nevada mining. The stories, photographs paint a fantastic picture of the rough and rugged individuals who settled my new home state. In many ways, the enjoyment and knowledge that I have, is based and builds upon the great work of Mr. Paher.

Stanley Paher grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada and jeeped thousands of miles over the rough roads of back country Nevada. He graduated from Sacramento State with a B.A. in English. He continued his educations at the University of Nevada, where, in 1969 he earned a Masters Degree in Political Science.

The book is available for purchase from Amazon and quite a hefty price on this writing, however you can find it much cheaper at various other online stores.

Anyone who is at all interested in ghost towns, mining or Nevada history really needs a copy of this book in his/her library.

ISBN-13: 978-0913814048

ISBN-10: 0913814040

Additional Reading