The Eureka Mining District Producing Ore Since 1864

The history of the Eureka Mining District in Nevada is a tale of boom and bust, marked by the discovery of rich mineral deposits that brought prosperity to the region, followed by periods of decline and resurgence.

Ore Chutes, Eurkea Nevada - Photography: Timothy O'Sullivan
Ore Chutes, Eurkea Nevada – Photography: Timothy O’Sullivan

Mining in Eureka County begins in the mid-19th century when explorers and prospectors ventured into the Nevada desert in search of precious metals. The region was inhabited by indigenous peoples for centuries, but it was the arrival of Euro-American settlers that sparked the interest in mining.

The first major mining discovery in Eureka County occurred in the early 1860s when silver ore was found in the area that would later become known as Eureka. This discovery led to the establishment of the town of Eureka in 1864, which quickly grew into a mining hub. Eureka County was officially established in 1873, and the Eureka Mining District became one of the most important silver mining districts in the state of Nevada. The mines produced vast quantities of silver ore, attracting fortune-seekers, entrepreneurs, and investors.

The late 19th century was a period of prosperity for Eureka County. The town of Eureka itself boasted a population of several thousand, and the region’s mines were producing millions of dollars worth of silver annually. The Central Pacific Railroad reached Eureka in 1875, facilitating transportation of ore and supplies.

Like many mining towns of the era, Eureka experienced a decline in the early 20th century due to falling silver prices and changing economic conditions. Several mines closed, and the population dwindled. However, mining operations did not completely cease, and Eureka experienced a modest revival during World War II when demand for metals increased.

The Eureka Mining District Producing Ore Since 1864 Marker Text

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. These roadside markers bring attention to the places, people, and events that make up Nevada’s heritage. They are as diverse as the counties they are located within and range from the typical mining boom and bust town to the largest and most accessible petroglyph sites in Northern Nevada Budget cuts to the program caused the program to become dormant in 2009. Many of the markers are lost or damaged.

In 1864, a group of prospectors from Austin, Nevada discovered rock containing a silver-lead mixture on Prospect Peak. Since then, miners have struggled to reach minerals deep within these hillsides of the Eureka Mining District–a vital part of Nevada’s mining heritage and future. By 1878, the population of Eureka and nearby Ruby Hill was over 9,000.  The Eureka Mining District ranked as Nevada’s second richest mineral producer (the Comstock ranked first).  Ore veins of silver, lead, and other base materials were rich enough to justify enormous underground mine development and financial risk. Eureka’s greatest production was from 1870 to 1890.  By 1900, changing market conditions reduced demand for the District’s materials.  Many of the mines closed.  A few smaller mines remained in operation until the 1920s, but it was nothing like the early days. Revival of the Eureka Mining District has recently occurred with the introduction of a mining technology called heap leaching.  This method allows for profitable and more efficient processing of rock containing trace amounts of gold. Examples of old and new mining operations can be seen from here.   At the base of the hill is the heap-leach pad and rock piles of a modern mining operation.  Near the top of the hill is the Fad Shaft, a remnant of earlier mining days.

THE FAD SHAFT – This Area’s Last Underground Mining Operation

Prospectors discovered the Fad claim in 1906 but did not start mining until the 1940s.  Geological theory suggested that ore existed 2,500 feet below the surface.  From the 1940s to the 1960s, sporadic mining occurred at the shaft.  Then at 2,465 feet, only 35 feet from their target, they encountered water.  Flooding was so great that mining halted.  The Fad closed a short time later.  Ironically, the Fad Shaft, the last attempt at underground mining in the Eureka District, never produced any ore.

Many hills around Eureka still contain rock piles, open shafts, and abandoned mining equipment.  During Eureka’s heyday, many headframes similar to the Fad dotted these hillsides.  Most have since disappeared, leaving only a handful as reminders of the past.


Heap leaching removes trace amounts of gold from rock that would have been considered worthless in mining days of old.  The gold is so small that it can only be seen with a microscope.  Gold bearing rock is crushed into pebbles and pled (heaped) onto a thick plastic liner.  A weak cyanide mixture dissolves the gold while gravity slowly draws (leaches) the gold-laden solution into collection tanks.

Throughout history mining has changed the landscape.  Mining’s effects have changed as technology has advanced.  Reclamation is now standard practice upon mine closure.  Whether underground or surface, mining remains an important symbol of Nevada’s heritage.


The Eureka Mining District Producing Ore Since 1864 Marker Trail Map

The Eureka Mining District Producing Ore Since 1864 Marker Summary

NameThe Eureka Mining District Producing Ore Since 1864
LocationEureka County, Nevada
Latitude, Longitude39.5554, -115.9958
Nevada State Historic Marker Number254


Leave a Reply

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