Ghost Town

Image of the Day – Friday, June 12, 2009

Lys in Rhyolite, Nevada

Lys in Rhyolite, Nevada

Rising early on a crisp desert morning in Las Vegas Lys and I had breakfast and then drove north along US 95 through the Mojave Desert and past the edge of the infamous Area 51. Our destination was a ghost town in western Nevada named Rhyolite. Rhyolite is located in the Bullfrog Hills, near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. During an ensuing gold rush, thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners, and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District. Many settled in Rhyolite, which lay in a sheltered desert basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.

Looking south at the building the picture of Lys was shot in

Looking south at the building the picture of Lys was shot in

An industrialist, Charles M. Schwab, invested heavily in infrastructure including piped water, electric lines, and railroad transportation that served the town as well as the mine. By 1907, Rhyolite had electric lights, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a hospital, a school, an opera house, and a stock exchange. The town grew to as large as 5000 residents in about 1908/

Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made it more difficult to raise development capital. In 1908, investors in the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, concerned that it was overvalued, ordered an independent study. When the study’s findings proved unfavorable, the company’s stock value crashed, further restricting funding. By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911. By this time, many out-of-work miners had moved elsewhere, and Rhyolite’s population dropped well below 1,000. By 1920, it was close to zero… and Rhyolite became an authentic western ghost town.

Cook Bank Building in Rhyolite, NV

Cook Bank Building in Rhyolite, NV

The day Lys and I visited Rhyolite we had the place to ourselves as we were the only human beings in sight – and we could see for miles around the empty former municipality. We spent a couple of hours roaming the ruins of the former town and walking abandoned streets with a brisk breeze kicking up small amounts of sand and dust the sun shining stunningly bright across the barren desert landscape.

I shot this picture of Lys sitting in an old window frame of Overbury Building & Bishop Jewelry Store in Rhyolite. This was the beginning of what would turn out to be one of the most interesting and enchanting days of our lives. After visiting a ghost town we spent the rest of our day sightseeing through Death Valley National Park. For a couple from south Louisiana this was as far removed and different place as could be from our native land.

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~ by rfoxx on June 12, 2009.

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