In terms of ghost towns, the US is home to quite a few in the midwest, each carrying with them a story of defeat and neglect, but also a piece of history. Many have flocked to these unusual tourist destinations with the intent to explore what once was and to hear the echos of the past, whatever they might have to say. Others go for the sake of going, quite knowing what to expect or what to anticipate once they arrive. Among the silence, desolate landscape, and memories of a time which no longer exists, sit the bones of a town that was once bustling: Rhyolite, Nevada.
Rhyolite was born during the Gold Rush and, realistically, fizzled out just as quickly as it had started. The town was founded in 1904 and by 1916, the town was completely devoid of any previous signs of booming life. Since then, Rhyolite has sat, untouched and alone, for decades, and still continues to be a tourist attraction to this day. For those not far from Death Valley, Rhyolite is a stop that should be on the itinerary, if only to see a town that has been frozen in Gold Rush history.
A Unique Opportunity
As a product of the Gold Rush, Rhyolite was immediately inundated with people coming from all over wanting to live near the action. The town brought with it the promise of gold as the metal was found in the nearby quartz mines and this alone was enough to turn the small town into a booming startup community.
In its early days, Rhyolite was almost thought to have the highest population of any others in the area due to the allure of so much new construction, as well as more amenities than many had ever seen up until that time. There was a school built to teach up to 250 students, plenty of stores and hotels, electric plants, a hospital, and a red-light district, which brought entertainers from all over. Rhyolite held the promise that so many were seeking to find in the west during the early 1900s.
Unfortunately, no one expected financial insecurity to be facing down the US, and Rhyolite was not excluded from this. The town felt the heat from the downfall of financial markets in 1907, only three years after its grand founding.
With the threat of financial instability on the horizon, Rhyolite slowly began to fall apart which set off a chain reaction for its residents, many of whom gave up everything to move there for the promise of a better life. In 1911, the mine was closed, which brought further financial ruin to the town and left many without jobs.
Despite the fact that the mine was closed in 1911, the town itself continued kicking until 1916 when, ultimately, it could hold out no longer. By this point, the lights were shut off in Rhyolite for the final time, thus symbolizing the end of the booming mining town that once held so much promise for so many. In the decades to come, the abandoned town would be used for several major western films, but its promise stopped there as it was never inhabited again.
Rather than be torn down, the town was left to slowly fall away on its own, subject to the erratic weather of Death Valley as visitors came and went. While the town remains without a population, the buildings that once stood for so many are now worse for wear, but still able to be seen, with some stable enough to be explored. Among the ruin of one town lies the art of others, as this abandoned town is also home to various artworks done by locals.
One piece of artwork depicts life-sized replicas of the 12 apostles which were built by Albert Szukalski and inspired by 'The Last Supper,' which is a popular spot for tourists to stop and take photos. These statues are part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum, which is another popular spot for visitors to explore. There aren't many chances of it getting crowded here, as the town does span over quite a distance, but it's also easily walkable for those who only have one day in the area.
The town can be found most easily from Beatty, Nevada, along Highway 374 West. Visitors will find the town roughly four miles down this highway accompanied by a sign that's tough to miss. From that point, it's just under a two-mile drive to the middle of town. Visitors should be sure to bring water with them as it is within close proximity of Death Valley and should also be aware that there are no bathroom amenities other than a latrine-style toilet.