Rhyolite Nevada Overview
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.
Today, Rhyolite “is one of the most photographed and well-preserved ghost towns in the West,” with the most photographed buildings in the west, the Cook Bank Building, located in the old ghost town. This ghost town provides visitors with a glimpse into life in a small mining community.
Bureau Land Management – Tonopah Field Office
May 19, 1905 – September 15, 1919
Rhyolite Nevada History
West of Death Valley Shorty Harris and Ernest L. “Ed” Cross struck gold in August 1904 and started the birth of Rhyolite, Nevada, which was named after the area’s unique volcanic rock, rhyolite.
Once word got out, the area attracted new residents and camps popped up all over the area such as Armagosa, Bullfrog, Gold Center, Jumpertown, Leadfield, and dozens more with over 2,000 claims.
The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills.
During its prime days, the town of Rhyolite was home to three train lines, a train depot, three newspapers, three swimming pools, three hospitals, a stock exchange, two undertakers, an opera, and symphony, and 53 saloons. The residents of this town enjoy social activities such as baseball and basketball games, dances, basket socials, whist parties, tennis, a symphony, Saturday night variety shows at the opera house, Sunday school picnics, and pool tournaments.
Today visitors will find remnants of the two-story schoolhouse and the three-story bank. Most “attractions” are fenced off to protect the structures from additional damage and graffiti.
Primary Mineral: Gold, Silver
The Population of Rhyolite Nevada
I have found several references that the population at the height was 3,000 – 5,000 residents and other sources cite 10,000.
We will update this information once we have confirmed which is the accurate count.
- August 9, 1904 – Frank “Shorty” Harris and Ernest L. “Ed” Cross made the discovery of Gold on the south side of a southwestern hill which was later called Bullfrog Mountain
- January 1905 – Rhyolite townsite was platted by a group of claim owners that decided they might do better promoting a town at the site of their claims rather than working mines on them. Rhyolite was laid out with 36 blocks, and lots were initially given away to miners to get the camp started and were later sold for $50 a lot.
- Early 1905 – Two minor tent camps, Amargosa City and Bonanza, were formed and by March the two camps were consolidated, creating the new town of Bullfrog.
- Summer 1905 – Rhyolite was still a tent camp with an estimated 2,000 people residing in the new settlement
- May 1905 – The first issue of the Rhyolite Herald published by Earle R. Clemens
- May 105 – The post office was opened on Gold Street in a 10′ x 12′ tent
- July 1905 – The first water system was online
- 1906 – Charles Schwab purchased the Montgomery Shoshone Mine for a reported 2 to 6 million dollars
- 1906 – The Alaska Glacier Ice Cream Parlor was opened by Countess Morajeski
- 1906 – One of the original prospectors, Ernest L. Cross, sold his share of the Bullfrog claim for $125,000 and moved to a ranch near San Diego
- February 1906 – The construction of the adobe and bottle home by Thomas Kelly was completed and auctioned to locals for $5 a ticket
- May 18, 1906 – Steve O’Brien stabbed his wife with a miner’s candlestick and when a town deputy sheriff and the judge showed up, O’Brien stabbed the judge, and then the deputy shot and killed O’Brien
- September 1906 – The Rhyolite schoolhouse was blown down by heavy winds
- October 26, 1906 – Two men, Tom J. Malone and Jack Maher, who were arguing over a financial issue caused Maher to shoot Malone, who died the next night in the hospital. Mayer was arrested and tried but was let go due to the ruling of self-defense.
- Fall 1906 – The town approved a budget of $20,000 to build a new schoolhouse but the structure wasn’t completed until January 1909
- December 1906 – The first railroad reached Rhyolite
- 1907 – “The Panic of 1907” – US financial markets were rocked by a financial panic that saw closures of banks, businesses, and mines which caused Rhyolite to falter.
- January 1907 – A network of 400 electric streetlight poles was installed
- March 1907 – The jail was built out of concrete with four steel cells
- April 1907 – Electricity came to Rhyolite
- June 18, 1907 – Rhyolite saw the arrival of another passenger train, the Bullfrog & Goldfield
- August 1907 – A mill was constructed to handle 300 tons of ore a day at the Montgomery Shoshone mine
- 1908 – The district’s largest producer, Montgomery Shoshone Mine, was running out of high-grade ore
- January 1908 – The John S. Cook Bank Building was completed
- July 1908 – The Rhyolite Post Office moved from the tent on Golden Street to the 30′ x 70′ basement of the Cook Bank Building
- 1909 – No new ore was being discovered and it became evident that the mine’s days were numbered
- 1909 – The town of Bullfrog was no more as businesses and residents moved out of the town
- 1909 – Gold was discovered in the nearby Pioneer mine, which caused half of the residents to move several miles away to the Pioneer Mine
- January 1909 – School completed replacing the one that blew down during 1906
- 1910 – 1911 – The Montgomery Shoshone operated at a loss and closed in 1911, devastating the town Rhyolite’s economy
- 1910 – The population of Rhyolite was reported to be 675
- 1910 – All three banks closed
- March 14, 1911 – The directors voted to close down the Montgomery Shoshone mine and mill
- June 1912 – The last newspaper shut down
- November 1913 – The post office closed
- July 1914 – The last train left Rhyolite station
- 1915 – The town had 20 residents
- 1916 – The lights went out forever when the power company shut down the plant and removed the lines
- 1917 – The gold was gone and the town was all but empty
- 1920- The population of Rhyolite was 14
- 1924 – The last resident died
- January 1925 – Rhyolite and its ruins became a tourist attraction and a setting for motion pictures Paramount Pictures restored the bottle house for the film The Air Mail and Wanders of the Wasteland, and it was restored again more recently by locals.
- 1936 – Norman C. Westmoreland rescued the train depot and converted it into a casino and museum
- 1984 – Artists start installing permanent sculptures which include “The Last Supper” which features 12 life-sized disciples by the Belgian artist Albert Szukalski
- 1988 – 1998 – Three companies operated a profitable open-pit mine at the base of Ladd Mountain, about 1 mile south of Rhyolite
3,819 Feet (1,164 meters)
The physical location is in Beatty, Nevada 89003
Tonopah Field Office – PO Box 911 – Tonopah, NV 89049
- Phone: 775-482-7800
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
LATITUDE/LONGITUDE: 36.89028, -116.82615
How to Get to Rhyolite Nevada
Located in the Bullfrog Hills outside of Beatty, Nye County, Nevada, Rhyolite is about 120 miles northwest of Las Vegas, near the eastern edge of Death Valley.
Rhyolite is located in the Pacific Time Zone, which borders states in other time zones. Learn about the Southwest Time Zones.
Rhyolite Ghost Town is open and welcomes visitors from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week.
Rhyolite Ghost Town and the Tom Kelly Bottle House are managed by the Nevada Bureau of Land Management (BLM), making free public access available to all.
What to Take to Rhyolite Nevada
Nothing special is needed but I do recommend wearing a good closed-toe shoe as you never know what rusty item could be lurking in the dirt to cut your feet or toes (yes, I love my flip flops but in an area like this, protect the feet!)
Also, gas stations, restrooms, and dining options are sparse so make sure you fill up the tank when you can and grab some snacks. Or, bring lunch to have a picnic in one of the many cool areas of the old ghost town.
Wildlife in the Area
The desert is full of wildlife but not much is seen during the day except for an occasional lizard or bird.
BUT… do watch for snakes as when the weather starts to warm up in the spring or cool down in the fall, they start to come out to enjoy a sunbath.
Click here to learn more about Snakes in Nevada.
Points of Interest
A true image from the Old Wild West is that of the Bullfrog-Rhyolite Cemetery with the desert as the backdrop to view old wooden headboards on the horizon.
Shared by two towns, Find a Grave has “documented” 141 graves of locals within the cemetery with the oldest grave being that of Lous Strad, who passed away in January 1902 and the newest grave is that of Eulah Harrison Gregory who passed away on November 19, 1991. Most of the graves are from the early 1900s.
Reportedly people have seen orbs and heard strange noises.
Learn more about the Bullfrog-Rhyolite Cemetery.
Ahead of their time in making a “tiny home,” the residents would turn old cabooses into their homes due to the scarcity of building materials.
Cook Bank Building
The focus of many photos of those who visit Rhyolite, the Cook Bank Building cost over $90,000 to build and closed its doors in 1910. It was the largest building erected within the town and showcased two vaults, Italian marble floors, mahogany woodwork, electric lights, running water, telephones, and indoor plumbing.
Learn more about the Cook Bank Building.
Goldwell Open Air Museum
A quirky fun place to visit and take photos with family and friends among the ghostly figures depicting “The Last Supper” by Belgian artist Albert Szukalski in 1984.
Click here to view photos and read more about the Goldwell Open Air Museum.
Porter Brothers Store
The Porter Brothers built a second store in 1902 with large glass windows for residents to see all the wares for sale such as mining supplies, food, and bedding, which closed in 1910.
The brothers also owned stores in the nearby towns of Ballarat, Beatyy, and Pioneer.
Once the store closed, H. D. Porter stayed in the town as the local postmaster until 1919.
This rock labyrinth is located within the Goldwell Open Air Museum right next to the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada.
During the peak, Rhyolite had over 200 children and a second school was built in 1909 to the tune of $20,000.
Learn more about the Rhyolite Schoolhouse.
Tom Kelly’s Bottlehouse
In the early 1900s building materials were scarce before the railroad reached the town of Rhyolite so Australian Tom Kelly built his three-room, L-shaped bottle house in 1906 with adobe mud to hold together the 50,000 glass bottles.
Learn more about the history of Thomas Kelly and his famous bottle house.
The Goldwell Museum is a nonprofit organization and a member of the Alliance of Artists Communities, which hosts each October tan arts festival called Albert’s Tarantella at the museum’s Red Barn.
Click here to view all the events hosted by the Goldwell Museum.
Places to Eat
If you are looking for dining options, you have a few choices in nearby Beatty.
Nearby Things to Do
Photos and Videos
John S Cook and Company building, Rhyolite, Nevada, United States – Nevada Historical Society. Modifications: watermark removed, perspective corrected, cropped, spots removed from sky.
unknown; photo marked 1908 and “Courtesy of the Nevada Historical Society” without a copyright symbol – rhyolitesite.com (at the Internet Archive); see also the Cook Bank building page for more images
Three-panel panorama of Montgomery Shoshone Mine and Mill near Rhyolite, Nevada, cropped, reassembled without borders, and retouched by User: Finetooth. Montgomery Mountain is in the background. The processing mill is to the right. The spur line of the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad is in the foreground, Rhyolite is to the far right.