Rhyolite was a part of the booming Bullfrog Mining District in the early 1900’s as gold mine speculators filled the valley in hopes of striking it rich. It was one of three growing mining towns, the others being Beatty and Bullfrog. It all began as a couple of prospectors camped in the area and returned with some samples of rock with them that later proved to contain gold!!!
Word got out and the population exploded as people hoping to strike it rich flooded the valley. After a larger gold field was found Rhyolite it became an important spot on the map to gold diggers. By 1906 there was mail service to the town and by 1907 the town moved the houses of ill repute just out of town… the town was becoming civilized.
However as fast as it grew it collapsed just as quickly. By 1910 the banks were gone and the water company had closed and in 1911 the last of the mines shut down. Gold was what brought everyone to Rhyolite and it was the lack of gold that ran them all away. In 1920 there were only 14 people left in a town that once sported a population near 10,000. No one was left in town by 1924… the town was a ghost town.
Not much remains of what was once a bustling town and what remains tells the story of those who left. When one walks in the footsteps of those seeking riches you get the feeling that life was very hard here but that greed and wealth made life much easier for many who lived here… that is, until the gold dried up! An interesting account by a prospector in 1908 I found while looking for information about Rhyolite can be read here. Many of the wild burros seen in this area are likely descendants of those in the 1900’s that were brought here to haul mining cargo for the masses dreaming of riches.
Sharon particularly enjoyed her first ever sighting (and hearing the braying) of five wild burros that we’ve seen roaming near Rhyolite on the other side of Beatty. Just before you enter the town of Rhyolite there is an information area where there is some art that was created in 1984 by a Belgian artist named Albert Szukalski. The art is an interesting diversion from the town itself and worth the “free” visit.