When traveling on US Highway 95 in Nevada between Beatty and Tonopah, State Road 266 is the route to look for if you want to experience two historic ghost towns that are only a few miles apart. Lida Ghost Town is just a few miles down SR 266 from the Gold Point Ghost Town access point, so both of these destinations can be experienced in the same day. Nevada State Road 266 is a long stretch of road that runs west through some very desolate Nevada desert territory and onward across the border to Bishop, California, which is the gateway to Yosemite National Park and Mono Lake. Death Valley is also nearby, so including these ghost towns in the travel plan is easy to do!
On the way to Gold Point and Lida, State Road 266 passes through a few vast dry lake basins. Where there is extreme heat and dry lake beds, there certainly will be plenty of dust devils! A dust devil is a weather phenomenon that is similar to a tornado, but in this case it is a combination of hot air and cold down drafts that create the whirlwinds. These desert dust tornadoes can vary greatly in size and numbers, but they have very little destructive power, so there is nothing to worry about when they appear.
While driving on the road through the dry lake on my way to Gold Point and Lida, there were dozens of dust devils meandering through the landscape. Most of the dust devils were average size and their duration seemed to be controlled by some kind of a playful spirit. It seemed like every time that I got the camera to focus sharp on a dust devil, it would disappear into thin air. Trying to photograph this phenomena was like playing some kind of a devilish game of cat and mouse. I actually had to anticipate when a dust devil would disappear and reappear, just to get a good snapshot. Honestly, I spent about 45 minutes out in the middle of nowhere watching the dust devil show because it was a good one. This was what is called good old fashioned cheap entertainment in the Great Basin Desert!
The historic connection between the two ghost towns of Lida and Gold Point actually was water. Lida was the closest source of abundant water for processing the silver ore that came from Gold Point. Both Lida and Gold Point share a bit of history, but the old Lida outpost has been around for a much longer time. Lida is a natural water source that lies in a series of mountain passes in a very desolate place, so this little spot on the map has always been a central hub for natives in this region. During the Aurora Mining Boom in the early 1860s, Lida took shape as an outpost settlement in the supply line. Lida soon became a prosperous community that catered to native traders, prospectors and ranchers. Many pioneers that wanted to skirt north of the perilous Death Valley passed through this area too.
Lida first started fading off the map when the railroads were built to haul ore out of the nearby Silver Peak mining operations in the late 1800s. The Gold Point (Hornsilver) mine kept Lida in business for a while, but after it was deemed that processing the ore at Lida was no longer feasible, the silver mining operations at Gold Point came to an end. Gold was discovered in the silver mine at Gold Point in the 1920s, but by then Lida was pretty much resigned to just being a watering hole for local prospectors and ranchers.
Currently Lida is a small living ghost town that has a few residents and ranchers. When visiting Lida it is best to keep in mind that this area is private property, so it is not a place to go relic hunting. It is okay to visit and take pictures, but it is best to leave things be because no trespassing signs are posted.
What was once the central hub for a local Nevada gold and silver boom is now destined to be a ghost town that has one precious life giving commodity that keeps it on the map. When driving on SR 266 it seems odd to see a big patch of lush green cottonwood trees out in the middle of this vast stretch of sun parched desert, but this natural water source has ensured that Lida Ghost Town will not just fade away into the past!
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