Rhyolite Ghost Town is one of the best sightseeing destinations in southern Nevada and it is only about two hours away from Las Vegas. Rhyolite is located on State Road 374 a few miles west of historic Beatty, Nevada. SR 374 continues west from Rhyolite to Death Valley National Park, so this road definitely is a gateway to adventure.
Most of the roads in Rhyolite Ghost Town are paved or they are well maintained gravel roads, so a regular passenger car can traverse the grounds. Rhyolite is maintained by an appointed host of the property and it is customary to make a small donation to the groundskeeper fund box at the old bottle house when visiting town. The donations help to preserve this old ghost town for future generations.
Places like Rhyolite sure do have plenty of ghosts of the past that are carried into the present day. Rhyolite once was a major gold strike town that was built to serve the local Bullfrog Gold Mine. The Bullfrog Hills gold rush started in 1905, when Shorty Harris and Ed Cross struck pay dirt in this area.
Shorty Harris was a legendary old west character who discovered many major gold deposits in the California Mojave Desert, Death Valley and southern Nevada. After staking a new gold strike, Shorty Harris usually went to town and sold the claim for a few thousand dollars. Shorty was almost always hell bent for whiskey, so the money was spent drinking till the well dried up. While on a whiskey bender, Shorty used to see an imaginary penguin walking behind him and he was not shy about introducing his old tuxedo clad drinking buddy to bystanders. In the days of the old wild west, Shorty’s penguin was as famous as Shorty himself!
The Bullfrog Gold Rush pretty much died out by 1908, because there were only a few deceptive solid streaks of ore and the rest of the gold vein contained low grade ore that was too costly to process. Because the Bullfrog mine initially seemed to be so promising, major investors gambled on the town of Rhyolite eventually becoming a major city. The business buildings were classy and infrastructure was laid out for rapid expansion. When the disappointing word got out from the local assayer office, everybody dropped what they were doing and got out of town, in order to cut the losses.
After the last train left in 1912, the abandoned town of Rhyolite turned into a building material resource for the neighboring town of Beatty. After the scavenging slowed down, Rhyolite became a ghost town tourist attraction. Through the years, many of the grand old buildings have crumbled or partially collapsed. The only two buildings that are now fully intact are the old train station and the bottle house. The Rhyolite bottle house is one of the best remaining examples of an abode made with glass bottles and mortar, so it truly is a sight to see!
In the present day, Rhyolite is one of the most surreal looking ghost towns in the west. On a rare rainy day in this vast desert expanse, the slowly decaying town of Rhyolite looks like a place that is a haven for paranormal activity. The photographs for this article were taken a few years ago on a rainy cold winter day when the heavy clouds draped the mountains. Dreary weather like this and low lying clouds naturally inspire thoughts of ghostly activity. Just the thought of this definitely definitely makes Rhyolite seem creepier than usual.
Many visitors have claimed to see ghosts in Rhyolite through the years. There actually are a few well known ghost that are seen in old historic towns of the west. One of the commonly seen western ghosts is a character dressed in dark clothes with a black hat and a black cape draped over his arm. People describe this ghostly apparition’s appearance to be like an old black and white photo that starts to turn brown with age. The ghostly apparitions are often attributed to light and shadow optical illusions. Two of the cover photographs depict an example of this particular illusion created by light and shadow.
Adverse weather conditions can add a dramatic effect when touring Rhyolite Ghost Town, so there is no need to put off the trip if it is a gloomy day. Rhyolite certainly is a photogenic town, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride. The old solid concrete jailhouse still stands and this was the last place a person wanted to be when the July temperatures were high in the triple digit range. This is a grim reminder of just how hot this region can be during the summer season, so touring Rhyolite while the weather is cool is the best bet!
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