• Bridget Beenanti

A Town Taken Back By The Desert- Rhyolite Nevada

It's hard to believe in the early 1900's this town was a booming mining town of over 20,000 residents. It's name is Rhyolite Nevada and just as quickly as it was a booming mining metropolis, by 1920 it was all but as ghost town with few residents remaining as the mines dried up.

You pass the turn off for this ghost town as you head to the iconic Death Valley National Park in California. If your looking for the type of ghost town that has cheesy actors doing fake gun fights or cheap souvenirs then you won't like this place. As a lover of art, travel and history this is one of my favorite places. If you take the time to read up on this town and know the long colorful history you would love it as much as I do.

Over the decades this town has had many revivals. I heard the stories of in the 1930s to the 1950s an old couple who loved the town so much would sell craft, canned preserves, and lemonade to the tourists driving past to go to iconic Death Valley. In the 1950's until the late 1970's a high roller private casino was here that many celebrities frequented because it was closer to Hollywood then Las Vegas and they enjoyed the privacy. People like Lucile Ball and Spencer Tracy. After the casino closed it sat until the mid 1980's and Rhyolite became a living art exhibit.

Sadly now only a couple residents remain, and the visitors center is still there but has never been opened on the visits I have made. A number of years ago the last store burned to the ground and this place seems all but forgotten. Tourists hearing "Ghost Town" and expecting gun fight reenactments and souvenir t-shirts have also given the place a bad rap.

I love Rhyolite and it is one of my favorite places. You can feel the history as you explore the old buildings. You can imagine the 20,000 people that once called this home and the place it once was. The remaining roads have "Beware of Rattle Snake" signs, and the remnants of rusted household wares can be found if you look. The casino still stands but it's an empty shell of a once beautiful place that is now fenced off due to spray painting vandals in the last couple years. You used to really be able to explore it, but that's when people respected the history and didn't try to ruin it. The art pieces still stand and the "Ghost" series is breath taking in the sunrise or sunset. To me if you love true history Rhyolite is a must stop on your travels in Nevada or to Death Valley. It really will take your ignite your imagination!

Sadly I don't know how much longer this wonderful place will exist as decay, the desert and vandals all seem intent on the legacy and history of this town vanishing completely.

About a mile out of town in the desert sits an old graveyard that houses the dead of the folks who called Rhyolite home. I will never forget the feeling that came over me on my visit to pay my respects. As the graves have a beautiful view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the far distance it was so quiet. Like a "QUIET" I never heard before! No birds, no planes....not even the wind. Just a nothingness. I'm sure those departed didn't feel it, but honestly a pure sad lonely feeling came over me. I couldn't imagine my final resting place being a place so lonely in the middle of the desert. One poor grave was just outside the small cemetery fence. You had to wonder what that person had done to not be included into the sacred ground. History has kept that secret for all time.

On leaving from my last visit to this historic magical town, I did come across some residents I hadn't met previously. A couple beautiful wild mules. One brown and one black in color. They looked as surprised to see me as I was to see them but were kind enough to stop and pose for photos before we all went our separate ways. I really hope someone sees the magic in Rhyolite as much as I do and helps preserve it's history the way it is.

If you love cool places, history and the stories of human beings- Rhyolite really is the place to go and is awesome to explore. If your just looking for scripted gun fights and fake cowboys then keep driving past the turnoff on your way to Death Valley because this place isn'y for you. I love Rhyolite and the story this place tells of how precious life is and how important it is to remember the history of this country and the places/ people who helped bring it to life.

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