Rhyolite, Nevada is a ghost town that takes ghosting to the next level. It's creepy and cool, all at the same time. While we enjoyed exploring the town all day, we high tailed it back home before dark. And we're not superstitious. It was straight up spooky.
The crazy thing is Rhyolite, Nevada was a booming town back in the day and there's only a few houses still standing. It literally went from boom to bust in six short years. Located just a few miles west of Beatty, Nevada off the 95, Rhyolite was founded in 1905 when samples of gold-laced rock were found in the Bullfrog Mining District. That discovery resulted in a real estate boom, with Rhyolite reaching it's peak of an estimated 10,000 residents in 1907. The whole town embraced the thought that they were becoming the next major metropolis in Nevada. Banks, churches, an opera-house, three-story office buildings, hotels, a school, and dozens of streets were built - all complete with plumbing, electricity and telephone service. Rhyolite even had a stock exchange, gaining the attention of investors in New York and San Francisco.
The big question though. How could a town that seemed set to stand the test of time, crumble to be the ghost town status it proclaims today?
After the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco and the financial panic of 1907, it became increasingly difficult to raise development capital. In 1908, investors in the Montgomery Shoshone Mine were concerned that it was overvalued and ordered an independent study. When the study's findings came back unfavorable, the company's stock value crashed, restricting further funding. By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss and it closed in 1911. By this time, many of the miners had moved out of Rhyolite and the population fell below 1,000 residents. By 1920, it was close to zero. It was at that point, Rhyolite became a tourist attraction and the perfect setting for movies. Most of its buildings were salvaged for building materials in other towns and its remains had crumbled. However, a house made almost exclusively of glass bottles was repaired and preserved. It still remains.
Rhyolite, Nevada is also the home of the Goldwell Open Air Museum; featuring the work of a Belguim artist, Charles Albert Szukalski who came to the Nevada desert in 1984 to create what is perhaps the most unique piece of his career, "The Last Supper". His intention was to create a modern day representation of Christ's Last Supper. He molded his shapes by draping plaster-soaked burlap over live models until the plaster dried enough to stand on its own. Other artists added to the work displayed over time. In the 1990s, Hugo Heyrman added "Lady Desert: The Venus of Nevada", a cinder block sculpture based on the idea of the pixel. Fred Bervoets celebrated one of the prospectors whose mining discovery led to the gold rush in 1904. Sofie Siegmann's "Sit Here!" couch was created in 2000 for the Lied Discovery Children's Museum in Las Vegas, Nevada and was moved to Rhyolite in 2007. And Dre Peters created "Icara", a hand-carved female version of Icarus, the boy in Greek mythology who flew too close to the sun.
Rhyolite is one of the most fascinating and engaging ghost towns we've explored and is just a short hour and a half drive from Las Vegas, Nevada. It's also only 30 miles from Death Valley, so if time permits, it would be easy to include a quick stop as part of your day trip. Or weekend trip, if you plan to camp.
Extra fun fact: A scene from the movie The Island 2005 starring Scarlett Johansson & Ewan McGregor was filmed here.