NSS 75th Anniversary Convention

Nevada's Ghost Towns

Nevada's ghost towns are settlements that grew quickly in response to discoveries of gold, silver, or other minerals. In many cases, these towns became county seats, only to lose that designation once the town's resources became exhausted and its population dwindled.

They were bustling centers of activity, with churches, saloons, and general stores, but once the population moved on to the next big strike, the abandoned towns fell into disrepair.

Ghost towns are a great way to step back in time and see what life was like for the folks who built Nevada and mined the precious metals, ores, and minerals that would come to define the West.

The Rush to Statehood

Ghost Town Road Trips

Check our our self-guided trips section for some road logs to local ghost towns you can visit during your trip to Ely.

Nevada can even claim her statehood was derived from the early mining towns. In 1864, the Nevada Territory committed $400 million in silver from the Comstock Lode to finance the American Civil War. Union sympathizers were so eager to gain statehood for Nevada that they rushed to send the entire state constitution by telegraph to the United States Congress before the presidential election and they did not believe that sending it by train would guarantee that it would arrive on time.

The constitution was sent October 26-27, 1864. The transmission took two days. It consisted of 16,543 words and cost $4303.27 ($59,294.92 in 2010 dollars) to send. Four days later, Nevada became the 36th state in the US. The state's motto, "Battle Born", commemorates her rush to statehood - even though no Civil War battles were ever held on her soil.

Fading Era

White Pine Mining District

Video compliments of KNPB - PBS Reno, Nevada. Visit the programs area of this website to download this complete show for your grotto meetings.

Silver fever captured the minds of many from the 1870s all the way up until about 1900 when the Silver Boom faded away. Mines began to close, buildings were being dismantled [for timber, their most valued asset] and the population dwindled as families went in search of the next big prospecting town.

Historical Remnants

Today, ghost towns can include sites in various states of disrepair and abandonment. Some sites no longer have any trace of buildings or civilization and have reverted to empty land. Other sites are unpopulated but still have standing buildings. Still others may support full-time residents, though usually far less than at their historical peak, while others may now be museums or historical sites.

If you choose to explore some of Nevada's treasured ghost towns, please treat them as you would a cave. Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. These sites are historical records of Nevada's past and many are protected by law.

Words of Caution

Open mine shafts, rotting timbers and old buildings pose many dangerous hazards to an unwary visitor. Stay alert and aware. Always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Carry sufficient gas, water and food. Services are few and far between and mobile devices are typically useless. Some mine shafts are sealed, but most are not. Areas around these entrances can be extremely unstable.

Additional Resources

You should already know this, but... Mines are not caves!

Caves are naturally formed voids in the rock, whereas mines are human-made structures that have been dug open. Caves are much more stable than mines and last for thousands of years. Mines may only last tens to hundreds of years before they collapse.

The vast legacy of historic mining in Nevada predates the Civil War and will continue to pose safety risks for years to come. Nevada's public lands offer infinite opportunities for adventure and discovery, but abandoned mines should not be one of them. The life-threatening physical and chemical risks posed by these decaying features are completely unpredictable, and all of the valuable artifacts were removed long ago. Please stay out and stay alive!

Learn more:
Abandoned Mine Lands, BLM
Bat Gates for Mines & Caves