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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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Azurite is a soft, deep blue copper mineral produced by weathering of copper ore deposits. The mineral, a carbonate, has been known since ancient times, and was mentioned in Pliny the Elder's Natural History under the Greek name kuanos. While not a major ore of copper itself, the presence of azurite is a good surface indicator of the presence of weathered copper sulfide ores. It is usually found in association with the chemically very similar malachite, producing a striking color combination of deep blue and bright green.
The intense color of azurite makes it a popular collector's stone. However, bright light, heat, and open air all tend to reduce the intensity of its color over time.
Nevada's White Pine County has some of the most historical ghost towns in the western United States. The 2016 convention will be offering sunrise and sunset photo tours out to many of these amazing places.