Halfway between Reno and Las Vegas, at U.S. 95 and U.S. 6, Tonopah is a perfect place to learn about Nevada’s rich history. Silver was discovered here in 1900, sparking one of the biggest mining booms in the state. In fact, over a 40-year period, five million tons of ore (silver, gold, copper and lead) were pulled out of the district’s many mines. At current market prices, that equates to $1,200,000,000! If those figures make you feel “a day late and a dollar short,” you’re not alone. But you can still strike it rich today— when it comes to learning about mining history, that is— at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. Located on the site of four of the very first mines, it is here you will discover how these original claims turned Tonopah into the “Queen of the Silver Camps.”
Prepare to get your boots dusty wandering as much of the 110-acre park as you care to cover. You’ll find a vast display of restored and preserved mining equipment as well as original structures—a grizzly (ore sorting house), an assay lab, the last remaining trestle from the Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad, hoist houses with all original equipment, and head frames. These are not “pretty” museum exhibits. They are safe to explore, but definitely sitting in a state of weathered decay. You can even follow a burro tunnel that leads to a steel viewing cage suspended over a 500-foot mine stope (vertical shaft). Surrounded by such a vast amount of authentic mining artifacts, you won’t need much imagination to get a real sense of what it was like to work in a turn-of-the-century mine!
Before you poke around the remnants of the Silver Top Mine, Mizpah Mine, Desert Queen, and others, watch the introductory video inside the visitor center. You’ll “meet” Jim Butler and his wife Belle, and learn how their silver strike put Tonopah on the map. Right from the start, Tonopah’s mines were consistently high producers. The biggest year was 1913 when almost $10 million in gold, silver, copper and lead was mined. The Depression brought a slowdown, and by the end of World War II, all the major mining companies had left the area. The true end to the mining era came in 1947 when the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad folded and its rails were removed.
For six consecutive years, 2002 to 2007, Readers of Nevada Magazine named Tonopah Historic Mining Park the “Best Museum in Rural Nevada.” You won’t be disappointed if you, too, come and take a self-guided walk in the footsteps of the old-time hard rock miners. But since the park is at an elevation of 6,200 feet, pace yourself accordingly!
Tonopah Historic Mining Park
520 McCulloch Avenue
Tonopah, Nevada 89049-0965
April – September, 7 days a week from 9:00am – 5:00pm
October – March, 7 days a week from 10:00am – 4:00pm
Walking tour prices are $5 per adult • Veterans & Active Military FREE
Children under 6 FREE • $3 ages 7 – 12
For those staying overnight in Tonopah, deduct $1 off your tour price
In addition to writing about her travels, Denise Seith is also a treasure hunter and loves a good latté. She and her husband own an online gold prospecting and metal detecting equipment store found at GoldRushTradingPost.com