Last Light at Rhyolite

December 17, 2011 at 8:20 am (Landscape Photography, Leah McDaniel Photography, Photography) (, , , , , , )

Welcome to the second of three Rhyolite installments.  Continuing where we left off yesterday…

I won’t weigh you down with as much history as I did in yesterday’s blog post, but I can’t resist just a smidge.

Beginning as little more than a patch of desert nestled in the valley below several different peaks in the Bullfrog Hills, by June 1905 the  thriving little town boasted 50 saloons, 35 gambling tables, untold cribs, 19 lodging houses, 16 restaurants, a half-dozen or so barbers, a public bath house, and a weekly newspaper, the Rhyolite Herald.

Reflections of Rhyolite

By October 1906 Rhyolite enjoyed the conveniences of daily mail and auto service, express, telegraph, telephone exchange, two banks,  several newspapers, a modern hotel, three waterworks systems, and a fire department.

Buildings from left to right: Overbury Building, HD & LD Porter Store, JS Cook Bank Building. Saddle between Sutherland Mountain and Busch Peak in background.

By 1907, the little gold rush town in the desert was graced with concrete sidewalks, electric lights (including a network of 400 street light poles),  a monthly magazine, police and fire departments, a hospital, school, train station and railway depot, at least three banks, a stock exchange, an opera house, a public swimming pool and two formal church buildings.  I find the saloon to church ratio kind of funny.

Entrance to the National Bank Mine on Ladd Mountain. This is what Rhyolite was really all about.

Though the town experienced explosive growth from 1905 to 1907, the San Francisco earthquake of 1906 had an impact on Rhyolite that nobody suspected.  That disastrous earthquake diverted capital from Rhyolite to California and interrupted rail service; but that was just the beginning of the trouble.  1907 saw the weakening of the American economy and a number of businesses and Wall Street brokerages went bankrupt.    By October a full-blown financial panic had erupted as the Knickerbocker Trust in New York City and the Westinghouse Electric Company both went belly up.  As businesses collapsed and the stock market plummeted, depositors made massive runs on the nation’s banks tipping the already nervous back-east investors over into an all-out panic.

Stone Chimney Ruins with collapsed barn behind.

As investors pulled their interests out of Rhyolite smaller mines began to close and the population began to trickle away.  Coincidentally the strikes began to play out at about the same time, and before long the brand-spanking new rail lines were carrying more people away from the town than they shuttled in.

Rhyolite house with Rainbow Mountain and quartz latite capped Black Peak in the background.

By 1909 the boom had gone bust and the population had shrunk to 1000 souls.

Sun going down on the mercantile.

By 1910 the population had decreased to 675.  All three banks had closed.

A miner's cabin as the hour grows late, resting at the foot of Ladd Mountain.

In March, 1911, the largest operating employer, Montgomery-Shoshone Mine and Mill, ceased operations.

The golden light fading away from Ladd Mountain above Rhyolite.

The post office closed in November 1913.

Private structure against the Bullfrog range at sunset. The sparkly things on to the left of the frame are water and pop bottles attached to the fence.

The last train left Rhyolite Station in July 1914.

Sunset over Death Valley

By 1915 there were only 20 people left in Rhyolite.

Last Light as seen from Rhyolite.

In 1916, the Nevada-California Power Company turned off the electricity and removed its lines.

As the populace poured out of Rhyolite, the standing structures were stripped for building materials or in some cases moved to other locations entirely.  What you see today is little more than a shadow, a distant echo, of Rhyolite’s grandeur, but oh, what a grand old gal she was!



  1. Max Reynolds said,

    Great pictures and information. Goldfield in one of my favorite places to look around. I haven’t been to Rhyolite yet but planning to. Thank you for sharing.

    • eponaleah said,

      Photographic opportunities abound in Rhyolite, but watch out for rattlesnakes!
      Thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.

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