Protectors of Rhyolite & Desert Recreation

City of Dreams

This is the story of a place that matters: a famous ghost town in the northern Mojave Desert, next to Death Valley. But this is also the story of the wild and remote Nevada Outback around it, the recreation, the geology, archeology, nature, cultural landscapes, current Indigenous tribes, local communities and economies, tourism, public lands issues and much more.

Welcome to Our Desert!

The Bank Building in Rhyolite.

OUR MISSION

We are a group of local people working to preserve and protect the ghost town of Rhyolite, and the historic, cultural, natural, and recreational landscapes around it. Our goal is a sustainable tourism economy for the Town of Beatty, Nevada, and locally-determined land management to conserve significant recreational, historic, cultural, and natural resources on public lands.

--The Greenwater Kid

4x4 recreational explorers in the Beatty Days October parade, 2022. Explore more.

“... the quartz was just full of free gold... it was the original bullfrog rock... this banner is a crackerjack”!

- "Shorty" Harris as told to Phillip Johnston, in Touring Topics: Magazine of the American Automobile Association of Southern California, October 1930 (see https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/historyculture/shortharris.htm)

Ghost Town of Rhyolite: The Bottle House, Train Depot and other buildings. Explore more.

The Bottle House.

The school building, looking through windows to the wide open desert beyond, in Amargosa Valley. The Funeral Range within Death Valley National Park is in the distance.

The Las Vegas & Tonopah train depot. Explore the railroads.

Desert gold wildflowers bloom on the floor of Death Valley below sea level on rainy years. Explore more of Death Valley National Park.

Death Valley view of Badwater from Dante's Point.

Panorama deep in the spectacular marble in Titus Canyon, in Death Valley National Park. This one-way 4x4 route begins near the towns of Rhyolite and Beatty, in Amargosa Valley just outside the park boundary. It is a half-day exploration drive. Explore more.

The Rhyolite and Beatty region of southwestern Nevada is full of history, from Indigenous history back thousands of years, to the last 200 years of exploration, ranching, farming, stagecoaches, mining, railroads, and plenty of stories to tell. Explore more.

Beatty Cowboys re-enact history.

http://beattycowboys.com

Rhyolite is an igneous rock, formed from magma rich in silica that is extruded from a volcanic vent and cooled quickly on the surface in pyroclastic eruptions, ash and lava flows.

Aerial view of the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex in Chile (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Puyehue_Cordon_Calle_2_Puyehue_NP_Chile.jpg)

Volcanoes

During the Miocene Epoch, during the period 11.5 to 10 million years ago a volcano or volcanoes erupted in intense explosions causing the formation of what is today Timber Mountain--a resurgent dome-- and the caldera surrounding it (today located within the Nevada National Security Site east of Beatty). Voluminous lava and ash flows covered the region

Geologic map showing Timber Mountain volcanic fields in relation to to Beatty. (From: https://www.academia.edu/15153941/Timber_Mountain_Oasis_Valley_caldera_complex_of_southern_Nevada)

Rhyolite rock formations behind the Bottle House at Rhyolite, Nevada.

Gold forms in close association with volcanoes and faulting. Hot molten rock provide the heat source to drive groundwater solutions up through vast cracks and broken rocks where gold precipitates. The resulting quartz-calcite veins are where gold deposits become embedded, called lodes.

Bullfrog Mining District

The legend is that miner "Shorty" Harris named the Bullfrog prospect because of the greenish color of some of the local ores.

Yet other theories present themselves, harking back to Mark Twain and his 1865 short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" describing gold miners in the Sierra Foothills of California gambling on jumping frogs to pass the time. Bullfrogs from the eastern U.S. were widely introduced to waterways in the West, as an edible delicacy. The local springs and Amargosa River were probably stocked with bullfrogs by pioneers and miners early on.

The famous Bullfrog Mining District was discovered in 1904. The district is located in the Bullfrog Hills, west and north of Beatty, and extends from the old towns of Bullfrog and Rhyolite to the camp of Pioneer in the north. This was primarily a silver mining district, but through 1921, 112,000 ounces of gold was produced.

The Bare Mountain District to the south and east of Beatty was discovered in 1905. Also known as the Fluorine district, it includes both Bare Mountain and the northwestern end of Yucca Mountain. The original Bare Mountain district included only the northern part of Bare Mountain, near the old camp of Telluride. Most gold production is the result of modern mining activity in recent decades.

Gold is what made Rhyolite, but the region hosts many other types of mines as well. The Beatty Mining District has been one of the most productive areas in Nevada, producing millions of ounces of gold together with silver, fluorite, mercury and other minerals.

Beatty Mining History Tour

Tonopah & Tidewater train engine pulling into the Beatty Depot, back in time. Mural by Laura Cunningham.

On July 19, 1904, borax miner and entrepreneur Francis Marion Smith incorporated the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad Company in New Jersey, with his associates DeWitt Van Buskirk as vice-president, C.B. Zabriskie as secretary-treasurer, and John Ryan as superintendent and general manager. The gold and silver mining boom supported more traffic to Rhyolite, Beatty, and Goldfield, terminating south at Ludlow, California (the original route was to be to San Diego at the "tidewater" of the Pacific, but this was never built).

As the easy borax and gold played out, the rail line was eventually abandoned by 1940, and the steel taken up for World War II materials. But you can still follow the raised dirt railroad bed across the desert into Beatty, over to Rhyolite, and another section north to Goldfield, Nevada. Explore more.

Las Vegas & Tonopah Depot in Rhyolite

The Las Vegas & Tonopah passenger station in Rhyolite. Since the demise of the railroad, the station has been used variously as a private residence, a casino, a gift shop, and a restaurant and bar. Future plans could be to turn this beautiful building into a visitor center.

Map of the various rail lines around Beatty and Rhyolite. (https://d.library.unlv.edu/digital/collection/LV_Maps/id/483)

See more: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonopah_and_Tidewater_Railroad

https://www.abandonedrails.com/tonopah-and-tidewater-railroad

http://www.goldfieldhistoricalsociety.com/railroad.html

Map - https://d.library.unlv.edu/digital/collection/LV_Maps/id/483

https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/deva/section4a7.htm

The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe received federal recognition in 1983. But the tribe did not receive a land base until November 1, 2000 when the Timbisha Homeland Act was signed into law. The Act transferred more than 7,700 acres of land in California and Nevada to the tribe.

The Timbisha Shoshone ancestral homelands encompass what is known today as Nevada and California, spreading through the counties of Inyo, Kern, San Bernardino and Mono in California and Nye, Mineral and Esmeralda in Nevada.

From the The Timbisha Shoshone Tribe - http://www.timbisha.org

Basket

Panamint Shoshone

Made by Minnie Thompson

c 1928-1945

Inyo Co, CA


This coiled basket is marked with rim ticking at its top and diamonds on its base. The willow body of the basket is decorated with arrowheads, diamonds, and vertical triangles. This piece was collected by Wilma Ely.

Willow (Salix lasiandra), bulrush.

Courtesy National park Service: https://www.nps.gov/museum/exhibits/death_valley/exb/timbisha/DEVA23700_basket.html

Deep Cultural History

We have talked with many Shoshone and Pauite people who have told us how significant this region is. For thousands of years Indigenous tribal economies thrived in these arid deserts, depending on Traditional Ecologcal Knowledge of springs, water resources, bunchgrass seed fields, pinyon nut collecting areas, basketry and net plant locations, hunting areas, and rock tool sites which were all crucial for survival. Trade was widepsread, to the Pacific Ocean.

For thousands of years people traveled on foot across vast desert landscapes to trade and visit important sites. Tribal boundaries may not have been hard lines as presented in Western anthroplogy textbooks, but rather porous Homelands with vast and overlapping long-distant trade, sacred, and intermarriage networks. Rhyolite was part of this.

Chemehuevi elders have told us that the area now known as Beatty was a destination site to visit the hot springs, and that people would travel for many days on foot traditionally to visit these important local resources. (See more about the Chemehuevi Tribe on their website - https://chemehuevi.org)

This important Indigenous cultural legacy needs to be preserved.

Mojave asters in bloom.

Nevada means "snowy" in Spanish, and the desert lives up to this name: snow storms are regularly experienced in the mountain ranges and down into the desert basins here.

Rhyolite lies at the northern edge of the Mojave Desert, an arid but biologically rich region in the rainshadow of the Sierra Nevada, in southern Nevada, southeastern California, and small portions of western Arizona and southwestern Utah. It is named for the indigenous Mojave (also spelled Mohave) people.

This arid landscape receives rain mainly in winter and spring, under 10 inches annually and in the Beatty region generally only 3 inches on average per year. Droughts punctuate these average rain years, and we have recorded 13 inches annually during rainy years in Beatty. Flash floods are regular but unpredicatble. The summer monsoon at times spills over from the Sonoran Desert region to give the area a drink during the hot months. During rainy years, wildflower blooms can be spectacular.

Rhyolite sits at 3,819 feet in elevation, well above the floor of Death Valley, so does not experience the extreme heat that Death Valley does. Summer temperatures reach the 100s regularly. Winters are cold, often with freezing nights, and light snow events are not unusual.

Mojave plant life is characterized by vast expanses of creosote bush and a diversity of other shrubs and low cacti. At slightly higher elevations on the hills and mesas, the famous Joshua trees grow scattered through the desert. The higher mountain ranges are clothed in pinyon pine and Utah juniper forests, a source of wood and charcoal-making for mining kilns. Explore more.

Joshua trees at Transvaal, east of Beatty.

Beatty nestled in the Amargosa River valley among rhyolitic hills.

Downtown Beatty, with the historic landmark building the Exchange Club (built in 1906), currently being transformed into a Steampunk-themed casino and motel with metalwork art. Explore more.

Old West AirBnB's in Beatty, burros, antique car show during the annual October Beatty Days festival.

Check out:

Beatty, Nevada: Gateway to Death Valley - https://www.beattynv.info

Beatty Chamber of Commerce - https://www.beattynevada.org

Beatty Museum - https://www.beattymuseum.org

Beatty is the Gateway to Death Valley: https://www.nevadaappeal.com/news/2021/oct/06/nevada-traveler-beatty-gateway-death-valley-ghost-/

The Amargosa River flowing above ground at times, in Oasis Valley, Nevada, through rhyolitic hills. Explore more.

Fremont corttonwood groves and bulrush marshes around springs in the headwaters of the Amargosa River, Oasis Valley, Nevada.

View from the Bullfrog Hills looking westward across the Amargosa Desert and Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley National Park. Explore more.

Sarcobatus Flat, Nevada, north of Beatty and Rhyolite: dark night skies with western Joshua trees, site of the proposed Sawtooth Solar Project. Photo: Justin McAffee.

This wide open basin in western Nevada north of Rhyolite and Beatty is the very definition of the Nevada Outback. The area is remote, rich in history, and gives the visitor a glimpse back in time. The area is named after the desert shrub known as greasewood (Sarcobatus vermiculatus), which thrives in alkaline low-lying Great Basin habitats.

The basin is bounded on the south by the Bullfrog Hills, on the west by the Grapevine Mountains, on the east by Pahute Mesa, and on the north by the Gold Point hills and Bonnie Claire Flat.

Yet the area is under threat by development from utility-scale solar energy development. (See Threats)

The basin is considered separate from the Amargosa River watershed, but the underlying hydrology is little-studied.

Sarcobatus Flat harbors the very northernmost Mojave Desert vegetation: Joshua trees and isolated patches of creosote scrub on warmer south-facing slopes. Joshua trees extend northwards beyond, well into the Greeat Basin transition zone almost to Tonopah, Nevada.

Mojave desert tortoise live here--their northenmost range, as well as good populations of pronghorn antelope, which migrate southwards into the basin during rainy years with wildflower blooms.

The Timbisha Shoshone consider Sarcobatus Flat to be a significant Cultural Landscape that needs to be preserved from energy development and transmission line projects.

The "Nevada Triangle" portion of Death Valley National Park in Sarcobatus Flat is the largest national park unit in the state of Nevada. Explore more.

Pronghorn antelope in Sarcobatus Flat during a rainy year.

Strozzi Ranch

A lonely dirt road crosses the vast Sarcobatus Flat, and leads to the historic Strozzi Ranch site in Death Valley National Park, homesteaded in the 1930s in the Grapevine Mountains. This is 16 miles northwest of Rhyolite. Caesar Strozzi lived here in the summer, and in Beatty in winter.

View looking from the foothills of the Grapevine Mountains in Death Valley National Park eastward across Sarcobatus Flat deeply into remote Nevada. Sunset.

Fields of milkvetch flowers in Sarcobatus Flat during a rainy year.

Magenta milkvetch wildflowers in Sarcobatus Flat in a mosit spring.

Joshua trees in the basin of Sarcobatus Flat, Nevada.

Wide open public lands, Sarcobatus Flat. Joshua trees are scattered but abundant. This is a significant Cultural Landscape for the Shoshone people.

Flowering Joshua tree.

Full Moon rise over a playa in Sarcobatus Flat.

Camping on our public lands. Hole In The Wall, Death Valley National Park.

There is a lot to do around Rhyolite and Beatty: Jeep tours, 4x4 exploration of the desert, metal detecting, geocaching, birdwatching, wildlife viewing, photography, stargazing/astronomy, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, exploring historic sites and more. Explore more.

A lot of events take place in and around Beatty. Visit Beatty, Nevada: Gateway to Death Valley - https://www.beattynv.info and TRAILS OV - http://trails-ov.org

Horse riding in Oasis Valley, Nevada.

Upper left--side by side in the Amargosa Valley; right--campers in Death Valley National Park backcountry.

Sunset overlooking the lush Oasis Valley just north of Beatty, Nevada. Explore more.

Fremont cottonwoods in Oasis Valley turn golden during October.

Oasis Valley is a part of the Town of Beatty east of downtown, a lush spring-fed valley with the Amargosa River flowing through it. Shoshone and Paiute history is long here. The well-watered area hosts local ranching, recreation, and ecotourism. The area is a migratory hotspot for birds, and harbors endemic species such as the Amargosa toad, Oasis Valley speckled dace, and various species of minute spring snails. The recreational opportunities include mountain biking, 4X4 tour routes and exploration, hiking, birdwatching, and more.

Visit the trails at Torrance Ranch Preserve, owned by The Nature Conservancy: https://www.nature.org/en-us/get-involved/how-to-help/places-we-protect/torrance-ranch-preserve/

Mountain bike trails: TRAILS OV at http://trails-ov.org, https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7003448/spicer-ranch-trail

Great blue heron, mountain bluebird, Cooper's hawk.

Bring your binoculars, Beatty and the Oasis Valley are world-class birding locations, with migratory hotspots in spring and fall, as well as a diversity of habitats to attract nesting and wintering birds. Explore more.

The Spicer Ranch Mountain Bike Trail System is a private working ranch that is open to the public year-round for mountain biking and hiking. There is a large public parking lot and kiosk with maps of area trails. The first seven miles of trails on Spicer Ranch consist of these trails: the Spicer Ranch Trail (2.5 miles), the Storm Trail (.75 miles), the Southpond Mountain Trail (1 mile), and the Dynamite Trail (2 miles). The trails range from easy to difficult. There are another 30 miles of scenic desert single-path trails and dirt roads out from the ranch into public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. See: TRAILS OV at http://trails-ov.org

The Beatty and Rhyolite area have hundreds of miles of dirt roads and trails through public land where off-road enthusiasts can explore the history, geology, and landscapes of the desert. More routes are in Death Valley National Park. Explore more.

Bighorn Outback Explorers - http://www.boeclub.org/desk/home.html

Desert Bighorn Sheep

The Bare Mountains southeast of Rhyolite and Beatty harbor some of the largest bighorn rams in Nevada. Explore more wildlife.

Pronghorn Antelope

Small herds of pronghorn antelope can be seen in Sarcobatus Flat north of Beatty and Rhyolite, and eastwards. Photo: K. Emmerich.

Mojave desert tortoise, sidewinder, zebra-tailed lizard.

Feral Donkeys call Beatty Home

Not native wildlife, burros are from North Africa, domesticated and brought by early gold prospectors to Beatty. Many got loose and adapted to the North American desert.

Beatty burros. Take photos but do not approach, they are not domesticated.

Be careful driving, burros cross the road between Beatty and Rhyolite.

The wide open undisturbed desert is key to the look of Rhyolite. The surrounding desert is part of the art.

The perfect place to paint en plein air

Rhyolite, oil on illustration board, The Greenwater Kid. Painted on site, in an hour. An industrial solar project is proposed to fill up the distant valley view. Not acceptable!

Hiking and field sketching in watercolors at Keane Spring in Death Valley. Explore more.

Visit the Goldwell Open Air Museum https://www.goldwellmuseum.org

Amargosa Valley frames The Last Supper sculpture at Goldwell Open Air Museum

Upper left and right photos of Goldwell Open Air Museum. Look at the open desert beyond, we do not want this valley filled with industrial solar power plants. Lower right photo of Rhyolite at night by The Wave (https://www.thewave.info/RhyoliteCode/Map.html). Explore more.

The Rhyolite and Beatty areas are very popular with photographers. Check out a few of the many websites devoted to local photography:

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g45919-d104202-r18153983-Rhyolite-Beatty_Nevada.html

https://nocamerabag.com/blog/photo-spots-rhyolite-ghost-town

https://photofocus.com/photography/photographing-details-at-rhyolite-ghost-town/

https://www.thewave.info/RhyoliteCode/Map.html

Photos from iPhone photographer: https://nocamerabag.com/blog/photo-spots-rhyolite-ghost-town

We have even encountered young visitors taking old-fashioned Polaroid photos at Rhyolite!

Photography is popular with visitors to the desert here.

The northern Amargosa Valley in Nevada in bloom with desert dandelions: this Mojave Desert landscape in view of the ghost town of Rhyolite is currently threatened by several utility-scale solar energy applications on these public lands. The Bare Mountains lie in the distance. See more.

National Park Service - https://www.nps.gov/deva/learn/historyculture/rhyolite-ghost-town.htm

Beatty, Nevada: Gateway to Death Valley - https://www.beattynv.info

Beatty Chamber of Commerce - https://www.beattynevada.org

Beatty Museum - https://www.beattymuseum.org

Trails Oasis Valley - http://trails-ov.org/

STORM-OV - http://storm-ov.org