Latitude / Longitude:
36°54′14″N 116°49′45″W / 36.90389°N 116.82917°W / 36.90389
3,819 ft (1,164 m)
Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
Rhyolite is a ghost town in Nye County, in the U.S. state of Nevada. It is in the Bullfrog Hills, about 120 miles (190 km) northwest of Las Vegas, near the eastern edge of Death Valley. The town began in early 1905 as one of several mining camps that sprang up after a prospecting discovery in the surrounding hills. During an ensuing gold rush, thousands of gold-seekers, developers, miners and service providers flocked to the Bullfrog Mining District. Many settled in Rhyolite, which lay in a sheltered desert basin near the region’s biggest producer, the Montgomery Shoshone Mine.
Rhyolite declined almost as rapidly as it rose. After the richest ore was exhausted, production fell. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake and the financial panic of 1907 made it more difficult to raise development capital. In 1908, investors in the Montgomery Shoshone Mine, concerned that it was overvalued, ordered an independent study. When the study’s findings proved unfavorable, the company’s stock value crashed, further restricting funding. By the end of 1910, the mine was operating at a loss, and it closed in 1911. By this time, many out-of-work miners had moved elsewhere, and Rhyolite’s population dropped well below 1,000. By 1920, it was close to zero.
The Rhyolite historic townsite, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management, is “one of the most photographed ghost towns in the West”. Ruins include the railroad depot and other buildings, and the Bottle House, which the Famous Players Lasky Corporation, the parent of Paramount Pictures, restored in 1925 for the filming of a silent movie, The Air Mail. The ruins of the Cook Bank Building were used in the 1964 film The Reward and again in 2004 for the filming of The Island. Orion Pictures used Rhyolite for its 1987 science-fiction movie Cherry 2000 depicting the collapse of American society. Six-String Samurai (1998) was another movie using Rhyolite as a setting. The Rhyolite-Bullfrog cemetery, with many wooden headboards, is slightly south of Rhyolite.
Tourism flourished in and near Death Valley in the 1920s, and souvenir sellers set up tables in Rhyolite to sell rocks and bottles on weekends. In the 1930s, Revert Mercantile of Beatty acquired a Union Oil distributorship, built a gas station in Beatty, and supplied pumps in other locations, including Rhyolite. The Rhyolite service station consisted of an old caboose, a storage tank, and a pump, managed by a local owner. In 1937, the train depot became a casino and bar called the Rhyolite Ghost Casino, which was later turned into a small museum and curio shop that remained open into the 1970s. In 1984, Belgian artist Albert Szukalski created his sculpture The Last Supper on Golden Street near the Rhyolite railway depot. The art became part of the Goldwell Open Air Museum, an outdoor sculpture park near the southern entrance to the ghost town.