It was the spring of 1904 when “Shorty” Harris and Eddie Cross were winding up another prospecting venture, this one in the remote, barren Amargosa Desert east of Death Valley. The trip had been uneventful and unsuccessful.
Then came an afternoon break on a lonely hillside overlooking the valley. Their chance discovery that day launched the last great gold rush in the southwest and gave rise to what would become one of the most amazing ghost towns in America.
By 1907, their claim, now the Bullfrog Mine, and other mines in the surrounding hills were supporting a booming community that featured the latest of amenities including public swimming pools, a school, and a railroad depot that connected the community of Rhyolite with Las Vegas and Goldfield. This was a town of substance.
One bank tower was three stories in height, was built of masonry construction faced with cut stone, featured marble floors as well as an elevator and the cities post office in the basement. The town was growing at such a pace the school, another masonry structure, was deemed to small before it was completed. So, a second larger school was constructed.
The financial panic of 1907 and the great San Francisco earthquake devastated the banking industry in the Great Basin. This, as well as exhaustion of profitable ore bodies, were the brakes that halted all development in Rhyolite.
Before the new school was completed the town was in a precipitous slide. In early 1909 the population was estimated at 10,000, by 1912 the number had dropped to less than 100.
Today Rhyolite, four miles west of Beatty, Nevada, on highway 374 is a photographers paradise with stunning desert landscapes framed by towering ruins. Seeing the ruins against a starlit desert sky is truly breathtaking.
The lost city of Rhyolite is a must see on any visit to Death Valley.

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