Nevada has far more ghost towns than any other U.S. state towns featured in the story are all on the west side of the state

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - All that's left of the bank building in Rhyolite, Nevada.Whenever I travel, I try to see things that other tourists might pass by.

This past November on a trip to Las Vegas, my wife and I spent parts of several days looking at Nevada ghost towns.

Nevada has more ghost towns than any other U.S. state.

Wikipedia lists 104 ghost towns in the state, while other lists go as high as 189 ghost towns. In any case, virtually any road in the state goes at least near a ghost town.

The vast majority of those towns were mining towns that went bust when mining closed.

Some of those towns are now little more than spots on a map, while others cling to life, hoping to someday regain some level of importance.

This year, we stopped at the ghost towns of Goldfield, Rhyolite and Nelson. We also spent some time in Tonopah. Although it is not a ghost town, Tonopah shares mining heritage with most of the ghost towns in Nevada and celebrates that history with one of the best mining museums in the country.

Our first stop on the way to Las Vegas was Tonopah. We pulled into town just more than an hour before the Tonopah Historic Mining Park was scheduled to close.

With little time, we rushed through the museum, which is mostly outside.

Silver was discovered in what is now Tonopah in the spring of 1900. Jim Butler was camping around Tonopah Springs when his burro wandered off. While chasing it, he picked up a rock to throw at it and discovered silver ore.

Eventually, Jim and his wife filed eight mining claims. Not interested in mining, the Butlers and their partners leased the mines to others who originally dug by hand, pulling out tons of silver ore.

Eventually, the mines in the region produced more than five million tons of oar, developing many mining techniques that were state of the art.

The mining park has what is left of four major mines. Unlike most mining museums, the machinery is still in place in the original buildings.

Cost to visit the mine is just $5, with guided tours available for an additional fee.

Down the road a few miles from Tonopah is Goldfield.

Unlike Tonopah, Goldfield is the epitome of a ghost town. In the early 1900s, mines in the vicinity produced 800 tons of gold while the population of the town grew to 20,000. As of 2010, the town had just 268 residents.

Ghost towns of NevadaGoldfield has a group of eclectic residents, several historic buildings, including the former three-story high school, which is in the process of being restored. It is also the location of the International Tree Forest of the Last Church.

The car forest is located on seven acres of land near the edge of town with multiple cars partially buried on the site, standing on end and covered with graffiti.

The town also has several art cars as well as a nice collection of rusting old cars and mining machinery.

Farther south is the town of Rhyolite.

Rhyolite was founded in 1905 after the discovery of gold.

The town had an estimated population of 5,000 in 1908, but as mining slowed, the town began to die, falling to just 1,000 residents by 1920. Today, there is one house in town that is still lived in.

The town has a series of ruins as well as well as the Goldwell Open Air Museum, which has a collection of art instillations outside in the desert air.

The old buildings are definitely worth a visit, while the art is certainly unusual.

The final ghost town we visited on our trip is Nelson.

Located in El Dorado Canyon south of Las Vegas near Lake Meade and the Arizona border, Nelson once had a population of several thousand. Today, the official population is 37.

Nelson is currently just a wide spot in the road with no real reason to stop. However, just outside of town is the Techatticup Mine, which was once the richest mine in southern Nevada.

The mine was active from 1861 to 1942 with steamboats on the Colorado River once being the main form of transportation.

The current mine owners offer guided tours of the mine, including a tour inside one of the remaining shafts.

Of more interest, the owners have collected a vast amount of mining memorabilia, old cars, mining equipment, old buildings, etc...

Individuals are free to walk the property and look at all the treasures, or junk, depending on how you look at it. However, the owners charge $10 per hour for photography.

On the day we were there, multiple wedding photographers were taking either wedding announcement or actual wedding photos on location.

Mine tours have to be arranged in advance with four or more adults needed to form a tour.

Individuals wishing to photograph the sight need to check in at the office, sign a liability waiver, listen to a short safety speech, and pay their fee.

Although I generally don't like paying to photograph things that are clearly visible from the road, I decided that the eclectic mix of old machinery and buildings was more than worth the money. I paid for two hours and could easily have spent more time shooting.

Although this list is far from complete, several other Nevada ghost towns are also worth a visit, including Berlin, Belmont, Metropolis and Jarbridge, all in northern or central Nevada.

Whether you are interested in history, mining, art, or all of the above, the state's ghost towns are well worth the time it takes to visit.

Lon Austin is the sports editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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