Goldfield is getting a new gold mine! In my May, 2016 Rock&Gem article on Gemfield, I wrote that a new mine might be coming to Goldfield. It’s going to happen. This will be an open pit operation, not a hard rock mine. This will bring some high paid jobs to the Goldfield/Tonopah area for at least several years. The pit may go down only three to five hundred feet according to one geologist I talked to.
People will notice fresh pavement and a realignment of I-95 just north of the city proper. That’s because the original mine owner paid tens of millions of dollars to Nevada to move the road! This better accommodates the mine’s plan of operations, the main pit to be extremely close to where old alignment was. There’s turbulence in the mining industry as always, I understand that ownership of the Gemfield Project has been sold three times since 2016. Gemfield Resources appears to be the current owner.
Perhaps to capture this new wave of construction, Valero in several months is opening a 24 hour travel plaza in Goldfield. That means Goldfield residents will finally have a gas station in town and a convenience store. Right now, the only source of food in Goldfield is the Dinky Diner restaurant, normal hours, and a General Store that is only open “sometimes” and has been for sale for at least two years. This travel plaza is significant because it will take big rigs, the next truck stop going south being at Armagosa Valley, 93 miles away.
I expect Goldfield to perhaps increase in residency between these two happenings but any new resident will still face a 5,500 foot altitude with temps in the low 20s in the winter, along with snow and the highway shutting down from time to time. Also, no medical services, with the only med clinic a half hour away in Tonopah. No area hospital, no emergency room. People are transported by vehicle to either Las Vegas or Reno for non-emergency problems, a true emergency requires a helicopter ride to whatever city will take them. That could be pricey. On the positive side, an improved water line is coming in as the result of the mine. This will make water more dependable in Goldfield.
Bryan Smalley at Hidden Treasures said that he recently had a very good month. William Vanderford at Vanderford’s Gold Strike, on the other hand, is rather desperate for money and has been having a terrible time getting by in this crisis. He only accepts cash because of credit card company minimum monthly fees and says no one traveling has cash or wants to spend it. There are no big banks in Goldfield and neither in Tonopah, although there is one small but true bank in Tonopah. I talked to a roadside vendor in Beatty and he says he loses 60% of his sales because he doesn’t take cash. Both are now thinking of using Square, that handheld card reader you see vendors at Rock Shows using. For now, for all of the Southwest, bring cash.
Sharon Artlip continues work on the Gemfield Gems Chalcedony Claims but is also helping renovate the International Car Forest of the Lost Church. This is an interesting and recent video on the Forest:
The creators mention a lack of trash at the site, this is something Sharon and company have been working on. They’ve also been repainting offensive graffiti when it appears as well as sprucing up the place in general.
Oh, the creators of the video, Cory and Honey, mentioned hitting a bathroom before visiting the Forest. The Forest does have a porta-potty, however, the city of Goldfield maintains public bathrooms at First Street and I-95 on the west side of town. I-95 serves as the main street running through town. The bathrooms are in the Goldfield Visitor Center parking lot, the Center itself open only when volunteers man it. The bathrooms always seem open during the day. I’m not sure about if they are open at night or if they were open during the pandemic. The bathrooms have running water and the parking lot easily takes RVs. See details at the end of this post.
Look for the “Gemfield Headquarters” sign at the top of this building. You can register to go out to the claims from here and you can also pay for whatever rocks you collected. A dollar a pound. Sharon Artlip has returned to this location and rocks from the claims are here along with old maps and documents and miscellany. As with everything in Goldfield, call to make sure they are open. Contact Goldfield’s Chamber of Commerce if necessary.
The Gemfield Gems Chalcedony Claims website is at the link below:
Bryan Smalley runs one of the Southwest’s most eclectic rock and gift shops. He is expert on local rockhounding and accomplished at cutting and lapidary. He does knapping and can talk authoritatively on making flintlock strikers from locally collected chalcedony. It is sometimes difficult to find him at his shops, three buildings in total.
Ask locals where Bryan is if you can’t find him. Try the Dinky Diner. The friendly Goldfield citizens won’t mind your asking. Bryan has a minimal web presence since he focuses on finding rocks and cutting same. And making doors and entire buildings. Make sure to stop when investigating the Gemfield Gem claims. Tell him Tom said “Hi” and if you have a rock that needs cutting, ask him if he has the time. Oh, and buy something!
— Florence and Rustler #2 Mine Tours Goldfield, NV
Call or text for information and reservations:
James Aurich: 702-622-0500 Jon Aurich: 702-622-1344
Guided surface and underground tours by appointment. The surface tour views head frames, hoist houses, the black shop and more. Great views of the surrounding country which are pockmarked with the craters of old mines. One mile from Goldfield on an easy dirt road. Private residence on site. Those with mobility issues should bring up their condition with the owners before visiting.
This page linked below contains photos and mine history. Information on the Florence exists in different places on the web, including Mindat.org.
Vanderford’s Gold Strike William D. Vanderford, Consulting Geologist 775-485-3252
Mailing address: P.O. Box 27 Goldfield, NV
Shop location: Highway 95 on the west side of town.
Eclectic materials, well worth a stop. Rocks, mineral samples, more. Please bring cash, William is not accepting credit cards at this time. Some of his jewelry is rare and understandably expensive, he says many people walk away from a piece because they didn’t have enough cash. He stopped accepting plastic when the credit card companies started charging him extra for failing to meet a certain dollar level each month. These fees are murderous to small businesses and you will find that cash is still king all over the rural Southwest.
Your place to eat in Goldfield. Skip a meal in Beatty or Tonopah and eat instead in Goldfield. It will be worth it. Only place in town to eat but this business does not take advantage of that, they try very hard. Small-town life; strike up a conversation with the next table. They will fix anything to go if you don’t have time to dine.
The Dinky is right on I-95 in Goldfield, essentially Main Street. You may miss it coming in from the south. Turn around where convenient but watch your speed and where you turn as an Esmeralda County Sheriff is often waiting to catch speeders. Slow down!
A few years ago, I stopped into Goldfield to research that Rock&Gem article I wrote about earlier. The waitress asked me what I was doing in town. I said I was meeting Sharon Artlip to discuss her chalcedony claims. “Oh, yes,” the waitress said, “Sharon said you were coming in.”
I recommend the BLT for lunch and the cheeseburger for dinner.
“My mom and I own this business and we are just trying to serve awesome food. With a good environment and great people. Hours are 8 am to 4 pm, every day except Sundays when we close at 2 pm. Hope to see you soon!” Karie L.
Public Bathrooms and Goldfield Visitor Center
Bathrooms are in the Visitor Center parking lot which can easily take large RVs and has trash barrels. Running water in the bathrooms. The Visitor Center itself is often closed, volunteer staffed.
This is a revision of my first article for Rock&Gem Magazine, who has permitted me to present it here. Since this article was published in January, 2016, Dean Otteson has passed away. He was a good man. Rest in Peace.
In 2019 the Ottesons have permitted fee digs on different claims for a few area rock clubs. I went on a recent trip with the Southern Nevada Gem and Mineral Society to the Broken Arrow claim. We hunted variscite and turquoise on the dumps. The Southern Utah Rock Club, of which I am also a member, was also allowed a fee dig in the last few months.
I Suggested Titles II Article III Access and Amenities IV Captions
I Suggested Titles
A Turquoise Tale – A Field Trip to Dig at The Royal Royston Claim Near Tonopah, Nevada
A Turquoise Odyssey to Tonopah, Nevada – A Gold Prospector Comes to Love and Learn About the Gemstone
A Turquoise Adventure – A Field Trip to The Royston Mining District Near Tonopah, Nevada
Near the western high-water mark of the Great Basin’s Sagebrush Sea sits Tonopah, Nevada, at 5,394 feet. I came to this high desert town to search for turquoise, to experience a hunt on one of the last gem grade turquoise mines open to the public in the United States.
A friend’s interest in turquoise jewelry had ignited in me a curiosity about the semi-precious gemstone. While I am normally a gold prospector, using my metal detector to find gold in quartz, I became more and more interested in turquoise as I researched it on the web.
An upcoming trip to Las Vegas would take me through Tonopah. From my investigating I knew that the nearby Royston Mining District was famous for turquoise and that the Otteson family of Tonopah offered a tour and a dig at their Royal Royston claim. The $100 dig fee did not deter me since food, gas, books for research, and a hotel room would cost more than that. Besides, what price adventure?
Tonopah is centrally located between Reno, Nevada and Las Vegas, a day’s drive from either city. I began my turquoise odyssey in Reno, principally because I was moving things from Sacramento to Las Vegas, my soon to be new home town. The date was October 20, 2015.
To get in the spirit of things, I first visited the W.M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum on the campus of the University of Nevada at Reno. The museum is in the Mackay School of Mines Building, a classical looking structure in Flemish-bond brick. I read there was an outstanding display of Nevada turquoise inside and I was not disappointed.
A large display cabinet houses the Luella Margrave turquoise collection. It has samples from around the world, including over 30 specimens from different Nevada mines and localities. Mostly rounded and polished stones, the collection includes a Blue Gem mine specimen that weighs 704 carats! The grouping also shows stones often mistaken for turquoise, such as howlite, chrysocolla, wardite, imperialite, and variscite.
“The Keck” as the staff sometimes call it, houses other fine collections. Gold and silver examples are first class and the history of the Comstock strike is well presented. Any rock hound should tour the museum’s displays of minerals, fossils, mining artifacts, and ores. Vowing to come back soon, I next drove a few miles north to visit the publication sales and information office of the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology.
The Bureau maintains this sales and record keeping outlet at the Great Basin Science Sample and Records Library building on Raggio Parkway in Reno. It’s recognizable immediately by its insulating gold clad windows. During my internet research on Nevada turquoise I kept coming across references to a Frank Morrissey, an inveterate amateur turquoise collector who visited nearly every turquoise mine in Nevada. At “The Bureau,” I bought a copy of Morrissey’s seminal work, Turquoise Deposits of Nevada, field checked and published by the NBMG in 1968. Although the document exists as a .pdf file on-line, I purchased the work for its foldout map and, to a degree, as a souvenir.
After some impulse buying: Geology of Nevada, a boxed NBMG rock and mineral collection, and a turquoise picture postcard, I fueled my truck and headed east on Highway 80 to Fernley, Nevada. It’s necessary to go east to hook up with I-95 South, which takes you all the way to Tonopah.
Click TWICE on a photo to see it full size.
As I negotiated the light traffic and rural intersections I kept looking at the post card I bought, slightly bent and yellowed on the back, perhaps from years of waiting to be sold. Its caption, written by the Bureau, neatly summarized what I was starting to learn: “Turquoise is a complex mixture of copper, aluminum, phosphate, and water, and is found in veins, seams, and nodules in a variety of rocks. It varies greatly in color from the highly prized shades of blue, green, and blue green to almost white or grey.”
That correlated with my notes; the United States Geological Service wrote something similar on the web. “Chemically, a hydrated phosphate of copper and aluminum, turquoise is formed by the percolation of meteoric or groundwater through aluminous rock in the presence of copper.” Water seems key. Arid climates favor turquoise. Too much water, by precipitation or otherwise, and the enabling chemicals are flushed out of a rock’s cracks and fissures, never to deposit turquoise.
Turquoise’s formula is CuAl6(PO4)4(OH)8•5H2O. Where Cu is copper, Al is aluminum, PO4 is phosphate, OH is hydroxide, and H2O is, of course, water. The differences in color and shades within a color, reflect the different concentrations of each chemical. Lesser chemicals such as iron also affect color, as does the host rock or matrix of the stone. [Interestingly, Mindat.org and Gemdat.org disagree on the formula for turquoise.]
The Lowrys, writing in Turquoise Unearthed, say that, generally speaking, “Stones with more copper appear bluer, while those with less copper and more iron are greener.” Other experts, such as Colorado College’s Richard M. Pearl, author of Turquoise, are or have been skeptical and left iron’s contribution unresolved. But as I drove on and as the country emptied, I thought less about chemicals and more about the people who first occupied these lonely lands and how they worked turquoise into their lives.
Turquoise mining and processing in Nevada goes back at least 600 years. Research Geologist Joseph V. Tingley once wrote that Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloans) mined turquoise near present day Boulder City in southern Nevada from 300 to 500 A.D. In Nye County, my eventual destination, George Schmidtlein in 1925 was led by a house servant to what she said was an old Indian mine in the Toquima Range. Fifty miles or so north-east of Tonopah, Schmidtlein found turquoise chips, crude stone tools, and a narrow 12 to 15-foot shaft. He subsequently claimed the property, calling it the Indian Blue mine.
From their center of power in what is now New Mexico, Anasazi traded turquoise for almost everything, including California seashells, copper bells, obsidian, and even macaws from Mexico. But what about this mine near Tonopah? That is Western Shoshone country. Although my research hadn’t yet finished, it seemed likely that those early people also produced finished turquoise for its ornamental, monetary, and sacred value.
Mine scarred hills and tailing piles greeted me as I drove into Tonopah. The city is built on top of countless abandoned tunnels and mine workings; a town alive on the remnants of the past. My destination was the historic and period restored 1907 Mizpah Hotel, whose management partners with the turquoise tour and dig. This arrangement benefits everyone.
The Ottesons are Royston Mining District claim owners and tour operators. They run rock saws and polishing equipment in the Mizpah’s basement as well as a retail store on the first floor. Tour participants get a dig fee discount if they stay overnight in the hotel. And all dig attendees, no matter where they stay in town, meet their guide leader at 10 in the morning in the grand lobby of the Mizpah.
After a wonderful dinner and overnight at the Mizpah, I got out at 8:00 A.M. the next day to walk around the Tonopah Historic Mining Park. The park is right in back of the hotel. Challenging trails lead to a myriad of mining features: hoist houses, a powder magazine, a tunnel, and viewing areas for many now closed silver and gold mines. For the less physically inclined, the Visitor Center offers easy access and plenty of parking. The rock and mineral displays there offer a great look at Nevada’s geological resources. It was here that I saw my first turquoise rough and I found that sight compelling.
Previously, I had always seen turquoise set in jewelry or as polished stones. The rough, by comparison, had a raw and natural look that I liked very much. Royston District turquoise was represented, including an example of the rare and controversial white turquoise, which many argue is not turquoise at all. I will not settle that argument here, but the NBMG did write that turquoise colors could range to almost white and grey. After too short a stay, I hustled out of the visitor center to get to the Mizpah lobby by ten o’clock.
In the Mizpah a small group of us filled out paperwork, were issued a yellow nylon bag for our findings, and were introduced to the personable Dean Otteson. He seemed genuinely interested in sharing his life and his love of turquoise. A family affair, no less than 13 Ottesons have active claims in the Royston Mining District. We would caravan to the claim, he said, so the six of us went off to our three vehicles. We gathered in front of the Mizpah and were soon racing out of town.
And I do mean racing. After a short stint on I-95 West, we headed northwest on Gabbs Pole Line Road at a furious speed. We passed SolarReserve’s power plant, whose thousands of mirrors concentrated sunlight on a tower receiver that glowed like a torch. Our small convoy struggled to keep up with Dean’s truck. After twenty miles we broke westward over an unpaved but well graded road toward the Royston Hills. Rain had fallen in previous days but our entourage, a low- slung sedan, a full-size pickup towing an ATV, and my pickup, managed to battle through the occasional wallow. I tried not to think about damaging the paintings and possessions in my truck, the load I was taking to Las Vegas. They would have to take care of themselves – this was a time for turquoise!
After five or six miles on this unpaved track through desert scrub we came to our first stop a few hundred yards from our final destination. Dean pointed out an abandoned mine that at one time supplied turquoise for Tiffany and Company. He said the old tunnel was safe to go into and that a mine room opened to the sky. Regrettably, in my haste to search, I forgot about these old workings and did not tour them before I left. After this stop I followed Otteson to his Royal Royston claim where we parked our vehicles. He motioned to a bank of overburden only steps away. It was in these spoils that we could search.
Dean’s excavator was following and exposing a main vein. As it dug through less promising earth, its bucket would swing back and place overburden behind the machine. That rock was then pushed away from the excavator so we could look through it. Armed mostly with hand rakes, we pawed at the material, turning over dusty rocks and rubble. I regretted not bringing a spray bottle.
Dean said the overburden was a jumble of kaolin shale and rhyolite. This matched my research; the USGS Nevada state geologic map shows the claim area belonging to the Havallah Sequence, Mississippian to Permian age rocks altered by volcanic activity. Fractured and fissured, the rhyolite was subject to turquoise producing seams and veinlets as the gemstone solidified.
Otteson told us to simply look for color. One big rock with a hint of blue caught his attention. Our group had only rock picks and hammers, nothing heavy enough to break open the piece. I said I had a hand sledge in my truck and that I would get it. Upon my return, however, the group had dispersed, each of them hunting on their own.
I looked over the rock, trying to read it. Not wanting to destroy something by blindly flailing away, I remembered Dean had said to hit the rock on the right. So, I did. A three-inch piece broke away, displaying good color. I hit the rock again and it cleaved open, exploding into a sky- blue color that matched any turquoise cabochon I had ever seen. A half inch thick vein of gem grade turquoise revealed itself – I was so excited that I wanted to put the rock into my bag immediately and run off with it. But I hesitated.
Our group found the rock together. I therefore considered it a community rock and so, wistfully, I placed it next to my tool bucket. Later, we would all have to figure out who got to keep it. And while the group had scattered, my prospecting experience taught me never to leave a productive area until it was exhausted. I was soon rewarded for staying close with specimens that showed wonderfully what I had read about while getting ready for the dig: turquoise veins shot through parent rock.
Click TWICE on a photo to see it full size.
These new pieces showed fracture lines and veins more clearly than the first rock but with much less turquoise. I said to Otteson that while interesting, they didn’t seem to be good prospects for working up. He disagreed, saying that it depended on the skill of the rock cutter, that if done properly a good show could result even from these thin veins. I later read about ribbon turquoise and how a narrow line of color through country rock could produce a beautiful cabochon. Otteson was clearly an expert.
Dean asked me how splitting the first rock had turned out. He gave a big smile when I brought it over. I told him I would have to figure out who would get to keep it. He regarded me with a puzzled look, as if to say not to worry about it. Fortunately, a member of our group overheard our conversation. He shouted, “Tom, just keep it!” I happily put it in my yellow bag, already thinking where I could display it in my new home.
One of our company found a round and dense green stone that looked quite gemmy. I hadn’t read that the Royston Mining District produced nodules or nuggets, never-the-less, there it was. I read later in Pearl’s Turquoise that when “a rock cavity is only partially filled, the surface is often rounded.” The others in our group were also equally happy with their finds, mostly hand sample sized rocks showing green and blue.
Having found enough rough to keep me happy, I and several others walked down to where the excavator was used to chase the main vein. Moments before, I had seen Dean’s brother and another hand leaving the mine with five gallon buckets of rough. It all looked very blue. Almost canyon like, a high rock wall loomed over a deep hole that the excavator was burrowing into. The mine had been producing for some time judging by the depth of the pit.
We spent about three hours on the claim. It felt special to walk around a working mine like this on such a beautiful fall day. Otteson encouraged all of us to join a rock or mineral society in our home towns, so we could work our turquoise and find out more about rocks and gems in general. Good advice. For those without access to saws, Otteson offered to cut smaller pieces back at the Mizpah.
Feeling recharged by the experience I drove back to the main road at my own pace, enjoying the countryside. The glow of SolarReserve’s tower shone in the distance, leading me to the main highway and from there on to Las Vegas. I thought about the Margrave turquoise collection I saw in Reno at the beginning of my trip. Perhaps, I, too, could start a Nevada collection. Perhaps my turquoise odyssey was not ending but only beginning. What a feeling!
III Access and Amenities
The William M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum is located in the Mackay School of Mines Building on the campus of the University of Nevada at Reno. Handicap accessible with restrooms. Nearby parking is metered and scarce when students are in session. A long walk is often needed. If you have mobility issues, take a Lyft or an Uber or taxi from downtown Reno and get dropped off as close as you can to the Museum. No admission charge. (775) 784-1766.
The Great Basin Science Sample and Records Library building housing the Nevada Bureau of Mines and Geology sales office is located at 2175 Raggio Parkway in Reno. Handicap accessible with restrooms. Plentiful parking. No charge. (775) 682-8766.
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park is located at 520 Mculloch Avenue in Tonopah, immediately behind the Mizpah Hotel. Good parking for most RVs and trailers with an easy pull-through. Visitor center and mineral display room is handicap accessible and has restrooms. Free admission to the visitor center, its store, and the mineral displays. The grounds are not easy for the physically challenged, however, depending on staffing, they may be able to run you around on a Gator. There is a fee for that; inquire. No charge for the store or museum. There is a charge for the walking tour which ranges from $3.00 to $5.00. (775) 482-9274.
NB: Check my file on Places to Visit and Collect in The Southwest for the most current information:
The Mizpah Hotel is located on 100 North Main Street in Tonopah. Handicap accessible with restrooms. No microwaves or mini-fridges in rooms. Coffee provided on each floor in the morning. Corner rooms have great windows, some of which may need help with opening. Claw foot bathtubs common. Restaurant, bar, and lodging. (775) 482-3030.
Click TWICE on a photo to see it full size.
Royston Turquoise Mine tours are arranged and conducted by the Otteson family on Wednesdays and Saturdays from April through October. (775) 482-9889. The claim site itself is unpaved, uneven ground and without facilities. People are escorted in but can leave by themselves. Going? Bring water, snacks, goggles, gloves, a spray bottle and a rock hammer. Check their website for additional items. Perhaps a rented vehicle if you are concerned about your car. Good luck!
November 12, 2019 Update: The Ottesons are again offering fee digs to the general public:
bankofoverburden.jpg: Group members with their issued yellow bags collecting on the overburden bank at the Royal Royston claim.
cabinetsizerock.jpg: This washed three-pound cabinet size rhyolite rock shows a gem grade turquoise seam.
deanOttesonpointing: Royal Royston claim owner Dean Otteson pointing to a possible find in overburden.
excavatorchasingthemainvein.jpg: Excavator at the Royal Royston claim removing overburden of rhyolite and kaolin shale to expose the downward trending turquoise vein.
greenblueturquoisehandsample.jpg: This washed hand sample was typical of the size of blue, green, and blue-green stones found at the Royal Royston claim.
greenturquoiserough.jpg: Low grade green turquoise in rhyolite at the Royal Royston claim.
luellamargraveturquoisecollection.jpg: Luella Margrave turquoise collection at the W.M. Keck Earth Science and Mineral Engineering Museum in Reno.
NBMGRoystonDistrictmap.jpg: The Royston Hills Mining District lies approximately 24 miles northwest of Tonopah, Nevada and it straddles Nye and Esmeralda Counties. [Note. NBMG materials are not copyrighted, however, they do require a credit line.]
rhyoliteandkaolinshale.jpg: Country rock of rhyolite at the bottom with an overburden of kaolin shale at the top.
roystonturquoisejewelry.jpg: Navaho jewelry with Royston turquoise exhibiting rhyolite matrix. [Note: Adobe Stock image purchased by myself. No royalty or credit required.]
townoftonopah.jpg: View of Tonopah facing west as seen from the Tonopah Historic Mining Park.
turquoiseseaminrhyolite.jpg: Turquoise seam deposited in fractured rhyolite.
viewfromthedash.jpg: Looking east to the Ione Valley from the Royston Hills Mining District.
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park Foundation has begun fund raising to physically secure what’s known as the Silver Top Headframe, one of three located at the Mining Park. A headframe is the signature feature of any large mine, permitting the hoisting of workers and ore from deep below to the top of the complex. A very few 2019 calendars, printed to help raise funds for the Foundation, are available at the Mining Park Visitor center for purchase.
While it may be winter, planning a park visit can start now by checking out its website or by reading up on Tonopah’s fabled mining history. Make sure to stop in if you’re heading to Quartzsite in January or Tucson in February. There are other reasons to go to Tonopah.
Anyone going to or leaving the Southwest by way of US 95 in Nevada should stop for many excellent reasons. The first is fuel, since the nearest gas stations are 100 miles north and south of town. After you’ve topped your tank, consider visiting the Central Nevada Museum in Tonopah, the city’s best kept secret. After that, stop by Whitney’s Bookshelf, right on 95, a fine used bookstore, often with excellent mining books. Hometown Pizza is across the street if you are hungry, usually serving pizza by the slice. If you’d like different fare, try the Pitman Cafe in the historic and period restored Mizpah Hotel. If you’re not in a rush to get out of town, think about getting a room at the Mizpah. I like the corner room on the fourth floor, the one with the claw foot bathtub. I think it is 409. But I digress. The best reason for any prospector or rockhound to stop in Tonopah is the Historic Mining Park, owned by the city and operated under regular, dependable hours.
Tonopah was America’s last great gold and silver strike. You’ve heard about the Gold Rush of 1849, the Comstock, and the Klondike. But there was also Tonopah in 1900 and for years thereafter. The visitor center and the the park grounds highlight this stupendous and spectacular hunt for precious metal at the turn of the century. The park is right behind the Mizpah Hotel. The entrance road is best approached in larger vehicles by Burro Street. The visitor center parking lot has room for two or three RVs and the exit road is a pull-through, so there is no worry about having to back up.
The grounds offer a self-guided tour. Pick up a map at the visitor center which also houses a terrific rock, gem, and mineral museum. As for the grounds, hiking the park at 6,000 feet can be tough at times but take it slow and take some water. Great opportunities for photographs. For those out of shape or mobility challenged, tours on a Polaris with a guide can be arranged. Call for current availability and charges.
As to the Foundation’s principal project, securing the Headframe, Eva La Rue, Administrative Assistant for the Tonopah Historic Mining Park Foundation, told me this story in an e-mail:
“Because the Foundation was created to basically help preserve the Tonopah Historic Mining Park, this has become one of our projects. The Silver Top mine includes not only the headframe, but the hoist house and the ore house (grizzly) too. Basically, the headframe is currently supported by four cement blocks, that were poured around the legs of it to help stabilize it years ago. The problem is that the only thing underneath the blocks of cement is some rotting wood. So the wood has rotted away and now the cement blocks are sinking down. A few years back an engineering company out of Vegas reported that it appeared to be in danger of total collapse. So, the plan is to take it apart, piece by piece, and build a cement pad or base for it to stand on, and then re-erect it, anchoring it in place. So, this is a HUGE project, and the costs are high, especially when the equipment and manpower must be brought in to work on it. But the alternative was to lose it.”
What makes up the Southwestern United States? There’s no agreed definition, save that Arizona and New Mexico are always included. For the purposes of my book I’m setting its northern boundary at the 38th Parallel. In Nevada, that border touches on tiny Goldfield and Tonopah.
This week I’ll be traveling two those two towns, before heading further to Hawthorne, site of the largest ammunition depot in North America, and then further into the Sierra Nevada mountains. Its a Holiday week so I don’t know what will be open. But I know Sharon Artlip’s chalcedony claims will be.
I wrote about Sharon’s fee/dig claims in Goldfield in the May, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem. If you don’t have access to that, I wrote some background on that article at my personal writing blog. Click here to go there. Her claims are about three miles out of town and still open to anyone at a dollar a pound. The chalcedony is literally everywhere under foot.
Register first at one of several local shops in Goldfield before heading to the claims. Information on that is at the link above, also be sure to visit Bryan Smalley’s rock shop. It’s called Hidden Treasures and it is truly that. Confused about directions? Find a store closed? Stop any local on the street and ask where Bryan or Sharon are. Goldfield is that relaxed. And fuel up before Goldfield, gas is 27 miles away in Tonopah.
Speaking of which, I hope to visit that city’s mining park and museum once again. They have a silver ledge there that I want a better photograph of. I wrote about Tonopah area when I went on a fee/dig trip to the Royal Royston turquoise claim in November, 2015. It was the focus of my article in the January, 2016 issue of Rock&Gem. Background on that trip is at this link.
Unfortunately, Dean Otteson, head of the Otteson clan, died shortly after the article was published and public tours of the claim ceased. I knew him for only a few minutes but I immediately considered him a friend. There may be open ground in the Royston Hills near Tonopah but it would take careful research to determine those locations.
I don’t know of any current fee/dig operation for turquoise in the Southwest but I have a lead on a possibility in New Mexico some distance from Magdalena. Perhaps I will have more information on that before my book is published.
Until I check in later from the road, I wish you the best this Thanksgiving Week! And, as always, check out Rock&Gem Magazine for the latest goings on in this wonderful hobby of rockhounding.