Rhyolite (NV, USA): Bullfrog Cemetery

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Rhyolite was one of the many ghost towns we visited during our road trip through Southwestern USA. It somehow intrigues to visit these deserted places that we clearly once bustling with life. The goldrush of 1905 drew thousands (e.g. gold-seekers, developers, miners) to the Bullfrog mining district. By 1907, Rhyolite had electric lights, water mains, telephones, newspapers, a hospital, a school, an opera house, and a stock exchange. Published estimates of the town’s peak population vary widely (up to 9000), but scholarly sources generally place it in a range between 3,500 and 5,000 in 1907–08. By 1910 the mines were already making losses dropping the numbers of inhabitants to around a 1000. By 1920 the town was empty and the once grandiose buildings fell into despair. Interestingly Rhyolite became a popular tourist destination then already, which it still is today. Touring the American West I met many people who are utterly intrigued by these ghost towns and the adventurous past they stand for. It is a reminder of a time when the world was still open and the promise of a bright future seemed endless.

The nearby Bullfrog cemetery reflects that goldrush nostalgia. Apart from the obvious (and not so nostalgic) graves and monuments to commemorate the death toll due to mining accidents, the cemetery holds a large number of rather recent graves. People who choose to be buried here, probably because they have a connection with the place but not because they live(d) there as the town is ‘dead’ for over a century. There are also many traces of recent grave visits.

Rhyolite is also the home of the Goldwell Open Air Museum, where several artists have installed permanent sculptures starting in 1984. See my post on Nevada Art: the power of place


All photographs are taken by dr. Claudia Venhorst, May 2018.

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