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Ghost Towns - Off-Road Family Adventures

Posted in Features on July 1, 2002
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Contributors: Phillip Dayton

This month, as we continue our series on exploring ghost towns and abandoned mines of the Old West, we will be venturing into Nye County, Nevada, to visit the town sites of Manhattan, Belmont, and Monarch. The last place to get supplies and fill the gas tank before hitting the trails is Tonopah, although you could easily stage out of Austin, Nevada, as well. Tonopah is located at the junction of U.S. 6 and U.S. 95, about halfway between Reno and Las Vegas. Silver was discovered in Tonopah in 1900, and while it has experienced many ups and downs, it has never gone the way of the ghost town.

After topping off the tank and loading the supplies, begin your sojourn by heading east on U.S. 6 for approximately 4 miles. Then head northeast on Highway 376 toward Round Mountain for approximately 28 miles. Now turn west on Highway 377 and travel approximately 4 miles to reach the original town of Manhattan (38 32' 35"N/117 05' 17"W). While you won't hit any dirt trails on this first stop, the history to be seen here makes it all worth while.

Manhattan
Manhattan was originally founded in 1866, but by 1869, it had been abandoned. It got a new start on life in 1905 when another gold strike was staked out and began producing gold assayed at $10,000 a ton. This caused the town to fill up quickly, and by the end of 1905, it had several hundred inhabitants. By 1906, Manhattan had a post office, telephone service, and all the other typical services of a large town. However, most of the financial backing for this growth came out of San Francisco. And when the famous earthquake of April 1906 reduced the city to rubble, the investors rerouted their money to begin rebuilding their own city. In little more than a month, this loss of financing reduced Manhattan to only a few citizens, and eventually the mines shut down. In 1909, another rich gold strike was discovered around Manhattan, and the city began making its third comeback. By 1947, though, mining operations had ceased altogether.

Today, the original town of Manhattan still boasts a few residents, and it is rich with a history of its own. Main Street is lined with a variety of old buildings in various states of decay, and the surrounding area is replete with mining ruins. In the main town, you can also find one of the original banks with a safe that has been torched open. If you have an RV or would like to camp, Manhattan is a great spot to stage from. You can find food here, but no gas, so beware. You can contact the Gold Nugget trailer and RV park, (775) 487-2360, for more information on camping.

Once you've arrived in Manhattan, the fun really begins. There are trails throughout this area that you can explore, and there are two other ghost towns that you can 'wheel to. The first one is North Manhattan, which is located just north of the town (38 35' 72"N/117 03' 81"W). The second town site is East Manhattan, which is just east of town (38 33' 00"N/117 01' 33"W). If you hit the trails south of Manhattan, you'll discover the Big Pine Mine, the Earle Mine, and the Hoosier Mine.

Once you are done exploring this area, travel back to Highway 377 in Manhattan and head east. This road will turn into a dirt forest road with the new name of FR014. Keep going east on FR014 until you arrive at 38 31' 27"N/116 59' 15"W. Here you will find an old wood house. Just across the trail you will see a large mineshaft - just one of the several remains to explore in this area. After checking out this site, continue east on FR014 to our next stop. FR014 ends at the junction with SSR 82, where you will turn left and head north until you reach the town of Belmont (38 35' 19"N/116 51' 29"W).

Belmont
Belmont was originally founded in 1865, after an Indian traveling through the area discovered silver. By 1866, the rush was on. The first 10-stamp mill and five sawmills opened for business in 1866. And by 1867, Belmont had a bank, a school, a telegraph office, two newspapers, a post office, and several stores. It also became the county seat in 1867. By 1868, the population of Belmont had reached almost 2,000 and was the quickest-growing town in eastern Nevada. By 1869, the rush was over and many residents moved on to other strikes in the White Pine area. In 1873, the discovery of new gold veins in the Belmont mines brought the town back to life for a brief period of time. But by 1887, the mines had all been shut down, and the populace moved on. In 1905, the county seat was moved to Tonopah, sealing Belmont's fate.

Today, there are still a few people living in Belmont. The Belmont Monitor Inn, which was built in 1866, is still open for business, and the Belmont pack station still offers one-day trail rides and summer pack trips. You can contact the Belmont pack station, (775) 482-3361, for more information.

The main street through Belmont is a collection of old abandoned buildings. If you travel to the top of Main Street, turn right, then go up the hill, where you will find the remains of the combination mill. It's still an impressive structure, with its large stack soaring high above. If you hit the trails south of the mill, you will come across the remains of the Highbridge Mill (38 34' 47"N/116 51' 30"W) with some magnificent brick and architectural work. Several mines and old rock houses also surround this mill. If you follow this trail around the mountain, it will start a mild climb up to Cemetery Hill. It gets steeper as you go, so be cautious; it's a long way to the bottom. Toward the top, you will have to make your own tracks. The view from here is wonderful, and it will give you the opportunity to look for other abandoned sites.

Even though you can drive on semi-paved roads down to Main Street in Belmont, the limitless number of trails that you can 'wheel through are a lot more fun and will bring you to other abandoned mines in the area.

The final leg of this trip is entirely off road. Beginning at the Highbridge Mill, head south on the trail directly in front of the mill. This trail will initially turn to the left and then come back around to the right, like a figure S. Proceed south on this trail, keeping Cemetery Hill on your west side. After about four miles, you will come to a fork in the trail. We took the path to the left, but either one will bring you to our final destination: the remains of Monarch, which is located at 38 31' 96"N/116 53' 73"W.

Monarch
Monarch was established in the summer of 1906 by a con artist named Reverend Benjamin Blanchart. He began by staking out a wildcat town site, complete with ranch estates. He then offered them for sale in nearby Tonopah. He did such a great job of selling the town that by the end of the year there were four stores, a boarding house, and a newspaper. Amazingly, he had sold 2,400 lots. However, when the bills began to arrive, he decided to travel east to look for financial backing. He was never seen again, and the creditors placed a lien on the town. By the end of 1906, the town was empty and was eventually relegated to the history books as the town that never was.

Today, you can find several wooden ruins in the area, as well as a couple of outhouses. The remains of the original town layout can still be seen, as well. The remote town site is surrounded by trails that you can easily spend a day exploring. From here, travel southwest on the main trail. This will bring you back to SR 82, at which point you will head south to Highway 376. At the junction of Highways 376 and U.S. 6, go west to the original jump-off point of Tonopah.

More Historic Ghost Towns In The AreaSpanish Springs: Approximately 3 miles north of SR 82 and 25 miles north of Tonopah. It was primarily a stage stop until 1905. Wood ruins are all that remain.

Barcelona: Approximately 10 miles west of Belmont by trail. This town was founded in 1867 after a silver strike. By 1877, it was a ghost town. All that remains are rock ruins.

Baxter Springs: 27 miles northeast of Tonopah. It was founded in 1906 after gold was discovered. It lasted three months.

Central City: Approximately 2 miles west of Manhattan. Founded in 1906, it became a ghost town within months. All that remains are the tin can dumps to mark the area.

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