Visiting Rhyolite Ghost Town at Night

This time of year, its difficult to make the trip from Las Vegas to Death Valley National Park.  Temperatures throughout the day soar well over 100 degrees in Las Vegas.  While there are several routes to Death Valley, its all desert–leading to even hotter desert.  Death Valley is regularly 10-20 degrees F hotter than Las Vegas.  If you time it just right, however, Death Valley makes for some spectacular stargazing.  

On our last visit, we drove up from Las Vegas on a dark, moonless night.  We brought a telescope up to Dante’s View to see the stars.  Dante’s View sits on top of a mountain over looking Bad Water Basin.  The elevation causes the spot to be slightly cooler from the rest of Death Valley.  From Dante’s View, you can simultaneously see the highest and lowest points in the contiguous United States.  Mt. Whitney’s Peak being the highest, and Bad Water Basin being the lowest.  On this particular night, however, we could barely see a faint glow from the salt flats far below.  Though we knew there were mountains in the far distance, the night was so dark we weren’t able to make them out.  We could just see the lights from the Furnace Creek Visitor Center.  

Stars are not something Las Vegas residents are used to seeing.  Other than the ones that fly in for the weekend and visit the Strip.  Light pollution from that very same Strip mean that we normally have to get out of town to see any sort of cosmic events.  You can even see the glow of the Las Vegas neon from some of the campgrounds on Mt. Charleston.  Death Valley, however, is designated as an International Dark Sky Park.  When your eyes adjust to the darkness, the stars are truly infinite.  

On the way back home, we decided to take a quick trip to the Rhyolite Ghost Town.  Rhyolite is two miles outside of Beatty, NV and began in 1904 with the discovery of gold in the area.  By 1916, Rhyolite succumbed to the same misfortune that plagued many of Nevada’s ghost towns.  Once the mine closed down, it was the beginning of the end for the town.  

Today, you can see the remains of one of the mine shafts up on the hill.  The foundations of several buildings still stand, but many of the stone buildings are little more than crumbling ruins.  Rhyolite hosts a cemetery, the Tom Kelly Bottle House, and the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  Visiting during the day time affords you the chance to walk around the old buildings and ruins.  Though cell reception in Death Valley National Park and the surrounding areas is extremely spotty, we were surprised to find that we had enough coverage in Rhyolite to live stream our night time visit.  Walking around the Goldwell Open Air Museum at night was very eerie.  The wind was howling and it was extremely dark.  

Summer time visits to Death Valley and the surrounding areas are not for the faint of heart.  However, traveling at night with the cooler temperatures and excellent stargazing can be an unforgettable experience.  If you’ve been to Death Valley or Rhyolite, tell us about your experience below!


5 thoughts on “Visiting Rhyolite Ghost Town at Night”

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