The Bullfrog Mining District

Rhyolite plodded through 1910, struggling to keep alive, and hoping that some prospector would make the strike which would bring back the days of prosperity. Their hopes were doomed; however, and when tax time rolled around again. That year, 168 taxable properties equally 44% of the tax base, were left to the care of the county treasurer, as their owners had departed. The First National Bank closed its doors that year, the last bank to leave Rhyolite.

The trend accelerated in 1911, when the Montgomery-Shoshone, the only mine to make any significant production in the district, finally shut down in May. The 1911 tax rolls again showed owners of 118 properties (43%) leaving town rather than pay taxes, and the Mining World sounded the death knoll. “The Bullfrog District is almost deserted, save by a few lessees, who at intervals make a small production . . . . The Montgomery-Shoshone, after demonstrating that ore averaging $6 a ton could be profitably milled, has closed down, having exhausted its pay ore.”

The Bullfrog District, too, was exhausted. Companies who had money left in their treasuries held on to properties, hoping for a comeback, and several dozen intrepid souls stayed on in Rhyolite, scraping out an existence by leasing mines and extracting occasional small shipments of ore. The great days; however, were definitely gone forever. The Rhyolite Herald finally gave up and closed down in June of 1912, and the town slowly died.

Periodic efforts were made to reorganize and rework the mines on a small scale, which kept Rhyolite from becoming a complete ghost town for several years, but none were successful. In 1914, the Las Vegas & Tonopah discontinued service to the town, above the protests of the few remaining citizens. In 1916, the Nevada-California Power Company cut off electricity to Rhyolite, and began to salvage its poles and wire. The Inyo Register described the once thriving town in December, 1916:

“Rhyolite, once a camp claiming several thousand population, is practically a deserted village . . . the movable buildings have been moved away from time to time, and the process is still going on. At present, it is contributing to the upbuilding of the camp of Carrara. . .” By 1920, although a few companies and individuals still held on to their Rhyolite properties, hoping against hope for a revival, the camp was completely deserted.”

Rhyolite Depot

Rhyolite Depot, which became a Casino at one point.

Afterwards, much of Rhyolite was slowly dismantled to serve the needs of new boom camps. Although small-scale efforts were made to revive the camp from time to time — including one during the fall of 1978 — the good days were gone. Today, the crumbling remains of its once imposing structures, together with its picturesque location, make it one of the most popular ghost towns in the American West. Ironically, Beatty, four miles to the west, which played little sister to Rhyolite throughout the boom years, was saved from decline by the construction of Nevada Highway 95, and today it continues to survive on the trade of tourists, military personnel and truckers traveling between Las Vegas and Reno.

All was not in vain, however. The Bullfrog District produced $1,687,792 worth of ore in the four short years between 1907 and 1910, doing its part, along with the other small camps and the bonanzas of Goldfield and Tonopah, in pulling Nevada out of its two-decade slump.

Hundreds of mines and dozens of mining camps played a part in the Bullfrog District. Of these, several significant remnants can be found at some of the locations, while others have totally reverted back to their natural desert landscape.

The Bullfrog Mining District includes the vicinity of Beatty west of US Highway 95 and the region near the old towns of Rhyolite and Pioneer. It adjoins the Fluorine District on the west. The district covers all of the Bullfrog Hills and also includes properties in the adjoining part of the Grapevine Mountains.

One of the first rules of the mining game is to get in on the “ground floor” in order to make money. If possible, an experienced prospector will hurry to the scene of the latest strike, locate ground as close as possible to it, and form a company with a similar sounding name. Between 1905 and 1910, this game was played to perfection by various and sundry miners and promoters in the Bullfrog District, as 90 companies were incorporated with the magic word “Bullfrog” somewhere on their letterheads. A few of these companies were in the vicinity of the Original Bullfrog, and most, but not all, were within the boundaries of the Bullfrog District. All hoped to lure stockholders’ funds by advertising their proximity to the big strike.

Rholite and the Bullfrog Hills, 1909

Rholite and the Bullfrog Hills, 1909

A number of these miscellaneous Bullfrog companies bought property in the district without ever planning to sink a pick in the ground. Never doing any more than locating a claim, they incorporate a company and sold stock to gullible investors. Some of these included the Bullfrog Winner Mining Company, the Bullfrog Western Mining Company, the United Bullfrog Mining Company, the Bullfrog Plutos Mining and Milling Company, the Bullfrog Gold Note Mining Company, and the Bullfrog Jumper Company, and dozens of others.

However, there were other that really were interested in mining and these soon surrounded the Original Bullfrog on all sides. These companies, all of which were located and incorporated soon after the beginning of the Bullfrog rush, all sank shafts as close as possible to the Original Bullfrog claims, hoping to find the same rich ore. Of the seven companies which surrounded the Original Bullfrog ground, six were utter failures, and one — the Bullfrog West Extension — got lucky, for the unpredictable Original Bullfrog ledge penetrated its property. Although this seems like a high rate of failure, it was about the norm for the risking business of mining. The Bullfrog West Extension was the earliest of the mines which sprung up around the Original Bullfrog, thus emphasizing another mining truism that the “firstest gets the mostest.”

Towns, Camps and Mines of the Bullfrog District, and what remains:

Amargosa, Nevada – See Original – nothing remains

Beatty, Nevada – Nye County, Nevada – Not a ghost town, but a vital part of Death Valley mining days.

Big Bullfrog Mining Company – South of the Original Bullfrog Mine near Rhyolite, Nevada.  Nothing remains

Bullfrog Mining Camp – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Very little – icehouse and jail

Bullfrog Apex Mining and Milling Company – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – None

Bullfrog Extension Mining Company – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – None

Bullfrog Fraction – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – None

Bullfrog Red Mountain /Rhyolite-Bullfrog – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – none

Bullfrog West Extension Mine – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Unknown, probably none.

Currie Well, Nevada – North of Rhyolite, Nevada – Debris, low stone wall, ruins of a small beehive furnace.

Gold Bar Mining Camp, Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Mining remains, large mill foundations

Gold Bar Mine, Nevada

Gold Center, Nevada – Near Tonopah, Nevada – Foundations of a stamp mill and brewery.

Happy Hooligan Mine

Homestake-King Mine

Lucky Jack Mine

Mayflower Mine

Mexican Camp, Nevada – 13 miles west of Rhyolite, Nevada – none

Montgomery-Shoshone Mine & Mills – Near Rhyolite, Nevada

National Bank Mine

Original Bullfrog Extension

Original Mining Camp, Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – none

Original Bullfrog Mine

Phinney Mine

Pioneer Mining Camp, Nevada – Near Rhyolite, Nevada – Some mining remains.

Pioneer Mine, Nevada – Numerous buildings and ruins.

Rhyolite, Nevada –  many remains

Senator Stewart Mine

Shoshone Polaris Mine

Strozzi Ranch, Nevada – 16 miles northwest of Rhyolite, Nevada – Old cabin, shacks, fencing, fruit trees.

Tramps Mine

Source: Death Valley Historic Resource Study

Also See:

Death Valley Ghost Towns (includes index)

Nevada Death Valley Ghost Towns

Rhyolite, Nevada – Little More Than a Memory

Swindle at the Gold Bar Mine

Rhyolite and Bullfrog Photo Gallery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *