Thunder Mountain Monument - Out in
the middle of nowhere south of Interstate 80 near Imlay,
is a huge conglomeration of quirky sculptures made of all manner of
collected items including old cars, bottles, railroad ties, machinery,
wheels and a bucket load of concrete.
Constructed over two decades beginning in
1967, a man named Frank Van Zant, built the folk art "sculpture" of
concrete and junk as a tribute to the Native American plight.
Frank Van Zant, who had some Creek Indian heritage came from
After serving in WWII, he came to Nevada at
worked at various jobs including logging, mining, truck driving, and as a
Somewhere along the line,
Van Zant met an old medicine woman who told him, "In the final
days, there shall rise up a place called Thunder Mountain." She
said that only those who lived at Thunder Mountain would survive the
It was after this talk with the
medicine woman that Van Zant changed his name to Chief Rolling
Mountain Thunder. Before long he moved his family to the desert
and began to build tbe monument. From a nearby junkyard came a
treasure trove of building supplies, such as farm equipment,
typewriters, car hoods and wheels.
When Van Zandt was alive he lived in the
three-story house, built of bottles and concrete, with his family.
From the roof, spires and pretzels of painted concrete shoot out in
all directions, culminating in a dome skeleton. The windows of
the house are made from automobile windshields.
Through the years Chief Thunder and his
friends erected several unusual buildings from roadside junk and
boards and metal from abandoned buildings. With the enormous
quantities of concrete used, Van Zandt calculated that his fantastic
home would stand for a thousand years. Elsewhere on the property
are concrete totem poles, rusted refrigerator doors serving as
billboards for political statements, baby doll heads stuck on tree
branches and blue glass pole insulators everywhere.
Chief Thunder continued his work on the
site until 1989. At the age of 69, he committed suicide, some
say because he had completed his masterpiece.
Though Thunder Mountain has been
designated a Nevada
State Historic Site and a
National Monument, it has suffered from neglect and vandalism since
Chief Thunder is no longer there to look over it. His son,
Daniel Van Zant has led an effort to save the site and some repairs
have begun to be made on the property.
The main home is no longer occupied and
there are no park rangers or tour guides at the site. When you
visit, be sure to leave a donation in the big metal box at the
beginning of the walkway that takes you on a tour through the grounds.
Thunder Mountain Park is located between Winnemucca and Lovelock off I-80,
about 120 miles east of Reno, Nevada.
Mountain Monument LLC
P.O. Box 162