Dinosaurs and a ghost town in one place? Does it get any better? Welcome to the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in the middle of Nevada.
Like most ghost towns in the west, Berlin owed its life to mining. The first recorded mining activity in the area was in 1863 when a small group of prospectors discovered silver in Union Canyon. A small camp called Union was established, followed by Ione, Grantsville and, in 1897, Berlin. Berlin soon had a population of around 300 people, including the miners, woodcutters and charcoal makers needed to mine the ore and process it in the huge 30 stamp mill, a doctor, a nurse and one prostitute. Yes, one, apparently. That’s what you call a monopoly on the market.
But, like so many similar places, that heyday was short-lived. However, in the case of Berlin, its decline wasn’t caused by the depletion of ore, but by the workforce itself. In 1907, miners struck for higher wages. The Austin-Nevada Consolidated Mining Company refused to pay and the mine closed in 1909. With no work, people moved away; despite two short-lived resurgences, by 1914, Berlin was a virtual ghost town. You know a town is all over when even the resident lady of the night has moved on.
The abandoned town might well have disappeared back into the ground had it not been for the discovery of dinosaur bones in the 1920s, or to be precise, the remains of the Ichthyosaur, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. The find was considered of such importance that the University of California spent much of the 1950s conducting archaeological digs in the area which, in 1957, was declared a state park by the state of Nevada. Twenty years later, the reptile would become Nevada’s state fossil too. Some 40 fossilised Ichthyosaurs were found, and you can see several complete, unexcavated fossils in a cliff face around two miles from Berlin. The find was close to Union which, due to time, weather and vandals, no longer exists.
Today there are around 13 buildings left in Berlin, maintained in a state of arrested decay by the park rangers, as well as some awesome views over what was once a vast sea.
1st, thank you for this unique blog! I’ve become addicted to it since I first came across it through the Route 66 News blog. Thank you for some fascinating reading and information. 2nd, I’ve had each post sent to me via email and read it from my Inbox; however, I just discovered (with this post) that not all the photos in the blog show up in the email version — there are two missing from the current post — i.e., they’re here at WordPress, but they’re not in my email. If others are getting it this way, they might want to check to see if they’ve been missing anything. 3rd, are those wooden spokes in the wheels in the first picture? You don’t often see those outside of museums. (Another good reason to follow your blog!)
Hi Bob, Thank you so much for that and for your kind comments! Now, I think the email/lack of photos problem is entirely my fault. Sometimes, after I’ve published a post and I go back and ‘tinker’ with it and I know I added two more photos in the case of the Berlin post, not thinking about how the blog is delivered by email. I shall make sure I’m aware of that in the future, so thanks for that! And yes, those are indeed wooden spokes and they’re holding up surprisingly well! Blue
Interesting look into our country’s past