Located on a 100-acre park complex in Tonopah, Nevada, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park preserves the facilities of five former silver mining companies of the early 20th centuries, offering interpretive historical exhibits about the history of silver mining in Nevada. In 1900, Belmont, Nevada residents Jim and Belle Butler discovered deposits of silver ore while on a camping trip in the Tonopah Springs area.
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After returning home and consulting with experts, Butler’s ore discovery was valued at over $200 per ton. The Butlers returned to the Tonopah Springs area to remove several more tons of silver ore, pairing with partner Wilse Brougher to haul the findings to Salt Lake City for smelting. A lease-by-the-foot mine claim arrangement was agreed upon for further development of the area, ensuring 75% of profits returned to claimants, which allowed for rapid development of successful mining ventures by individuals. Butler’s interests were eventually sold to form the Tonopah Mining Company, which became one of the leading mining corporations in the area, along with the Tonopah Belmont Development Company, owned by Butler’s friend Tasker Oddie. At the peak of mining operations, the Tonopah mining district produced more than five million tons of ore, totaling a value of more than $1.2 trillion dollars under modern currency standards and earning it the nickname “Queen of the Silver Camps.” After 1920, mining in the area began to decline, though short-lived mining booms continued to pop up throughout Nevada throughout the mid 20th century.
Today, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park preserves five of the major area mining companies from the heyday of silver mining in Nevada. As a historical and educational museum complex, the Tonopah Historic Mining Park is a six-time recipient of the Best of Nevada museum award. A Visitor Center within the complex contains a movie theater offering showings of a short orientation film, as well as a bookstore and exhibits of preserved historic mining equipment. A display of black light minerals within the Center is also featured, lit by short-wave ultraviolet lights.
A self-guided walking tour of the mining district is offered, featuring interactive exhibits and detail on restoration work on mining properties and equipment. The park contains the preserved facilities of the former Desert Queen Mine, North Star Mine, Silver Top Mine, Montana-Tonopah Mine, and Mitzpah Mine. Visitors may view the progress of major restoration projects on several of the mining facilities, including repairs to the foundations of the Silver Top and Desert Queen head frames, and may make donations to the restoration projects via the park’s website. The underground Burro Tunnel also allows visitors to view a 500-foot discovery slope area from a steel viewing cage. Other park facilities include the historic Barbara Graham House and the Heizer Mineral Exhibit Hall, which display interactive exhibits and artifacts related to the history of mining in the Tonopah area.
The Tonopah Historic Mining Park is open seven days a week, with the exception of major national holidays. Entrance to the Visitor Center is free, with walking tour access provided for a nominal admission fee. Reservations for group tours must be arranged in advance, with space for bus tours provided. All visitors staying at overnight accommodations in the Tonopah area receive $1 off walking tour admission.
Ongoing Programming and Events
The Nevada State Mining Championships have been held annually at the Tonopah Historic Mining Park over Memorial Day weekend for over half a century, as part of the city’s larger Jim Butler Days festival. Events for male and female contestants include individual and team mucking, double-jack, and single-jack drilling. Cash prizes are offered to top finishers, donated by local businesses and individuals, and silver shovels and hammers are awarded as trophies. Food and beverage concessions are offered for attendees.
Introductory blacksmithing courses are offered to the public, geared toward adult students but open to youths with adult supervision. Courses are offered throughout the summer months, with all course fees used for restoration efforts. Course gift certificates may be purchased at the park’s gift shop, with no expiration date for redemption.
Ongoing donations are accepted through the Tonopah Historic Mining Park Foundation, which offers tax-deductible yearly memberships as support for restoration projects. All members receive a 10% discount on gift shop purchases and blacksmithing courses, along free admission for walking tours and a subscription to the semiannual Tonopah Historic Mining Park Tailings publication. Personalized engraved bricks may also be ordered to help fund restoration efforts, for use as a gift or memorial.
110 Burro Ave, Tonopah, NV 89049, Phone: 775-482-9274