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Rhyolite Ghost Town & Goldwell Open Air Museum

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If you arrive in Las Vegas by mid-afternoon, you should have just enough time to reach Beatty, Nevada by sunset. The area’s most interesting attraction is actually a few miles away, at the old town of Rhyolite.

I visited Rhyolite again in 2016.  You can click here for an updated look at the town.

Sculptures at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite has a number of crumbling, old buildings. But before you reach them, you’ll probably be distracted by a collection of odd outdoor art projects.

Sculptures at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Pull off to the side to see a sculpted pile of twisted metal, a ghostly figure hopping aboard a bicycle, and a two-story-tall silhouette of a miner, and his penguin.

Miner and Penguin, Sculptures at Rhyolite Ghost Town

This odd collection of sculptures actually has a formal name: the Goldwell Open Air Museum.  You can visit its website to make a donation, buy a t-shirt, or just try to figure out what the heck the exhibit is all about.  You will learn many things by browsing their site, including the real reason there’s a penguin standing next to that miner.

Last Supper Sculpture at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Perhaps Rhyolite’s most distinctive art exhibit is this re-creation of Jesus’ Last Supper.  The sculpture was created in 1984 by artist Albert Szukalski, based on the famous Leonardo Da Vinci masterpiece.  But instead of disciples wearing white robes, this version features only the white robes.

Last Supper Sculpture at Rhyolite Ghost Town

The late day sun casts an eerie light over this already spooky scene.

Last Supper Sculpture at Rhyolite Ghost Town

Behind the Last Supper ghosts you can see another of Rhyolite’s artistic offerings: The Venus of Nevada. It was growing dark too quickly for me to get an up-close look, but I did return the following day.

Old Cook Bank Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Once you’ve torn yourself away from the odd sculptures just south of town, you can explore the crumbling ruins of Rhyolite itself.  Above is the town’s old bank.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

With only a few exceptions, Rhyolite’s ruins are barrier-free, so visitors can climb through windows and scale over the crumbling concrete.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Old Cook Bank Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Here’s another look at Rhyolite’s old Cook Bank Building. Death Valley’s Chamber of Commerce considers it one of the most photographed ruins in the country.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Here’s another of Rhyolite’s more intact structures.

Old Cook Bank Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Once you’ve torn yourself away from the odd sculptures just south of town, you can explore the crumbling ruins of Rhyolite itself.  Above is the town’s old bank.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

With only a few exceptions, Rhyolite’s ruins are barrier-free, so visitors can climb through windows and scale over the crumbling concrete.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Nightfall proved to be a great time for photography in Rhyolite, but it wasn’t quite as spectacular as I had hoped. The reason? A hillside to the west of the ruins blocked a potentially spectacular sunset.

Old Cook Bank Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Here’s another look at Rhyolite’s old Cook Bank Building. Death Valley’s Chamber of Commerce considers it one of the most photographed ruins in the country.

[tmt_info =""] Part of the movie The Island (Release: Summer 2005) was filmed in Rhyolite.  In the background of one scene in the movie’s trailer, you can clearly see the Cook Bank Building.   Also, if you’re a fan of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures, you’ll notice some of Rhyolite’s buildings in the show open.

Old Building Rhyolite Ghost Town

Here’s another of Rhyolite’s more intact structures.

Rhyolite’s caretaker, and I, recommend Rhyolitesite.com, a highly detailed website that thoroughly covers Rhyolite’s history. It’s chock-full of old photos that show the buildings in the town’s heyday, and also includes updates on efforts to rehabilitate and preserve Rhyolite’s artifacts.

From Beatty to Death Valley

Road from Beatty to Death Valley

OK, it’s time to leave Rhyolite behind and begin the journey into Death Valley. The road stretches out before you for several miles, until you cross into the park.

Road from Beatty to Death Valley

Once you pass the Death Valley sign, the flat, uneventful stretch of the journey ends. The road takes you through roller-coaster style dips, then twists its way into the Amargosa Mountains.

After you enter the park, the road quality declines. You might think the 45 mile per hour speed limit is too slow for desert travel, but the crumbling, bumpy pavement and sharp curves make it a necessity.

Here’s an interesting fact I learned at one of the visitor’s centers.  The sign pictured above is an old style, used at entrances to the park back in the 1980’s, when it was a National Monument.  Signs at all entrances have been updated, except the Beatty entrance, where you can still see the “classic” version. UPDATE 2009 This old sign has also been replaced.

Note: This trip was first published in 2005.

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