Rhyolite is an authentic ghost town preserved in a state of serious decay. Founded in 1905 after several gold discoveries in the area, the town grew to over 2,500 people in just six months. It boasted 50 saloons, 19 lodging houses, and 16 restaurants. By 1907 the population hit its peak between 4,000 and 6,000 people. The most impressive building was the three-story Cook Bank building, which had Italian marble stairs and imported stained glass windows. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake sounded the death-knell for Rhyolite because it precipitated the financial crash of 1907 and dried up funding for the mines, which were already proving to be less productive than first thought. Residents started to leave for more promising areas; by 1910, the population had dropped to 675 and all three banks had closed their doors. The last train left Rhyolite in 1914, and electric power was shut down in 1916. The last remaining resident died in 1924 at the age of 94.
Today, Rhyolite is maintained in a state of decay by the Bureau of Land Management and is open for visitors to wander through the former streets. Many facades and partial buildings still stand, and the site has been used as a set for many films. One can explore the three-story ruins of the Cook Bank, the jail, the school building, and many others. The old cemetery is also nearby. For all interested in the history of the Old West, this site is well worth a stop, particularly if you are making the drive in or out of Death Valley National Park via Beatty, Nevada. For visitors in Death Valley, this stop can easily be combined with a drive through Titus Canyon.