It’s hard to believe that in the late 19th century the mining camp of Rockland boasted a population of several hundred people. Located high in the Pine Grove Hills south of Yerington, not much remains of the once-thriving silver and gold mining camp.
In fact, just about the only things still found in Rockland are scruffy piñon pine trees, some foundations, a few ruins of buildings — and lots of rocks.
According to records, in 1868-69 prospectors from the mining town of Pine Grove, located about three miles away, discovered silver and gold in the area. Within two years, Rockland had grown to include a mill, several hundred residents as well as a post office, saloons and a handful of stores.
But profits were slow in materializing and the following year, the area mines shut down after workers ceased getting paid in a timely manner. One angry employee torched the local mill, which marked the beginning of the end of the town’s first boom. In 1872, even the post office was closed.
But Rockland wasn’t quite finished as a mining camp. New deposits were found in the early part of the 20th century. Within a short time, three mills and another post office set up shop in the little hamlet, which would quietly operate for the next three decades.
In 1934, the ore was apparently depleted and mining again ceased in Rockland. As with most mining towns, buildings were dismantled, the milling equipment sold, the post office closed for a second time and Rockland Canyon sat silent once more.
In the late 1960s, small-scale mining was attempted in the Rockland district, but that proved short-lived.
When you explore Rockland you immediately see how it might have earned its name. Rocks are everywhere. Indeed, the drive to Rockland — on an extremely rocky road, naturally — is part of the challenge of getting to the site.
To reach Rockland, head 11 miles south of Yerington on State Route 208. The paved road will make a sharp turn west. Ignore the turn and head directly south on an unmarked dirt road (you’ll pass a National Forest sign in about a quarter mile).
Follow the dirt road 11 miles, then turn west on Pine Grove Mine Road (there is a sign). Go about two miles, then turn south on another dirt road (the other road leads to the former mining camp of Pine Grove). Continue for four miles on a very rough road, which leads to the remnants of Rockland.
An aside — the drive to Rockland should only be attempted with a high clearance vehicle with good tires. Additionally, it’s best to wait until the Spring or Summer to make the journey because the road can be covered with snow and/or muddy during much of the rest of the year.
The drive up the canyon leading to the former mining camp, while tedious and slow, is quite scenic. Thick green vegetation growing beside the road and beautiful reddish canyon walls make for pleasant surroundings.
An abandoned pond, probably used in the 1960s for some kind of leaching operation, sits below the site of the old mining camp. Just ahead, a concrete slab embedded with rusted building supports and a discarded round, rusted metal roof are just about all that remain of the most recent mining operations.
On the hillside above, you can find the substantial concrete and stone foundations of earlier mill sites. Additionally, the ground is littered with assorted metal and wooden debris; other remnants of the turn-of-the-century mills.
Half hidden in the piñons above the foundations you can spot a wooden ore bin with a narrow chute. Nearby is the skeleton of a storage shed; mounds of some kind of white filtering powder still piled on the floor.
Wandering through the site, you can also find tailing piles and a few abandoned mine shafts — so be careful where you’re exploring.
If you make it to Rockland, you might also consider visiting nearby Pine Grove, another late-19th century mining camp, which is a bit more intact than Rockland.
For more information about Rockland or Pine Grove, refer to Stanley Paher’s excellent book, “Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps” and to the companion “Nevada Ghost Towns & Mining Camps Illustrated Atlas.” The latter shows historic photos of many mining camps and contains useful maps.
Richard Moreno has a passion for Nevada, its towns and people.