Most of the boomtowns and mining camps were founded on mineral strikes that were often greatly exaggerated by rumor. “Boomers” flocked to the newest canvas tent town hoping to get rich, and, as the digging progressed, merchants, families, ladies of fortune, and unscrupulous lawyers followed the transient prospectors. Soon there were streets, log cabins, storefronts and saloons crowded together as if to ward off the loneliness of the vast Nevada deserts. You can visit some of the old ghost towns, mining towns, and boomtowns that sprang up near Fallon.
BerlinIchthyosaur State Park
Berlin, a turn-of-the-century mining town, is preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” Ichthyosaurs (pronounced icktheeosores) were ancient marine reptiles that swam in a warm ocean, which covered Nevada 225 million years ago. Fossils of these giant animals are on display at the park’s Fossil House, and are a primary attraction for visitors throughout the world. Other activities include hiking, camping, and picnicking. An interpretive trail and seasonal tours tell of the history and features of Berlin and its mines. A nature trail connects the campground to the fossil house.
The State Park’s elevation is 7,000 feet and is located about 100 miles southeast of Fallon. Go east on Highway 50 to State Route 361. Take 361 toward Gabbs and go to State Route 844. The park is 23 miles east of Gabbs.
Go to the state’s website at www.state.nv.us/stparks/ for more information. Or call 775-964-2440.
Fort Churchill State Park
Fort Churchill was once a U.S. Army fort built in 1861 to provide protection for early settlers. It was abandoned 10 years later, and today the ruins are preserved in a state of “arrested decay.” A visitor center displays information and artifacts of the fort’s history. The Pony Express and the Overland Telegraph once passed through this area. Nearby is Buckland Station, a Pony Express stop, supply center and a former hotel built in 1870. Facilities at Fort Churchill State Historic Park include trails, a campground, picnic area and access to the Carson River.
Visitors can enjoy hiking, historic and environmental education, canoeing, photography, camping, and picnicking. The park is located about 28 miles southwest of Fallon. Take Hwy 50 west from Fallon towards Reno for 10 miles and turn south at Leetville Junction towards Carson City. Go to Silver Springs and go south on Alternate U.S. 95 to the park. For more information call 775-577-2345 or visit the website at www.state.nv.us/stparks/.
Hazen was established in 1903 to house the laborers working on the Newlands Irrigation Project. That project was established to help protect the nation’s interests in the West by encouraging farmers and ranchers to settle in the Lahontan Valley. The plan was to reclaim the desert by diverting the waters from the Carson and Truckee Rivers for agricultural and ranching uses. Water rights were sold to settlers in the valley and the land soon became home to lush farms and ranches that stretched on for miles. Those farms and ranches remain a vital part of the area’s personality and economy. They are testimony to the determination of the men and women that settled in the Lahontan Valley.
Cold Springs Pony Express, Freight, and Telegraph Relay Stations
Remnants of the Old West can also be found 61 east of Fallon at Cold Springs on Hwy 50. Visitors will find ruins of freight and telegraph relay stations, and an interpretive ramada highlighting the history of the Cold Springs Pony Express Station which also marks the trail head to the ruins. The Pony Express ruins are a moderate 1.5 mile hike from the ramada.
There are no water facilities at these sights. Visitors should prepare for trips into the desert by bringing water and other items necessary for a safe trip.
Old Middlegate Station and Cold Springs Station are two nearby stops where one can park, rest, rent a room, eat, or grab a beer.