Discovering the forgotten mining camp of Prospect
One thing about a number of Nevada mining camps is that their names often left no doubt about their reasons for existing. So we have Goldfield, Silver City, Metallic City—and Prospect.
Located in the mountains south of Eureka, in central Nevada, Prospect was settled in about 1885 by — surprise — prospectors, who were working the ground in the area.
The town was a little bit unusual because there were no significant mines in the immediate vicinity of the camp, so it essentially served as a residential and supply center for area prospectors.
As a result, Prospect never had more than 100 or so residents. A post office was opened in 1893 and by the early 1900s, the town had a saloon, a school, several boardinghouses and a small smelter.
In his excellent book, “Romancing Nevada’s Past: Ghost Towns and Historic Sites of Eureka, Lander and White Pine Counties,” author Shawn Hall noted that supplies had to be brought in to the town by stage from Eureka three times a week.
An old U.S. Geological Survey photograph of Prospect from 1908 shows a quiet hamlet containing perhaps two-dozen wooden buildings — none particularly fancy — with the two-stack smelter and mine buildings in the background.
The camp muddled along for about a decade until the silver ore ran out. The miners moved on and the post office closed in April 1918.
The camp was silent until the early 1980s, when mining started up again on nearby Prospect Peak. Several metal buildings were erected to house mining operations and the Diamond Mine, a horizontal shaft drilled directly into the mountain, was reopened.
The mine ceased operating a few years later and much of the site is on private land.
During a recent visit (after asking permission from a local caretaker), we found a ghostly mining camp that still had the appearance of being able to reopen at a minute’s notice.
The Diamond Mine still boasted ore carts on tracks in the tunnel and an extremely cold, refreshing breeze emanated from within—natural air conditioning in the summer months.
Beyond the newer mining buildings, you could find remains of early operations such as the rusted metal and cracked concrete ruins of a large furnace. Additionally, at the base of huge tailing piles, you can see large sections of cable, a huge flywheel and other mining trash on the site.
Below the mine in a flat, you can still see a handful of fairly intact wooden and metal buildings, probably built around 1908, which once housed local miners.
One of the structures still contains a few furnishings, such as tables, cabinets, curtains, scattered cans and pieces of other mining equipment. Its neighbors, however, show the wear of the years; it’s amazing they remain standing.
If you close your eyes, imagine for a moment that your car isn’t parked nearby, then look out across the old town site at the tailing piles, sagebrush-dotted hills and the mine, it’s not too difficult to evoke a sense of living in this isolated little camp.
There are far fewer buildings than in the old photo, but the shape of the land and general atmosphere remains relatively unchanged. And when the wind picks up, you almost swear you can hear the ghosts talking of better times and how they probably ought to think about moving on.
As with the mine, the town site is on private property, so don’t explore without first getting permission from the caretaker (he resides in a wooden house that is in much better shape than the others).
One thing that old inhabitants of Prospect probably never paid much attention to is the spectacular view.
Prospect is located in Central Nevada about five miles southeast of Eureka. To reach it, pass through Eureka and continue on U.S. 50 east for 1.5 miles. Exit right on Secret Canyon Road for 2.5 miles to the site of Prospect.
For more information about ghost towns in the Eureka area, contact the Eureka Opera House, 775-237-6006.
Rich Moreno covers the places and people that make Nevada special.