Dennis Cassinelli: The Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park
Having visited many of Nevada’s state parks, I want to share with my readers information about some of them. People often wonder where to visit that would be fun and interesting for the whole family to see. One of these is the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park near the geographic center of Nevada.
The following are directions to the Berlin Ichthyosaur Nevada State Park: Take U.S. 50 to Middlegate Station, then go south 30 miles on State Route 361 to Gabbs, then 16 miles east on State Route 844 to the Berlin Ichthyosaur State Park. Be sure to a visit to the Middlegate Station for some of the finest hamburgers in Nevada.
The park contains the ghost town of Berlin, built in the 1890s, that is preserved in a state of attested decay. A true Nevada ghost town, many of Berlin’s original buildings, including the old mill, remain and some of the original residents are interred in the town’s cemetery. Trails throughout the townsite tell the story of Berlin, the mill and its mine. Another ghost town nearby is Ione.
The main attraction of the park is the abundant concentration and the largest known remains of ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. The actual fossils are displayed at the park’s covered fossil house. The ichthyosaur has been declared the Nevada state fossil. The park has a panel made of concrete that displays a full size representation of what an ichthyosaur looked like when alive. The animal shown was 55 feet long. There is also a smaller representation of an ichthyosaur on display at the Nevada State Museum in Carson City.
The fossils displayed in the park’s fossil house are a concentration of several fossilized skeletons in a huge pile indicating that there was a catastrophic event 225 million years ago that caused the death of so many of these huge fishlike reptiles. The ancient marine fossils at the park give a new meaning to the saying “The ocean someday may a desert be.” This is amazing considering that today, the park lies at an elevation of 7,000 feet. Just try to imagine the dramatic geologic events that caused this to happen.
The park has 14 well-spaced camping units for RVs, fire pits, barbecue grills, drinking water and restrooms. There is an RV dump station and camping is limited to 14 days. The park has a day use picnic area with tables, grills and restrooms. There are many hiking trails nearby to the Berlin townsite, the Diana Mine and the fossil house. There are scheduled times for guided tours of the Berlin Mill and the fossil house. The park is open seven days a week year round. The nearby Grantsville area is where I found the best places in Nevada to gather pine nuts in the fall.
This article is by Dayton author and historian Dennis Cassinelli, who can be contacted on his blog at denniscassinelli.com. All Cassinelli’s books sold through this publication will be at a discount plus $3 for each shipment for postage and packaging.