Round Mountain slowly slips away
The town of Round Mountain is just about gone. The process began decades ago, when a large open pit mine was opened near the community, which was named after a small round rise adjacent to the town. Eventually, the pit swallowed up most of the hill and the townsite.
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things you can still see in Round Mountain, a Central Nevada mining town that can trace its lineage to the early 20th century.
In fact, in his excellent newest book, “Preserving the Glory Days: Ghost Towns and Mining Camps of Nye County, Nevada,” Nevada ghost town expert Shawn Hall notes “there is still much to see in and around Round Mountain. On the hill just behind the town are two mills, both very dilapidated … (and) many buildings from the early days remain.”
Gold was initially discovered in about 1905 on a small hill known as Round Mountain, located 54 miles north of Tonopah. The mining camp was originally named Gordon, in honor of Louis Gordon, one of the early prospectors.
By mid-1906, the camp had a population of nearly 400 as well as a weekly newspaper, the Round Mountain Nugget.
The following year, the town’s name was changed to Round Mountain and two smaller town sites, Shoshone and Brooklyn, were established on the outskirts of the larger community.
Also, about this time Round Mountain gained regular stage service to Tonopah as well as the trappings of a community such as, shops, saloons, a school and a library.
Hall recounts that additionally substantial placer deposits were found in the dry wash near the base of Round Mountain and hydraulic mining operations were started, which soon became the district’s best producers.
During the next several decades, Round Mountain remained a steady but not spectacular source of gold, producing nearly $8 million in ore between 1906 and 1940.
The district’s mines finally began to tail off during the early 1950s and by the late 1960s, Round Mountain was nearly a ghost town. In 1976, however, the Smoky Valley Mining Co., began open pit mining of gold and silver. The mine has been sold several times in the intervening years and is now part of Kinross Gold.
Since then, the mine’s operations have largely consumed most of the town’s namesake hill and the town. The reasons are purely economic as the mine has long been one of the state’s best-producing gold operations.
In the 1980s, a new community called Hadley was founded across the Big Smoky Valley from Round Mountain and many residents and businesses relocated to the new town. Eventually, it appears that most of the site of Round Mountain will become part of the growing pit.
As Hall says, Round Mountain still has a few historic buildings and ruins from its earlier days including a few fairly substantial homes, a picturesque wooden community hall, and the ruins of several mills.
Among the more interesting structures you can find in the old town is a partially above ground cellar-like building made of glass bottles, which is adjacent to one of the larger historic homes. Like the famous Rhyolite Bottle House, this building consists of hundreds of old bottles bonded by a stucco material.
Of course, it’s hard to miss the operating open pit mine. While group tours are available by appointment, it’s not necessary to visit the mine up close in order to see its enormous size and scope.
The mine’s leeching operations cover hundreds of acres while the open pit is one of the largest in the state. In recent years, the mine has produced more than $1 million in ore annually.
For information about Round Mountain’s history, go to http://www.ghosttowns.com/states/nv/roundmountain.html.
Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.