The story goes that prospector Jim Butler was camping around Tonopah Springs, the spring of 1900. He was angrily chasing a runaway burro (a donkey) that had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock outcropping.
When he discovered it the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at the animal, found it surprisingly heavy, and realized he had stumbled upon a wealth of untapped silver ore. He had discovered the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history!
He continued his journey and showed the samples to others, who showed little interest. After returning to his home in Belmont, Butler told a young attorney named Tasker Oddie about his discovery. Tasker had a friend who taught chemistry in Austin, and he enlisted the teacher’s help in assaying the sample.
The ore valued at more than $200 a ton. Jim’s wife, Belle urged him to travel once again to the site of the original find and filed eight claims and removed several tons of ore.
That first shipment netted the partners $500.00, which was used to buy equipment needed for further development.
So, Butler quickly filed claims on the land, leased it by the foot (the deals were sealed with a handshake), and started the silver boom that put Tonopah on the map.
Of course, in the following years miners flooded in, and the mining park was sold and divided between a number of investors. The silver rush declined after a couple decades, but the town took pride in its mines and preserved them for posterity.
History tells us that the mines in this district produced in excess of five million tons of ore, and at today’s market, the precious metals produced would be valued in excess of $1,200,000,000.
Today, the historic mining park is an interactive outdoor museum.
The underground tunnel features a walk down a mine tunnel that intersects one of the original discovery stopes. At the end of the tunnel, visitors can to step into a steel viewing cage and look down the 500′ deep stope.
They can explore all the buildings, the mine shafts, and much of the original equipment that pioneered mining technology. There are also occasional events at the mining park, including historically accurate mining competitions and blacksmithing classes.
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: TonopahMiningPark.com
Images from web and from official website mentioned above.