In the 1800s Pioche had a reputation as being a rough town. In fact it was reported that six dozen people died of unnatural causes before a citizen died of old age. Oftentimes, arguments were settled by shooting or stabbing one another. Boothill cemetery is the final resting place for many of these unfortunate soles. The name "boothill" came from the fact that many of the deceased were entombed with their boots on. The town of Pioche rededicated the cemetery in 2009 after doing some significant restoration. I included in this blog many of the more interesting headstones in the cemetery. (Information from the Lincoln County Museum pamphlet).
One of the best preserved mining relic in Pioche is the aerial tram. The tram transported ore from the mines on Treasure Hill to Godbe mill in the valley for processing. The tram started operations in 1920 and ended 10 years later in 1930. The tram was mainly gravity powered with the aid of a five horsepower motor.
Structure on the tram route
Tram history sign with Pioche in background
The top of the tram where ore was loaded into the buckets
The last two days of Thanksgiving weekend I took a trip to visit the pictureque mining community of Pioche, Nevada, in Lincoln County. It is located 220 miles south of West Wendover, Nevada, and 107 miles south of Ely. Pioche was one of Southern Nevada's most productive silver and lead producers. It also had a reputation as a lawless community with numerous gunfights and stabbings.
History: The boom began in 1863 when Paiutes showed ore they called "panacre" to Mormon missionaries. Serious developement would not begin until 1868 when Pioche bought claims and built a smelter in the valley. In its early years silver ore was transported to mills by wagons increasing prices. In its early years Pioche also had a reputation for crime. Law enforcement was ineffective and most people were not punished for their crime. Despite the violence, a large fire in 1870, and the transportation costs the boom town thrived with seven dozen saloons, red light district, schools, courthouse, restaurants, and market.
The legend of violence grew. It was reported that six dozen men died of violent deaths before anyone died of natural causes. The town created a large boothill cemetery for the dead. Gunmen walked the streets. Fights would break out with little to no provacation.
Production peaked in 1872 and finally a railroad (the Pioche and Bullionville) was built; however, within a couple years a number of factors caused the mines to close. Litigation and higher prices slowed the mines. Flash floods in 1873 and 1874 and a large fire in 1876 gutted large parts of the business district causing many citizens to leave.
The town received a second revival in 1937 when the mines reopened and produced lead-zinc for two decades. Today there are a number of mines operating near Castleton to the west however, there is very little mining activity in the city of Pioche. The town has a large number of historic buildings and a very good museum downtown. (Information from the Lincoln County Museum).
After visiting the historic town of Pioche, I drove south to Cathedral Gorge State Park where I spent the night. During the day the temperature was warm (in the high 50s); however at night the temperature dropped into the high teens making for a cold night in the campground. I woke early the next day to hike the four mile loop trail starting from the campground and photograph the scenery. Needless to say Cathedral Gorge is stunning and a great place to visit.
More information about the park:
Geology: Over 1 million years ago during the Pliocene this area was covered by a large freshwater lake. The lake drained exposing sediment and clay. Over decades rainwater and snow have eroded the lake bed creating fissures and canyons.
Ecology: Desert plants and animals thrive in the park. Common plants include yucca, juniper, saltbrush, sagebrush and rabbitbrush. Common animals include jackrabbits, cottontails, coyotes, kangaroo rats, foxes and deer.
Trails: The longest trail is four miles.
Camping: The campground cost $17 per night and is on a first come first serve basis. Remember during the winter it can get cold at night.
Early morning sunlight in the desert
Old water tower built by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps)