In the arid southern corner of the Silver State lies Searchlight, Nevada. Once the site of a gold mining boom, Searchlight has become a “living ghost town,” where modern structures stand alongside the ruins of historic buildings from its heyday.
Originally settled by prospectors in the late 1800s, Searchlight, Nevada is now home to about 500 residents, a third of whom are retirees drawn to the peace and quiet of small-town life.
Searchlight is the hometown of Senator Harry Reid, whose father was a miner. Reid is often cited as the town’s foremost historian and is the author of Searchlight: The Camp That Didn’t Fail.
George Frederick Colton, a prospector from Utah, stopped in Southern Nevada on his way to the Superstition Mountains in Arizona, where he hoped to find the legendary Lost Dutchman Mine. His plans quickly changed in 1897, when he discovered gold in Searchlight. Colton immediately established a mining claim and began excavating the incredibly lucrative Duplex Mine.
The History of Searchlight, Nevada
Word of Colton’s discovery spread, and in a few short years, Searchlight became a mining boomtown. By 1906, over 300 mining claims had been established. Searchlight’s population grew rapidly, reaching a peak of 1,500 in 1907, making it more populous than Las Vegas at the time.
That same year, on March 31, 1907, the 23 mile Barnwell and Searchlight Railroad connected the town with the Santa Fe line to Needles, California and beyond. Though transportation problems for the ore had been solved, the mines were continuing to decline. By 1919, the train was running to Searchlight only two times per week and when a flood washed out the tracks in September 1923, train service was never restored.
By 1917, much of the high quality ore had been excavated from Searchlight’s mines. With the rising cost of gold and silver production, all but the most productive mines closed, and many people left town.
Mining revived for a short time when a new mill was built in 1934, but just a year later, it was closed due to lack of ore. Total production throughout Searchlight’s heyday years was approximately $4.5 million in ore. Other resurgences in the 1930s and ’40s occurred during the construction of the nearby Hoover Dam. The last gold mine of the 1900s closed in 1953.
What is the population of Searchlight, Nevada?
According to the 2010 census, now an unincorporated Searchlight town supports just over 500 people. The population was 539 at the 2010 census. Though the small city is filled with fishermen, water enthusiasts, and nature lovers, it still also provides a peek at its mining past in a number of old buildings, headframes, mining remnants, and at the Searchlight Historic Museum and Historic Mining Park. The museum, open year-round is located at 200 Michael Wendell Way.
After the price of Gold spiked in 2011, interest returned to the mining of the area with the company Nevada Milling and Mining leading the charge, using new technologies to leach tiny particles of gold from ore that would have been considered low grade in the early 1900s. As of July 2014, the company was set to begin operations and plan to crush 200 tons of rock a day.
What is the origin of Searchlight, Nevada unusual name?
The origin of the town’s unusual name is explained in an exhibit at the small museum a short distance east on the Cottonwood Cove road. It says the Mining District (and therefore the town that grew up there) was named for a brand of wooden matches.
The display includes a piece of the wooden box they came in. It’s big enough to serve as a small ‘writing-desk (the original laptop!) and it’s easy to picture a group of elated miners searching their excited minds for a name to give their discovery, and nobody accepting another’s favorite (“Let’s call it the Bonnie Sue!”) until finally, an eye falls on the box. One more note of interest about the name: Scott Joplin wrote: “The Searchlight Rag” for friends who’d invested in mines here. Other mines were the Spotted Horse and the rich Duplex.
Photos of Searchlight, Nevada
Where is the Searchlight, Nevada located?
Searchlight is situated in the Colorado River Basin in Clark County, Nevada, at U.S. 95 and NV-164, midway between Las Vegas and Laughlin.
Searchlight, Nevada on Google Maps.