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Tonopah, Nevada

Tonopah, Nevada
View of central Tonopah from the south
View of central Tonopah from the south
Nickname(s): Queen of the Silver Camps[1]
Motto: Visit Today & Mine Away
Tonopah, Nevada, is located in the Tonopah Basin near the Nye County border.
Tonopah, Nevada, is located in the Tonopah Basin near the Nye County border.
Tonopah, Nevada is located in USA
Tonopah, Nevada
Location in the United States
Country United States
State Nevada
 • Senate Mike McGinness (R)
 • Assembly James Oscarson (R)
 • U.S. Congress Mark Amodei (R)
 • Total 16.2 sq mi (42.0 km2)
 • Land 16.2 sq mi (42.0 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 6,047 ft (1,843 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 2,478
 • Density 162.1/sq mi (62.6/km2)
Time zone Pacific (PST) (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP code 89049
Area code(s) 775
FIPS code 32-73600
GNIS feature ID 0845985
Reference no. 15

Tonopah is a census-designated place (CDP) in and the county seat of Nye County, Nevada, United States.[2] It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 6 and 95 approximately mid-way between Las Vegas and Reno. In the 2010 census the population was 2,478 and the CDP has a total area of 16.2 square miles (42 km2), all land.


  • History 1
  • Etymology and pronunciation 2
  • Climate 3
  • Demographics 4
  • Transportation 5
  • Notable people 6
  • In popular culture 7
  • Places of interest 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


Tonopah in 1913
Mizpah mine

The community began circa 1900 with the discovery of gold and silver-rich ore by prospector Jim Butler when he went looking for a lost burro he owned. The burro had wandered off during the night and sought shelter near a rock outcropping. When Butler discovered the animal the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at the beast, but instead noticed the rock was unusually heavy. He had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history.

While Butler may have been responsible for the first ore strike, it took men of wealth and power to consolidate the mines and reinvest their profits into the infrastructure of the town of Tonopah. faro in the town saloons. Once he had a small bankroll he talked Jack Carey, owner of the Tonopah Club, into taking him in as a partner and to file for a gaming license. In 1903, miners rioted against Chinese workers in Tonopah, which spurred a boycott in China of U.S. goods.

By 1904, after investing his winnings in the Boston-Tonopah Mining Company, Wingfield was worth $2 million. When old friend Goldfield, Nevada and made their Goldfield Consolidated Mining Company a public corporation in 1906, Nixon and Wingfield were worth over $30 million[3]

Real estate and gaming became big business throughout Central Nevada, but Wingfield saw the end of the gold and silver mining riches coming and took his bankroll to Reno where he invested heavily in real estate and casinos. By 1910, gold production was falling and by 1920 the town of Tonopah had less than half the population it had fifteen years earlier.

Small mining ventures continued to provide income for local miners and the small town struggled on, taking advantage of its location about halfway between Reno and Las Vegas as a stopover and rest spot on a lonely highway. Today the Tonopah Station has slots and the Banc Club also offers some gaming.

Recently, Tonopah has relied on the nearby Tonopah Test Range as its main source of employment. The military has used the range and surrounding areas as a nuclear test site, a bombing range, and as a base of operations for the development of the F-117 Nighthawk. In the fall of 2011, a California-based solar energy company, SolarReserve, started construction on $980 million advanced solar energy project just outside of town called the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project. The project incorporates SolarReserve's advanced solar energy storage technology and will put Tonopah at the worldwide center of technology for this class of solar energy storage. The project construction activities, which peaks at 800 workers on site, was scheduled to be completed in 2014.

Etymology and pronunciation

Tonopah's name was bestowed by its founder, Jim Butler, and was thought to be a Shoshone Indian word, pronounced "TOE-nuh-pah."[4] Although the town previously had a variety of names, including Butler City, Jim Butler's name remained. According to local history, the name is said to mean "hidden spring".[5] However, linguistically the name derives from either Shoshone to-nuv (greasewood), or Northern Paiute to-nav (greasewood), and pa, meaning water in both dialects.[6]


Tonopah has an arid, cold desert climate with cool winters and hot summers. Due to Tonopah’s aridity and high altitude, daily temperature ranges are quite large. Nights are cool, even in summer.

There are an average of 50.3 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher, 157.8 nights with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower, 7.6 days where the high does not top freezing and 1.7 nights with lows below 0 °F or −17.8 °C. The record high temperature in Tonopah was 104 °F (40 °C) on July 18, 1960. The record low temperature was −15 °F (−26 °C) on January 24, 1937 and January 23, 1962.

There are an average of 38 days with measurable precipitation. The wettest calendar year was 1946 with 10.27 in (261 mm) and the driest 1927 with 1.92 in (49 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 2.87 in (73 mm) in November 1946. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 1.62 in (41 mm) on August 17, 1977. Average annual snowfall is 16.8 inches or 0.43 metres, though even in winter the median snow depth is zero and the maximum recorded only 13 inches or 0.33 metres on February 11, 1968. The most snowfall in one year was 79.3 inches (2.01 m) from July 1946 to June 1947, including 37.0 inches or 0.94 metres in November 1946.[7]

Climate data for Tonopah Airport, Nevada (1981–2010 normals)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 67
Average high °F (°C) 44.8
Average low °F (°C) 20.3
Record low °F (°C) −15
Average precipitation inches (mm) 0.49
Average snowfall inches (cm) 4.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in) 4.1 4.4 4.3 3.4 3.4 2.3 3.1 2.9 2.7 2.2 2.5 3.3 38.6
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in) 2.6 2.4 1.9 1.2 .4 0 0 0 .1 .3 1.3 2.1 12.3
Source: NOAA (extremes 1954–present),[8] WRCC[9]


As of the census[10] of 2000, there were 2,627 people, 1,109 households, and 672 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 162.1 people per square mile (2.59/km²). There were 1,561 housing units at an average density of 96.3 per square mile (37.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 91.24% White, 0.76% African American, 1.41% Native American, 0.42% Asian, 0.30% Pacific Islander, 2.82% from other races, and 3.05% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.17% of the population.

There were 1,109 households out of which 32.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.9% were married couples living together, 7.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 3.03.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 27.1% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 29.3% from 25 to 44, 27.3% from 45 to 64, and 10.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 108.3 males. For every 100 women age 18 and over, there were 105.9 men.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $37,401, and the median income for a family was $47,917. Males had a median income of $40,018 versus $22,056 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $18,256. About 5.7% of families and 11.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.3% of those under age 18 and 19.1% of those age 65 or over.


During the silver bonanza of the first decade of the 20th century, the need in the precious-metal fields for freight service led to a network of local railroad lines being strung across the Nevada desert to Tonopah. Examples include the Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad, the Tonopah and Goldfield Railroad, and the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. One key commodity hauled to the silver mines was coal, used to power mine operations and also the stamp mills built in and around Tonopah to break apart the hard-rock ore for milling and refining.

As the railroad lines withered and were replaced by Little Feat on the albums Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes and Waiting for Columbus refers to either Tonopah, Arizona, or Tonopah, Nevada:

And I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari, Tehachapi to Tonopah.
I've driven every kind of rig that's ever been made;
driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed.

At present, Tonopah is served by two U.S. Highways, Routes 6 and 95. There is no current rail service. General aviation facilities are located at nearby Tonopah Airport. The nearest airport with scheduled passenger service is Mammoth Yosemite Airport, about 100 miles away. The nearest major airports are McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and Reno–Tahoe International Airport in Reno, both over 200 miles away.

Notable people

In popular culture

Tonopah was the subject of a recent episode of Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings.[14] Rhett and Link developed a slogan for the town "Visit Tonopah, We're Different".[15] It is well-known for its haunted buildings, most notably the Mizpah Hotel. The television show Ghost Adventures has filmed multiple episodes in Tonopah.

Places of interest

  • Mizpah Hotel, with construction begun in 1905, shortly after the town of Tonopah was founded, and finished in late 1908, after several delays.[16] The Mizpah Hotel was once the tallest building in the state.
  • Clown Motel, a hotel with a clown theme. It's also built right next to a graveyard


  1. ^ "Town of Tonopah Nevada - Queen of the Silver Camps". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ Moe, Al W. The Roots of Reno, [3], 2008, p.20
  4. ^ Varney, P (1990). "Appendix C: pronunciation guide". Southern California's best ghost towns: a practical guide. Norman, Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press. p. 121.  
  5. ^ "Town of Tonopah Nevada - Queen of the Silver Camps". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  6. ^ Carlson, Helen S. (1974). Nevada Place Names: A Geographical Dictionary. Reno, Nevada: University of Nevada Press. pp. 233, 234.  
  7. ^
  8. ^ "NowData - NOAA Online Weather Data".  
  9. ^ "Seasonal Temperature and Precipitation Information". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved March 24, 2013. 
  10. ^ "American FactFinder".  
  11. ^ Taylor, Michael (2008-05-11). "Hugh Bradner, UC's inventor of wetsuit, dies".  
  12. ^ "Nevada Governor Tasker Lowndes Oddie". National Governors Association. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Claire May Breeden Fahy (1900 - 1930) - Find A Grave Memorial". Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  14. ^ Henry BreanLAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL. "Ad puts quirky Tonopah on map". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 28 September 2015. 
  15. ^ [4]
  16. ^ "Notes from Tonopah, Nevada". Engineering and Mining Journal (New York: Hill Publishing Company) 86 (18): 871. 1908. Retrieved 1 October 2013. 

Further reading

  • McCracken, Robert D., A History of Tonopah Nevada, (1992), ISBN 1-878138-52-9

External links

  • June 2009 Photos of Tonopah and Goldfield, Nevada
  • Official town website Retrieved 22 October 2009
  • Tonopah photos and information at Retrieved 22 October 2009
  • Official State of Nevada Tourism site
  • Photos of Mizpah mine at Historic American Engineering Record
  • Official website of the Central Nevada Museum, which is located in the town and which may be visited at no charge Retrieved 22 October 2009
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