You’re in for a true Nevada experience when visiting Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park, as it effortlessly encompasses rich mining history, a 20th-century decaying ghost town, and is sure to cater to anyone’s interest, as it combines mining, 225 million year old marine reptile fossils. Located south of US Highway 50, about 25 miles from the quaint community of Gabbs, lies this 1500 acre State Park. While most state parks across the country only seem to execute on one concept, Berlin-Icthyosaur seamlessly combines three.
Nestled up against the Shoshone Mountains the mining boomtown of Berlin was born in 1863. After a small group of miners discovered silver in Union Canyon, many prospectors followed suit, which in turn created the Union mining camp. Later in 1894, the Union Mining District was formed, which was comprised of other small prospecting communities including Ione, Grantsville and later Berlin. The first assay report in Berlin Canyon was in 1869, but it was not until much later in 1896 that the Berlin Mine was officially established.
From there, the Berlin Mine continued to prosper, gaining significant notoriety by 1908. During this time, Berlin and its Union suburbs supported nearly 250 people, comprised of miners, woodcutters, charcoal makers, a doctor and nurse, a forest ranger and in old west fashion—a prostitute. However, it’s height of popularity didn’t last long, as the area went dry and plummeted to abandonment in 1911.
Since the early 1900s, Berlin has remained an iconic ghost town of Nevada. Many of the original buildings, some more dilapidated that others, remain on the grounds, and even some of the original residents are interred in the local cemetery.
In it’s heyday, the Berlin Mine produced a whopping 42,000 troy ounces of gold, totaling in $849,000 all of which was removed from nearby tunnels by hard rock mining techniques. Just as you can interpret the historic ghost town grounds, you too can get a glimpse of these rugged times by touring the Diana Mine.
Whats most fascinating is that this area was essentially abandoned until 1928 when Dr. Siemon Mueller encountered a naturally eroded area on the hillside above Berlin. Excavations began later in 1954, continuing throughout the 1960s, unveiling a total of nearly 40 Icthyosaurs [ICK-thee-o-sors.] Until 2004, these remains included the largest population of ichthyosaurs ever discovered.
Living during the same time period as the dinosaurs, these fascinating prehistoric marine reptiles differ from all other known reptiles. With a fish-like appearance and movement, these carnivorous reptiles ate free-swimming mollusks and can be compared to whales and dolphins. Ranging in size from about 2 to fifty feet in length, ichthyosaurs are the most highly specialized reptile to have ever lived the earth, securing its spot as Nevada’s state fossil. Today, visitors can tour the fossil house to get a glimpse of these captivating remains.
In addition to the immense amount of historical and natural history at Berlin-Icthyosaur State Park, guests can enjoy hiking, picnicking and caping. Fourteen well-maintained campsites can cater to tents and RV’s and are outfitted with fire rings, BBQ grills, covered tables and drinking water.
A short distance from the park, visitors can explore the historic living ghost towns of Ione and Grantsville. Berlin-Icthyosar is located 23 miles east of Gabbs on State Route 844, and remains open year round.