Tonopah Mining Park – Tonopah, Nevada - Atlas Obscura
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Tonopah Mining Park

An errant donkey ushered in a new era of mining in Nevada. 


The story goes that in 1900, miner Jim Butler was angrily chasing a runaway donkey, 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.

Putting the “rush” in silver rush, 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.

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. The total sum of precious metal mined at the Tonopah Mining Park is valued at more than a billion dollars in modern currency. 

Today, the mining park is an interactive outdoor museum. Visitors have free reign over most of the park. 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. 

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