Sunday, October 24, 2010

Backroads: A Brief Stop in Ophir, NV

After driving up the lower part of Ophir Canyon, we finally came within sight of the ghost town of Ophir at almost 4:00 pm. MOH immediately jumped out of the truck to take photos of the old buildings, and I found a pullout for the truck
This must be one of the most photographed cabins in Ophir: it's the first one you come to from the downhill side, and it's right along the road. In fact, all the buildings we saw were right on the road, because we didn't take the time to walk around. There are, however, enough buildings, partial buildings, and old ruins that real exploration would take at least an entire day. (MSRMaps location; Google Maps route).
This multi-room sturcture is right on the road, not far past the first one.
We duly photographed the magnificent stonework, from several angles. [Photo © 2010 by MOH.]
At least two sites report this as an old store front. After milling around outside a bit, we went inside.
I was fascinated by the rocks the walls were made of, especially this weakly foliated granitic rock. There are several granitic plutons in the region, including a small stock that crops out near the head of Ophir Canyon. Details about the various granitic rocks were hard to come by online, with suggested ages ranging from Jurassic to early Tertiary. The dark greenish gray slaty phyllite could be from one of several Paleozoic formations (see map below).

EXPLANATION (in part):
  • TKg = Tertiary or Cretaceous granitic rocks
  • Kd = Cretaceous dioritic rocks
  • Kg = Cretaceous granitic rocks
  • Mzg = Mesozoic granitic rocks
  • Pd = Permian Diablo Formation
  • PMp = ?? This is probably the Mississippian to Permian Pablo Formation, which was listed in the map explanation as Mp.
  • DCsv = Cambrian to Devonian sedimentary and volcanic rocks
The main part of the Ophir mining district, including the Murphy Mine, which was the major silver-gold producer of the district back in its day, is in that structural mess where a couple north-south-trending thrust faults are shown.

The mines in Ophir Canyon are commonly listed as being part of the larger Twin River mining district, and the town of Ophir was once called Toiyabe City. Although almost all online references state that the Murphy Mine (or the entire Ophir Canyon district, or even the entire Twin River district) produced $2 million worth of silver and gold, Kleinhampl and Ziony (1984) report a much lower figure, something closer to $800,000 for the entire Twin River district. Most of the gold and silver production came from Ophir Canyon; most of that came from the Murphy Mine.
Back inside the stone store: While I looked at the rocks, MOH examined the walls and construction, noting the whitewashed plaster still left in a few places. [Photo © 2010 by MOH.]
He also was intrigued by the rock and brick work near this door, with a piece of old stovepipe still remaining in a hole through the brick chimney. [Photo © 2010 by MOH.]
And in this corner, you can see some remaining interior plaster, and also the rafters for the former roof. [Photo © 2010 by MOH.]
Meanwhile, the sun was getting incrementally lower, and I was looking up the canyon, thinking about moving on.
This may be the largest structure in the old town of Ophir, again, right along the road. It's the remains of the old 20 stamp mill, located just below a large mass of mine dumps.
Here's another view of the old mill, this time looking back towards the east.
Part of the Toquima Range through old windows (I presume) in the Ophir Canyon mill.
At last, after less than 15 minutes according to the time-date stamp on my photos, it was time to head up the canyon.

A Few References:
Angel , Myron, 1881, History of Nye County, Chapter L in History of Nevada: Thompson and West, Oakland, California.

Kleinhampl, F.J., and Ziony, J.I., 1984, Mineral resources of northern Nye County, Nevada,: Nevada Bur Mines and Geology, Bulletin 99B. NBMG Bulletin 99B [first pages only].

Whitebread, D.H. and John, D.A., 1992, Geologic map of the Tonopah 1 degree by 2 degrees quadrangle, central Nevada: U.S. Geological Survey, Miscellaneous Field Studies Map MF-1877-A, scale 1:250000.

More About Ophir:
Ghost Towns: Ophir

Ghost Town Explorers: Ophir Canyon AKA Toiyabe City AKA Twin River, NV

Ghost Town Seekers: Ophir Canyon and the Murphy Mill!

Nevada Ghost Towns: Ophir Canyon Photos (historic), Page 2, Page 3

Nevada Landmarks: Ophir: Historical Marker 64

Nevada SHPO: Ophir: Nevada Historical Marker 64


Angie Larkin said...

Great to read some detailed history of a site I've visited nany times growing up in Smoky Valley. Nice work!

Silver Fox said...

Thanks, Angie. :-)