Tybo, Nevada

 


Tybo, Nevada was a mining town, and a prosperous one at that. Today, however, its nearly abandoned, with its homes, stores, and other buildings in progressive stages of ruin. The only sign of its existence as you drive along U.S. highway 6 is this roadside marker in a small rest area. The marker is on the southeast side of the highway, across the road from Basecamp Airfield about 10 miles north of Warm Springs and the junction with highway 375, the E.T. Highway. It tells of an unusual town, but the words are hard to read as the sign, like Tybo itself, is very weather-worn. I've reproduced the words of the sign below.

TYBO

SILVER - LEAD - ZINC CAMP

EIGHT MILES NORTHWEST OF THIS POINT LIES WHAT WAS FORMERLY ONE OF THE LEADING LEAD PRODUCING DISTRICTS IN THE NATION. PRODUCING ERRATICALLY FROM ORE DISCOVERY IN 1866 TO THE PRESENT (THE LAST MILL CLOSED IN 1937), TYBO HAS MANAGED TO ACHIEVE AN OVERALL CREDITABLE RECORD.

TYBO, IN ITS INFANCY, WAS KNOWN AS A PEACEFUL CAMP, BUT LATER REFUTED THAT CLAIM WHEN THERE OCCURRED RACIAL STRIFE BETWEEN THE IRISH, CORNISH AND CENTRAL EUROPEANS. LATER THESE GROUPS BANDED TOGETHER TO DRIVE FROM THE TOWN A COMPANY OF CHINESE WOODCUTTERS.

THE TOWN WAS NOT UNIQUE IN HAVING THREE RESIDENTIAL SECTIONS EACH WITH ITS ETHNIC GROUP. HOWEVER, ALL CHILDREN WENT TO THE SAME BRICK SCHOOL.

The road to Tybo leaves Highway 6 across the road from the sign. Although it cuts through the airfield complex, its a public road that also serves ranches in the area. The Basecamp Airfield was built by the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1960's when they conducted an underground test northwest of here. The field, supposedly inactive, still looks like it's in use. The entire road is graded gravel and easily driven by any passenger car all the way to Tybo.

There's a cattle guard 2.5 miles after you leave the highway and at 3.9 miles, a fork in the road. Take the left fork. The right one leads to the Hot Creek ranch. At about 6.8 miles you'll enter the hills and the road begins to take many turns. There's a sign for the mine at mile 7.4 and a half mile later you'll begin to see the remains of some buildings. Just another half mile and your in the heart of town.

The most obvious structure is this wood building with a brick facade. Cal-Neva, publishers of books on area ghost towns, says on their Tybo Web Page that this was the general store. While the front looks imposing, the rest of the building is typical mining town. The all wood construction is topped by a galvanized sheet metal (tin) roof. The fairly good condition is a tribute to the dry desert air.

Even though its a ghost town, there are power lines criss-crossing the area and leading to the mines and some of the houses. A large substation is located across the dry wash from the houses, and in the stillness you can hear the hum of the transformers, indicating that it is carrying electricity.

Although I saw no one during the hour or so that I was there, one or two of the houses had that "lived in" look, possibly by caretakers of the abandoned property. In respect of their privacy I've not included any pictures.

Not all of the buildings survive. These foundations are all that remains of one of the mills. The switch back road up the side of the hill, level with the top of the left hand building, is washed out, overgrown with weeds an brush and no longer passable.

Wandering through the town one can see lone chimneys standing where houses once stood. Wood and bricks have long since been scavenged, recycled if you will, for other projects. Rusting fences and bits and pieces of mining equipment not worth reclaiming lie everywhere.

The mines themselves are scattered throughout the surrounding hills. Most are a strenuous hike from the main road, but there is one quite conveniently located just a short walk from the main part of town. It seems to be one of the most recent workings.

The machinery, still in place in a building that's in good condition, is modern and electrically driven. The mine shaft, who knows how deep, has been covered with reinforced concrete slabs to keep wandering tourists from falling to their death. The top of the hoist is steel, not wood, and it looks intact, ready to go back to work with only a little refurbishing. It seems that the price of the metals, not the lack of ore, are what caused the most recent operations to cease.

This particular mine is part of the most recent operation, but numerous other, older mines dot the area. If you're adventurous and hike to see them, be cautious. A lot of the shafts are not covered, or even marked and can be dangerous.

Tybo is an interesting site, and something of a diversion from the usual tourist stops in this area of southern Nevada. It's about 170 miles north of Las Vegas and only 60 miles from Rachel, Nevada, the nearest town to the famous "Area 51" secret airbase and center for UFO watching. Unlike the airbase and the UFO's, Tybo is readily accessible and visible to everyone.

 

Email Dave Bethke
on the fringe of Houston
updated 01/05/98