"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Friday, June 24, 2022

Dinosaur Fossils and Ghost Towns - NV

Silver Springs, Nevada
Silver Springs Beach State Park 

Our next mini-trip was to visit Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park and eventuallly Great Basin National Park, both in Nevada.
After Steve finished work, it was an easy 3 hour drive from Placerville to Lahontan Reservoir in Nevada.  All along Hwy 50.  We have been here before and it was easy to get in.  We arrived just before dark for our overnighter.  $20, #19.  We were surprised how far down the lake has gone in the last couple of years.
Lights of the boondockers lining the shore across from us.
Our site was long and level enough that we didn't need to unhitch.
In the  morning as we drove the next section of Hwy 50, America's Loneliest Road, we saw more "desert art".  People will find large, scattered rocks and put their name, pictures or Bible verses along the bank of the road.  This can go on for miles.  I think they forgot the N and the 3?
When you drive this part of Hwy 50 from west to east, or the other way, you will drive over mountain passes, through valleys, then another pass, and so on.  There are many of them!  Steve said it seemed like we were driving uphill the whole time.  Our gas tank seemed to agree.  We can't explain it, but it's some of the worse gas mileage we've gotten.   
Our final approach down a very washboardy dirt road to get to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park.  One of Nevada's least visited.  I was really looking forward to the large dinosaur display and the ghost towns.  We were very disappointed, and a little bit stressed, to find that even though the very experienced ranger assured us we could fit up here, we could not.  Well, there was one site that would've fit us but it was taken.  Even so, I would NOT recommend coming up here with anything bigger than a van, tent or maybe R-pod.  Some of the sites are long enough, but they are very uneven and the road leading up and through the campground is VERY narrow with trees and brush right along it.  AND, it's one-way. There simply wasn't enough room to manuever the truck into any sites.

Berlin, Nevada
So where did we end up?  The park ranger (he really was very nice), mentioned we could park in the "overflow".  Well, it was a very small lot that had 2 ways in, neither of which we could maneuver either.  He then said if we went back down the dirt road a couple of miles we could stay in the rock quarry.  Many people stay there.  So back down the road we went.  We actually passed it on the way up but didn't notice it.  It worked out perfect and we had it to ourselves.  See the last bend in the road in the upper right corner in the above photo?  No?
How about now? That little dot in the middle of the pic is us!
Here are the coordinates in case you come this way.
Very even and plenty of room to park and turn around.

Here's a birdseye view of where we were.

Since they only do the dinosaur tour on weekends we explored the nearby ghost town of Ione.  
The old Merchandise Building.

Roses that have overgrown some of a homes remnants.  Pretty hardy to survive all these years out here without any water.

Some of them were built into the hillsides.
A very old crane.

We loved the firetruck.

On our way back home a small storm came in.  I think we were parked right under that little clearing.  No rain at our place.  Actually almost no rain hit the ground.  It evaporated before that could happen. Fun Fact: That's called Virga.  

The town of Berlin sits right below the dinosaur exhibit and shares the park.
The Berlin Mill.

Mrs. Phillips home.

My Gramma had a Wedgwood stove much like this but a bit bigger.

The Assay Office.

This is a 50 foot Ichthyasaur.  The same size as one found in the area.  There were many found here.  We wondered with all the mining in the area how come they weren't destroyed?  These fossils are found in Sandstone and since sandstone is not where gold and silver are found, the miners didn't bother looking around in these spots.  So luckily they were undisturbed
When you walk in there was a hill inside.  We walked around it but couldn't make out any dinosaur shapes.  Even though we knew what we were looking for.  It wasn't until the ranger pointed out each area and then it was, Aha!
They were found in a tight group and if you overlayed the above pic with the hill then it makes sense.
These round bones are vertibrae.  Ok, I get that.  Pretty cool.  Now I know if I see something like this again I'll probably recognize it.
The above "layers", "R", are rib bones.

Ichthyosaurs ate crustacheans.
Here is a fossilized crustacean.
And here is the process of fossilization.
Here is what a complete skeleton would look like.

The temperatures have remained in the low 80s daytime and 50s at night.  This is at our threshold of comfortable during the day without having access to A/C.  The next day was to be warmer and since we saw what we came for, we decided to leave a day early.  We'd be up a bit higher in elevation next so off we went.
Back where we continue onto Hwy 50 heading east to Austin, we stop at Middlegate Station for some much needed gas and an ice cream.  Gas was close to $7 for diesel.  It's the only place for miles so fill up we did!

Middlegate was named in 1859 as a stop for the Overland Stage & Freight Company to serve the gold and silver mines.  It's now just a small gas station and cafe. When the Pony Express began service on April 3, 1860, the stop served as a changing station for 18 months until the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence.  It continued to serve the mines until they closed.  Automobiles soon came into being and the Lincoln Highway replaced long and uncomfortable stage routes.
The telegraph office (ruins) which eventually replaced the Pony Express station.

One of the markers for the Lincoln Highway.
Off we go to cooler temps, we hope!


  1. Very interesting park although I would have no idea how to pronounce it. Love all the old buildings and fossils. I've heard about virga. Doesn't Steve have a bottle of that in the medicine cabinet?

    1. ICK-thee-o-sore-us. Seeing old buildings and items inside and imagining what life was like back then snd what the people were like fascinated me.

  2. That’s an interesting stop. Had no idea that was there even though we’ve done hwy 50 twice. Love the ghost towns. Safe travels!

    1. We’ve been over 50 SO many times but still manage to find some new things to see.

  3. Wow, you were truly in the middle of nowhere at that quarry! This park looks fascinating. Got to add it to our list!

    1. We were but almost no one comes out here. Quite remote. But felt totally safe. Ranger came by and checked on us too :-!

  4. Bummer to have all that wasted driving to go back to the quarry - but sweet to have all that space to yourselves! You got some really great pics of Ione. We love exploring all those out of the way ghost towns and of course fossils - will have to check out the area for sure.

    1. Just glad we didn’t scratch up the rig badly. The quarry was great!


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