Although visitors to modern-day Nevada may often seek their fortunes at the casinos of Las Vegas, many years ago a different type of fortune hunter came in search of the Nevada gold mines. According to the United States Geological Survey, Nevada is one of the earth's primary gold-producing regions. The Nevada gold mines account for about 64 percent of the gold production in the United States, and nine percent of the gold in the entire world. In fact, the Nevada gold mines are the third largest producers of gold in the entire world. South Africa is the largest producer, followed by Australia.
The Nevada gold mines date back to the year 1849. This was when placer gold in a stream flowing into the Carson River was discovered near the present town of Dayton. The discovery was made by Mormon '49ers who were heading to the California gold fields. It was this discovery that inspired others to explore the area which is now known as the Virginia Range. These explorations lead to the discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859, which made Virginia City famous for its Nevada mines. The discovery of these mines in Nevada did good things for Virginia City. By the early 1860s, it had become one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the West. In addition to its 20,000 residents, the town was home to an opera house, some elegant hotels, as well as a few banks and churches.
As the years passed, the Comstock mines would produce more than $1 billion in ore and create dozens of millionaires in Virginia City. Today, if you are interested in the history of the Nevada mines, you can visit the old Virginia and Truckee Railroad route, which once transported Comstock ore. During the summer, trains run daily from Virginia City to nearby Gold Hill.
While Virginia City is the most famous Nevada mining town, many others, such as Dayton, have survived the test of time. Dayton's first residents were prospectors who were searching for gold in the Gold Canyon. By 1851, 0ver 200 miners were living in this area. By 1856, the area became known as "Chinatown." This is due to the large number of Chinese residents who came to the mines in Nevada in order to re-work the placer deposits. Dayton is located 40 miles southeast of Reno via U.S. Hwy. 395 and U.S. Hwy. 50.
There were other types of mines in Nevada that pre-date the Comstock Lode. Deposits of obsidian, opalite, chalcedony, agate, jasper, and quartz were found throughout the Nevada mines. It is speculated that they were used by the Native American earliest inhabitants. When exploring the mines in Nevada, archeologists discovered arrowheads, spear points, and various cutting and scraping tools that were made from these materials. Today, the mines in Nevada are famous for turquoise, a stone whose history dates back to 300A.D. During this period, the Anasazi mined turquoise near Boulder City and salt near Lake Mead. Today, it is possible to find beautiful turquoise jewelry being sold throughout Nevada.