Spend the Night in a Ghost Town Filled with Fossils

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In Middle of Nowhere, Nevada lies Berlin-Ichthyosaur Park. The "Berlin" part of its name is for the abandoned mining town it contains: a ghostly village full of decaying wood and metal with a deep, dark mine that's now open to the public. The "Ichthyosaur" part? Well, that's because it's home to the densest concentration of ichthyosaur fossils on the continent.

Related Video: Triassic Times at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in Nevada

The Shadows of the Past

There's a lot of history at Berlin-Ichthyosaur Park. A lot of prehistory too. The story of the town of Berlin — the human story, anyway — starts in 1863, when a band of prospectors found veins of silver and gold in the area. By 1896, a mine was up and running; by 1908, it reached its peak population of 250; and by 1911, it was abandoned. The prospectors pulled up nearly $850,000 worth of gold from the ground, but now, more than a century later, the spooky homes and administrative buildings left frozen in time are the only sign that this place was once inhabited. Well, that and the mine itself, which is made up of a full three miles of pitch-black underground passages.

As it turns out, those grizzled prospectors weren't the only ones down in those mines. They didn't know it, but they were actually encroaching on the ancient swimming grounds of ichthyosaurs. An ancient reptile with a dolphin-like body, these prehistoric giants ruled this part of the world back when it was still underwater. Now, their bones are kept at Berlin-Ichthyosaur Park's Fossil House. If you ask us, that just makes the park that much cooler—and creepier.

View of the fossil shelter in Berlin–Ichthyosaur State Park, Nevada.

Finding Your Way in the Dark

There's a ton to do for modern visitors to Berlin-Ichthyosaur Park, especially since it's home to rugged camping grounds and scenic hiking trails. But take it from us — if you visit without going down into the mine, then you're doing it wrong. Luckily, the mine is open to public tours all summer long. The above-ground area, meanwhile, is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. That means that if you're camping at one of the nearby grounds, you can slap on a headlamp and explore the ghost town at midnight for peak spookiness.

A Coleman Divide headlamp can light your way with a 275-lumen beam, and it's adjustable so you can see what's right in front of you or spot far-off obstacles during a night hike. If you're bringing kids along — and you should, because kids love prehistoric reptiles — you'll probably want to bring a lightweight Coleman kids' headlamp as well. Both of these guiding lights are powered by Duracell batteries, making them great for remote adventures far from any outlet. If you really want to get a ghostly chill from this ancient ghost town, nighttime is the right time to explore.

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Written by Reuben Westmaas June 15, 2017
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