The ghost town that is Rhyolite is one of the reasons why I love Death Valley. So weird. Such intrigue!
…Because ghostly figures randomly placed in the middle of nowhere are nothing to be trifled with.
Outskirts of Death Valley National Park, Highway 374
REASONS TO GO:
Well-preserved ghost town, crazy art installations that make little sense for the area (but a lot of sense in the grander scheme of things), spooky and odd
Goldwell Open Air Museum, The Last Supper (art installation), Cook Bank
HOW YOU CAN VISIT:
California-Nevada road trip, Death Valley National Park side trip (if you have a higher clearance vehicle, this is best done by seeing Titus Canyon on your way back)
WEBSITES TO REFERENCE:
Pulling into Rhyolite was expectedly weird. Thankfully, we arrived just as an obscenely large tour group was finishing up. Despite its presumed desolation, it’s a favorite stop for folks spending time at Death Valley or just passing through.
…Or 13 Nazgûl all dressed in white? The Last Supper sculpture was my main reason for wanting to visit Rhyolite, and it did not disappoint. It’s weird, makes little sense and then starts making sense after you notice the visual contrast with the surrounding environment. It is, by far, Albert Szukalski’s masterpiece.
Mr. Szukalski visited Beatty, a nearby town on his visit to Northern California. Coming from a prestigious arts academy in Belgium, he discovered artistic freedom in the harsh, blank-slated environment. He traveled to nearby Beatty several times and befriended the locals, who eventually posed for him when he created the statue. He eventually drew more artists who created a handful of other pieces you can see around Rhyolite. Together, the art installations and ghost town history make Rhyolite a unique place to see on any road trip.
Needless to say, The Last Supper is Rhyolite’s claim to fame.
Rhyolite is considered the entry point into Death Valley National Park from the east. The fact that The Last Supper is the unofficial mascot of said entry point makes sense. The death connotation is pretty evident when you break it down. Yay, death!
As we were pass through, the short lifespan of Rhyolite was evident. The small town was alive and kicking for less than 15 years. It boomed during the gold rush in the surrounding area, but as that died out, so did the town. The Cook Bank building is the main attraction among the crumbling remnants, but there’s also a bottle house (used in a lot of films) which I missed.