Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

Berlin - Ichthyosaur State Park
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park

At 7,000' on the western slopes of the Shoshone Mountains in central Nevada, Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park was established in 1957 to protect North America's most abundant concentration of Ichthyosaur fossils. Some of the fossils on display here are among the largest ever found. The park also preserves the late 1800's, early 1900's mining town of Berlin, now on the National Register of Historic Places.

Silver was first discovered near here in Union Canyon in May, 1863. The first silver find in Berlin Canyon was recorded in 1869 but the Berlin Mine wasn't established until substantial veins of gold were found in 1896. The Nevada Company bought the Berlin Mine and all the surrounding claims in 1898. The town of Berlin flourished until 1908 when the ore body started to peter out. Berlin then declined until it was essentially abandoned in 1911. Today, many of the original buildings are still standing in this true life ghost town.

The Walter Bowler Tunnel, more popularly known as the Diana Mine, connects the surface with the fourth level of the Berlin Mine via a 1200' lateral tunnel. Carved out of the solid rock, the mine today looks like the miners just left, and will be back again tomorrow. While there are a number of period items on display along the length of the tunnel, tours were cancelled in 2007 and haven't been resumed since.

Ichthyosaur fossils have been found on every continent except Antarctica. They lived about the same time as the dinosaurs. They were very specialized marine reptiles that ranged in size from 2 feet to more than 70 feet in length. They were air breathing, bore their young alive and were very fish-like in locomotion and appearance, with very large eyes as compared to the rest of their bodies. The fossils found here were from Shonisarius popularis (named after the Shoshone Mountains were they were found) and they tended to be fifty feet or so in length. The first ichthyosaur fossils were found in 1928 by Dr. Siemon Muller. Serious excavations began in 1954 and continued into the 1960's. Eventually, about 40 ichthyosaur fossils were discovered in what is now the State Park. Several of these fossils were left in situ (where they were found) and are now available for public viewing inside the Fossil Shelter, a large barn that protects them from the elements.

An extensive sign system makes possible an excellent self-guided tour through the Berlin - Union areas of the park. There is also a nature trail that connects the campground with the Fossil Shelter. There are 14 well-spaced campsites available at the campground, some campsites large enough to accommodate RV's up to 25' long. The campground is open year-round but the water is turned off from October to mid-April (and snow is possible at this elevation during those months). Each campsite has a covered table, BBQ grill and fire ring. Restrooms and running water (in season) are nearby. There is also an RV dump station in the campground.

Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park contains 1,540 acres between 6,840 and 7,880 feet in elevation. The hillsides are covered with Big Sagebrush while the upper elevations are covered with Utah Juniper and pinon pine. The town of Ione is not far away but the nearest services are in Gabbs, about 23 miles to the west.

Entrance fees: $7 per vehicle for non-Nevada residents, $5 per vehicle for Nevada residents. Camping fees: $17 per site per night for non-Nevada residents, $15 per site per night for Nevada residents. Group Picnic Shelter: $15 + normal vehicle entry fees. Group Campsites: $15 + normal camping fees.

Guided tours of Berlin: $3 per adult, $2 per child, ages 6-12.

Berlin ghost town
In the ghost town of Berlin
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park map
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park area topo map logo
Photo of Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is courtesy of Wikipedia userid Snowfalcon.
Photo of Berlin ghost town courtesy of Wikipedia userid Liftarn. Map courtesy of National Geographic Topo!
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