Aptly named, Mineral County contains rich deposits of gold, silver, copper and other minerals, and is dotted with mining communities, some surviving only as ghost towns, others hanging tough in the 21st century. Mineral County has 300 hotel and motel rooms available for weary travelers making the long journey between Northern and Southern Nevada and for visitors interested in its scenic attractions, historic ghost towns and hunting and fishing opportunities.
Walker Lake, a remnant of a giant, prehistoric inland sea, is popular for boating, water-skiing, fishing and bird-watching. Approximately 24 miles long and up to five miles wide, the lake is stocked annually with native cutthroat trout. Present facilities include overnight camping, year-round fishing, water skiing, and boat and motor rentals.
Hawthorne, a favorite rest and recreation stop for travelers on U.S. 95, is home to the Mineral County Museum, which contains an eclectic collection of regional artifacts, including Miocene Era fossils, displays of life in pioneer days and examples of local wildlife. It also contains one of rural Nevada’s most picturesque golf courses, the nine-hole Walker Lake Country Club, built by employees of the Navy Ammunition Depot and now open to the public.
The Hawthorne Army Depot occupies approximately 150,000 acres of land surrounding the town. Originally established as the Hawthorne Navy Ammunition Depot, it was built after the Navy’s principal depot in Lake Denmark, N.J. blew up in 1926, destroying the town and killing over 300 people. A court of inquiry investigating the explosion recommended that a depot be established in a remote area within 1,000 miles of the West Coast, in order to serve the Pacific area. New Jersey’s loss was Hawthorne’s gain, and for many years the ammunition depot was a source of jobs and revenue for Mineral County. A total of 3,000 bunkers were eventually built in the desert to store ammunition, explosives and weapons. These bunkers are still visible from the highway, dotting the flat landscape surrounding the town. When the United States entered World War II, the depot became the staging area for bombs, rockets and ammunition supporting the war effort, and it also served as an important ammunition center during the Korean War and the Vietnam conflict. In 1977, control of the depot was handed over to the Army, and with the end of the Cold War, it has been designated a Tier II, or caretaker, facility. It is currently a government-owned, contractor-operated military industrial installation. An important job now performed at the site is deactivation, disposal and recycling of conventional ammunition.
Mineral County residents have come up with a creative idea for using the empty bomb casings from the depot. “We are left with mountains of empty bomb bodies, called fins,” said Mildred Springer of the Mineral County Economic Development Authority. “As we have erected monuments in the past to wars, we propose to turn these fins into objects that honor the lives of those who fought these wars, and to the men and women who here dedicated themselves to this deadly work.” Any interested party can come to Hawthorne and select a bomb fin, take it home to turn it into an original work of art, and return it to be placed on exhibit in a “field of valorous remembrance,” said Springer. Each completed project should contain the name of a person or event involved in a military action since 1930. The so-called “fin field” will be an outdoor, ongoing exhibit which will eventually be supplemented with an ordinance museum. For further information, contact Stacy Fisk, co-chair of Hawthorne’s Main Street Revitalization Committee, at 775-945-2434.