Berlin-Ichthyosaur park offers a stunning look at history

It takes some time to drive to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, a couple of hours north of Tonopah, but the road trip is worth it — especially in summer, when the temperatures there are at their most pleasant. Located on the western edge of the Shoshone Mountains, the 1,540-acre park has elevations ranging from 6,840 to 7,880 feet.

This park boasts a well-preserved historic mining town and the remains of the ancient ichthyosaur (pronounced ick-thee-o-saur), our state fossil.

When you enter the park, the first place you will come to is the Berlin Townsite Area. Prospectors in 1863 discovered the Union Ledge, the initial big ore find in the area. When other valuable discoveries were made in the area, this became the Union Mining District, and Berlin was added to it in 1896. The place didn’t last long because of low yields and labor disputes; it pretty much was a ghost town by 1911.

Nevada’s abandoned mining towns were themselves mined for building materials and even entire buildings, moved to places where they could be more immediately useful. Thankfully, because it was off the beaten track, Berlin remained in good shape compared with most ghost towns. The best way to enjoy it is to hike the paths to the more than 70 historic sites, most marked by interpretive plaques. Be sure to see the Berlin Mill, the largest structure in the townsite. Here you will find remains of a bank of stamps — the simple but huge and heavy devices used to pulverize ore for processing — separating tables and other historic relics. At one time this building housed 30 stamps, a crusher, steam engines and boilers.

Once you tour this townsite, drive up the gravel road about 1.7 miles. There you will arrive at the signed covered quarry site on your right, home to the ichthyosaur fossils. The fossils were discovered by a Stanford University professor in 1928. The place wasn’t excavated until 1954.

The ichthyosaur was a marine reptile that swam the ocean that was here more than 200 million years ago. It is thought to have descended from reptiles that formerly lived on land, an evolutionary path surprisingly similar to the one believed to have produced whales and dolphins. Like those animals, ichthyosaurs probably breathed air and bore live young. At this site you will find the remains of nine ichthyosaurs. You will see skulls, jawbones, backbones, flipper and tail bones and a rib cage. Ichthyosaurs have been found on every continent except Antarctica, and the ones here are some of the largest, reaching 50 feet long.

Tours run at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily in summer through Labor Day. There is an additional tour at noon Saturdays and Sundays. If you can’t make one of the tours, there are viewing windows, but using the windows doesn’t offer the thrill of being up close.

The closest lodging is hours away, so camping is usually the way to go. There is a fine campground with 14 sites that are good for car, tent or RV (up to 25 feet in length) camping. The sites have fire pits and barbecues and covered picnic tables. Water is available in season, usually through October. Always call ahead for fire restrictions. Camping fees are $17 per night. Entrance fees to the park are $7 per vehicle. For more information, contact the park at 775-964-2440 or visit

Deborah Wall’s book “Base Camp Las Vegas: 101 hikes in the Southwest” ($24.95, Imbrifex) is available for preorder on Amazon and will be released Aug. 8. She can be reached at

Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Star Trek fans on show’s enduring popularity
Star Trek fans at the Star Trek Convention 2018 talk about why they think the show has stayed popular across the years Thursday, August 2, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Nonprofit provides clothing for homeless
Sydney Grover of Can You Spare A Story?, talks about how she founded the non-profit organization. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Family remembers deceased mother
Family members of Adriann Gallegos remember her. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Camp Broadway teaches kids how to sing and dance
The Smith Center's seventh annual Camp Broadway musical theater program gives 150 kids ages 6-17 an opportunity to learn musical theater skills from industry professionals over a five-day period. Marcus Villagran/ Las Vegas Review-Journal @brokejournalist
Restoring classic Corvettes to perfection
Members of the National Corvette Restorers Society Convention talk about what it takes to earn the NCRS Top Flight Award for a restored Corvette at South Point in Las Vegas on Tuesday July 17, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Watch Ruthless! at Las Vegas Little Theatre
The musical Ruthless! will be playing at Las Vegas Little Theatre from July 13-29. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Cadaver art and sword swallowing at The Dark Arts Market
Curator Erin Emrie talks about her inspiration for The Dark Arts Market at Cornish Pasty Co. in Las Vegas Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
'NO H8' Campaign comes to Las Vegas
Hundreds of locals participate in the NO H8 campaign founded by Adam Bouska and Jeff Parshley as a response to Proposition 8, a California ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign has since evolved to represent equal treatment for all. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What to expect at Station Casinos' Fourth of July celebration
Station Casinos' is hosting its annual 4th of July celebration with Fireworks by Grucci. Fireworks scheduled to go off on Wednesday, July 4 around 9 p.m. at Green Valley Ranch Resort, Red Rock Resort, Fiesta Rancho and Texas Station. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Star Wars and Golden Knights mashup at downtown art shop
Star Wars and Vegas Golden Knights fans attend the Boba Fett Golden Knight Paint Class at The Bubblegum Gallery in Las Vegas, Friday, June 29, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Tourists and locals enjoy Independence Day fireworks at Caesars Palace
Hundreds of tourists and locals gaze at the Independence Day fireworks show at Caesars Palace on Saturday, June 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Clark County recount votes in commission’s District E primary
Clark County staff begin the recount requested by candidate Marco Hernandez in the democratic primary for the County Commission's District E seat on Tuesday, June 26, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Long-running local hip hop producer wants Vegas rappers to shine
Las Vegas Hip Hop producer and co-owner of Digital Insight Recording Studios Tiger Stylz reflects on 30 years of music production in the city. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
"Pawn Stars" fans visit Richard Harrison's memorial at Gold & Silver Pawn
"Pawn Stars" fans from around the world visit the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas following the passing of Richard "Old Man" Harrison on Monday, June 25, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like