Berlin, a turn-of-the-century mining town, is preserved in a state of arrested decay. A trail through the town site tells the story of Berlin and its mine. Ichthyosaurs (pronounced “ick-thee-o-sores”) were ancient marine reptiles that swam in a warm ocean covering central Nevada 225 million years ago. Remains of these giant marine vertebrates are on display at the park’s Fossil House, and these official state fossils are a primary attraction for visitors from throughout the world. The park is east of Gabbs via State route 844.
|FACILITIES & AMENITIES
HC 61 Box 61200
PARK ORIGIN AND HISTORY
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park was first established in 1957 to protect and display North America’s most abundant concentration and largest known ichthyosaur fossils. The park also preserves the turn-of-the-20th century mining town of Berlin, as well as the Diana Mine.
BERLIN: A True Nevada Ghost Town
The first mining activity in the region was in May, 1863, when a small group of prospectors discovered silver in Union Canyon and the small mining camp of Union was settled. The following year the Union Mining District was formed, which included the towns of Union, Ione, Grantsville and later, Berlin. The first assay report in Berlin Canyon was in 1869, but it was not until 1896 that the Berlin Mine was established.
With the purchase of the mine and numerous surrounding mining claims by the Nevada Company in 1898, the town of Berlin was soon in its height of popularity until 1908, declining to its death by 1911. The Berlin Mine’s total production of its three miles of tunnels is estimated to have been $849,000 at a time when gold was $20 per ounce.
During its heyday, Berlin and its Union suburbs supported 200-250 people including miners, woodcutters, charcoal makers, a doctor and nurse, a forest ranger and a prostitute. Many of the original buildings still remain, and some of the original residents are interred in the town’s cemetery. Berlin stands today as a true Nevada ghost town, preserved for present and future generations.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park encompasses 1,540 acres. The elevation ranges from 6,840 feet to a high point of 7,880 feet. The hillsides in the park are covered with big Sagebrush, the Nevada state flower) while pinyon pine and Utah juniper dominate the upper elevations. Common animal inhabitants include mule deer, black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, western bluebirds, pinyon jays, chuckar partridge, whiptail lizards, western fence lizards, gopher snakes and rattlesnakes.
Nestled at 7,000 feet on the western slope of central Nevada’s Shoshone mountain range, the park provides an array of stimulating recreational opportunities. The forested slopes provide shade and breezes help to moderate the summer temperatures which seldom exceed 90 degrees F (32 degrees C). Late spring and early fall can often be the nicest times of the year. Winter visits to the park are possible, but call for weather and road conditions before visiting.
ICHTHYOSAURS: Mysterious Reptiles of Ancient Seas
Ichthyosaurs (ICK-thee-o-sors) were prehistoric marine reptiles that differed dramatically from all other reptiles. Ranging in size from about two to over fifty feet in length, ichthyosaurs are the most highly specialized reptile ever to have lived on earth.
Very fish-like in appearance and locomotion, they bore their young alive and had amazingly large eyes in relation to the rest of the body. These carnivorous reptiles ate free-swimming mollusks such as ammonites, belemnites and probably fish. Like all reptiles, ichthyosaur was air breathing and resembles modern day cetaceans (whales and dolphins to which the ichthyosaur is not related) in some characteristics. Ichthyosaurs lived at about the same time as the dinosaurs, Ichthyosaur fossils are found on all continents except Antarctica. There is no evidence linking the ichthyosaur to any other reptile, and their widespread existence and apparent success makes their extinction all the more mysterious. Of all the ichthyosaurs discovered, the ones at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, dubbed Shonisaurus popularis after the Shoshone mountain range where they are found, are the largest specimens known with most being about fifty feet long.
Dr. Siemon Muller discovered the fossilized remains of these ichthyosaurs in 1928 in a naturally eroded area of what is now the park. Excavations began in 1954 under the direction of Dr. Charles Camp and Dr. Samuel Welles of the University of California, Berkeley. Excavations by Camp continued through the 1960s with a total of about 40 ichthyosaurs discovered in various locations throughout the park. Today, ichthyosaur is the Nevada State fossil, and tours of the fossil house give a glimpse not only of this fascinating creature, but also a view of the actual excavation conditions encountered in modern paleontology.
FACILITIES AND SERVICES
Trails and Markers: An extensive sign system tells of the history and features of Berlin and Union for self-guided exploration. A nature trail connects the campground to the Fossil Shelter. Information and viewing windows are available at the Fossils Shelter if you cannot attend a scheduled tour.
Camping: There are 14 well-spaced units, some suitable for RVs up to 25 feet, with fire rings, BBQ grills, covered tables, drinking water (mid-April to October) and restrooms nearby. An RV sanitary station is available. Camping is limited to 14 days in a 30-day period.
Picnicking: A day-use picnic area with tables, grills, drinking water and restrooms is near the Fossil Shelter.
Group Use: No formal group use area is available. Groups may use the picnic area for day or overnight use with advanced reservations. Please contact the park to schedule group tours.
User Fees: An entry fee is charged. The park accepts cash and checks only. Fees are also charged for camping, tours, group reservations and commercial photography.
Services: Local service information is posted in the park for gas, food and phone service. Services are available in Gabbs. No services are available at Ione.
Berlin Town-site Tour: This is a self-guided tour.
Fossil Shelter Tour: The Fossil Shelter tour is 40 minutes and is available Memorial Day through Labor Day daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with a noon tour added on Saturday and Sunday. From the third Saturday in March to Memorial Day, and Labor Day to the second Sunday in November, Saturday and Sunday times are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Diana Mine Tour: The mine tours are available May 1 through September 30 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m. Reservations are required. Watch the Diana Mine Slideshow.
Please observe a few simple rules to make everyone’s visit, today and in the future, more rewarding and enjoyable:
- Removing, disturbing or damaging any historic structure, artifact, rock, plant life, fossil or other features is prohibited. State and federal laws protect this area and its artifacts.
- All pets must be kept on a leash.
- Drive on established roads with licensed vehicles only.
- Fires are permitted only in designated areas or in commercial stoves and fireplaces.
- Please dispose of garbage in the trash cans provided throughout the park for your convenience.
Visitors are responsible for knowing all park rules and regulations in effect. Detailed rules and regulations are posted at the park.