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Communities - Nevada

Searchlight

The old mining town of Searchlight, Nevada, is about an hour south of Las Vegas. Searchlight lies at the crossroads of US Highway 95 and Nevada Route 164, which provides access to Lake Mohave at Cottonwood Cove, 14 miles east of the highway junction. On Interstate 15, this scenic highway exits the freeway between Mountain Pass, California, and Primm, Nevada. The route passes through Nipton, California, before heading to Searchlight, Nev.




George Frederick Colton initially discovered predominantly gold ores at this location in 1897. Because there were two levels of gold ore, he called his mine the Duplex. Later, the Duplex Mine became the leading claim among the 300 that dotted the district.

In 1898, a town settled on the site, and a new mining district was born. There is some speculation that it was named after a popular match brand (although Searchlight matches weren't available until two years later). Some think the name came from a prospector's comment that miners needed a searchlight to find the microscopic gold particles that were prevalent in the area. During its boom period, Searchlight had a population larger than Las Vegas.

As there were only primitive roads to Searchlight, transporting ore was difficult. In the 1800s, mining interests built a narrow-gauge railway between Searchlight and a mill on the Colorado River, where production was transported by steamboat to Needles on the Santa Fe Railroad.


Quartette Mine 1907

The Quartette Mining Company was formed in 1900, producing over half of Searchlight's total output.

As word spread, miners flooded the camp and surrounding area. There was built a 16-mile narrow-gauge railroad from the mines to the company's mill on the Colorado River by May 1902.

In 1907, the Barnwell and Searchlight Railway connected Searchlight to the Santa Fe line from Needles to Mojave, California.

In 1909, Searchlight was located in Lincoln County, Nevada. It was initially thought that Searchlight would be the county seat as Clark County, Nevada, was to be split from Lincoln County. The Union Pacific had been built to Las Vegas in 1905, so Las Vegas was chosen for the county seat instead.

The gold mines produced $7 million in gold and other precious minerals between 1907 and 1910, and the town had about 1,500 residents.




The last steamboat on the river, the "Searchlight," operated on the river in 1916. With her retirement, Southern Nevada's colorful steamboat era ended. Despite its decline after 1917, Searchlight remained a stop on the Arrowhead Highway. Ore was transported via the Barnwell and Searchlight Railway to Barnwell. There were only two trains a week by 1919. A severe washout on September 23, 1923, halted traffic completely. Train service was never restored. In 1927, U.S. Route 91 bypassed the town, and its population dropped to 50.

In the 1930s, the Hoover Dam project improved conditions in Searchlight.

Off-duty dam workers could enjoy bars, gambling, and women here. In the 1940s, when prostitution was still legal in Clark County, the El Rey Club was a popular hot spot and brothel.




The El Rey burned down in the 1950s.

When Davis Dam was completed in 1951, it backed up the river to create Lake Mohave, flooding the old steamboat landing site. The newly filled lake at Cottonwood Cove attracted campers, boaters, anglers, and vacationers to the old town.

About 1953 was the last year gold was mined in the area.

Searchlight at an elevation of 3,540 ft, may have been named after a brand of matches; or a steamboat that traveled the Colorado River, or even a searchlight. No one knows for sure. Gold was first found in 1897 by G.F Colton. By 1898 the Searchlight Mining District was founded. By 1940 a total of about $4.5 million in gold was produced. Presently, the little Nevada town has a population of about 800.


Courtesy Searchlight Museum


Searchlight 1906 - E.W. Braswell

Searchlight Weather




Searchlight Matches


Colorado Riverboats



Barnwell & Searchlight train depot 1920



Searchlight 1930s - Frasher photo


Searchlight Cemetery


Colorado River

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These items are historical in scope and are intended for educational purposes only; they are not meant as an aid for travel planning.
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