You wouldn’t know it driving past, but this scenic, cottonwood-shaded area alongside Highway 50 through Dayton was once home to a spellbinding ore-processing operation. And though nature’s started to reclaim it, the Rock Point Mill still stands as one of the many reminders of the Comstock mining district and the tremendous wealth it generated.
The mill was built in 1861 by Charles C. Stevenson, who also served as Nevada’s governor from 1887 to 1890. Forty stamps crushed the ore that came from Gold Hill, Silver City and, of course, Virginia City. Flumes carried water from the nearby Carson River to the mill site. At one time, the mill had the capacity to crush 40 tons of ore per day.
A fire ravaged the original mill in 1882, and another fire wreaked havoc in 1909. Though it was immediately rebuilt, the new mill closed in 1920 and was moved to Silver City. Between 1920 and 1954, the site was used a dump.
Now part of the Dayton State Park, the remains of the historic Rock Point Mill include rock walls strung along the hillsides and concrete slabs sprouting from the earth. A wood-framed doorway leads into a room enclosed in rock. Outside, a stone staircase winds up a hill that provides amazing views of the surrounding town. An earthen dam still exists and provides a scenic basin hidden from the highway.
A sign near the base of the ruins tells the mill’s story through words and photographs. Rock-lined pathways wind uphill toward the dam, around the dump and to a round concrete structure at the top of a high hill. A convenient bench allows visitors to sit and admire the view. In addition, the site is connected to the Dayton State Park through a tunnel that runs underneath Highway 50.
Venturing among the ruins, you get a sense of the operation’s vast scale. As one of three ore-processing plants in Dayton, The Rock Point Mill was a crucial fixture not only of the town, but of the Comstock mining district as well. Today, it serves as an historical remnant of a bygone era, reminding contemporary Dayton of its roots and the role it played in the shaping of the west.