Tonopah, Nevada

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Coordinates: 38°4′9″N 117°13′50″W / 38.06917°N 117.23056°W / 38.06917; -117.23056

Tonopah is a census-designated place (CDP) located in and the county seat of Nye County, Nevada.[2] It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 6 and 95 approximately mid-way between Las Vegas and Reno.

Its name was given to it by its founder, Jim Butler, and it is thought to be a Shoshone Indian word, pronounced "tow-nu-paw." Although the town previously had a variety of names, including Butler City, Jim Butler's name remained. It is said to mean "hidden spring".[3]

In the 2000 census the population was 2,627 and the CDP has a total area of 16.2 square miles (42 km2), all land.



The community began about 1900 with the discovery of gold and silver rich ore by prospector Jim Butler when he went looking for a lost burro (donkey) he owned. The burro had wandered off during the night and had sought shelter near a rock outcropping. When Butler discovered the animal the next morning, he picked up a rock to throw at the beast, but instead noticed the rock was unusually heavy. He had stumbled upon the second-richest silver strike in Nevada history. The ore eventually played out, and abandoned mines can be found throughout the area.

In 1903, miners rioted against Chinese workers in Tonopah, which spurred a boycott in China of U.S. goods.

Recently, Tonopah has relied on the nearby Tonopah Test Range as its main source of employment. The military has used the range and surrounding areas as a nuclear test site, a bombing range, and as a base of operations for the development of the F-117 Nighthawk.

Tonopah's current fame may rest on the reference to it in the chorus of the song "Willin'" by Lowell George of Little Feat on the albums Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes and Waiting for Columbus, but it is also possible that the song is actually referring to Tonopah, Arizona:

I've driven every kind of rig that's ever been made;
driven the backroads so I wouldn't get weighed.

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