Hawthorne, NV Part II

Hawthorne Army Depot’s Main Gate near Hawthorne, NV

World’s Largest Ammo Depot

The ammunition depot located near Hawthorne, NV was established in 1930. This did not happen by accident, but an accident caused it to happen. After a major disaster occurred at the Lake Denmark Naval Ammunition Depot in New Jersey in 1926. During the same week that a fire destroyed the Hawthorne business district. An accident essentially destroyed the ammunition depot while causing substantial damage to adjacent Picatinny Arsenal and the neighboring communities.

Congress wanted to find some less valuable and more isolated real estate for the new ammunition depot. After a nationwide search, Hawthorne was selected as the choice for the new depot.

U.S. Army Depot located near Hawthorne, NV is considered “The World Largest Depot” for ammunition storage and consisting of 2,247 bunkers. The depot stores conventional munitions while demilitarize and disposes of obsolete surplus munitions. During major conflicts, reserve ammunition is stored at this location for the first 30 day of the skirmish. The depot is divided into three ammunition production and storage areas.  In 1984, after nearly 50 years without a major mishap, one of the storage bunkers exploded. The blast was contained as intended through the design of the bunker, as the force of the blast went straight up instead of out preventing the deeply feared chain-reaction that occurred at Lake Denmark Navel Ammunition Depot 58 years earlier. The exact reason for the Hawthorne explosion is still a topic for debate.

Bunkers near Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne is also the location of the United States Government national stockpile of mercury. In 2006, The Defense National Stockpile Center selected the depot for long-term storage of approximately 4,890 tons of commodity-grade, elemental mercury. Dedicated facilities were specifically designed for the long-term storage of elemental mercury containers.  The principle facility in Hawthorne is heavy regulated by the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection.

Hawthorne Ordnance Museum

Hawthorne Ordnance Museum

The museum is located at 925 E Street. The museum commemorates the history of the ammunition depot and the contribution of the people that work at the facility and served in the military.

The museum has on display ordnance from WWI to present day conflicts that were stored, loaded, tested and designed at the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot. The museum even has a M47 Patton tank next to the building. Named after General George S. Patton who is one of the earliest advocates for tanks and tanks tactics in the battlefield.

The Mineral County Museum is located on the corner of D Street and Tenth Street. The museum has a collection of Mission Bells that were discovered buried in ground about 15 miles southeast of the town and houses one of the finest collections of artifacts and pictures preserving the history of Mineral County. The legend of the Mission Bells tells a story about a missionary, who was seeking a site to establish a mission. During his expedition, the missionary was attacked and the bells were lost during the skirmish. Although no one is sure if these bells are the same mission bells.

Both the Mineral County and Hawthorne Ordnance Museum are free admission during hours of operation.

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GPS Coordinates: 38.52464 N, -118.62457 W


Hawthorne, NV Part I


Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne is a small Mineral County town located in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. In 1880 H.M. Yerington, President of the Carson and Colorado Railroad Co., selected the town site to protect the inhabitants against harsh winters and freezing wind off Walker Lake. Hawthorne was founded in 1881 as a division point on the Carson & Colorado Railroad. The town has persisted through economic changes and droughts to continue to grow over the years. In 1905, the Southern Pacific bypassed Hawthorne completely by going around the east side of Walker Lake. In addition, the railroad built a new terminal at Mina and in 1907 the booming mining town of Goldfield took the Esmeralda County seat away from the town of Hawthorne. During this time small mining discoveries in the locale helped preserve Hawthorne’s prosperity through these tough times.

In 1911, State Senator Fred Balzar from Hawthorne was able to persuade his fellow Nevada legislators that Esmeralda County was too large and the county needed to be divided. From this discussion, Mineral County was created from Esmeralda County’s northern part with Hawthorne designated as the county seat. During the first Great War, mining operations declined along with the town population. In 1920, Mina with its mining and busy railroad had grown to 680 and had a larger population than Hawthorne (population of 260).  During 1926, a fire in the Hawthorne’s business district burned half the town down but still the people of Hawthorne managed to rebuild the town.

El Capitan
El Capitan Lodge and Casino in Hawthorne, NV

Hawthorne’s crown jewel is the long-established and recently remodeled El Capitan Lodge and Casino located in the middle of town. The casino is named after the famous granite monolith located in Yosemite National Park. The lodge and casino is reminiscent of an old style Las Vegas gambling hall. The casino is a favorite for tourists and locals to unwind after a long day of traveling or work.


Joe's Tavern
Joe’s Tavern in Hawthorne, NV

Across the street is an another major Hawthorne landmark, a classic Nevada saloon called Joe’s Tavern decorated with rusty mining equipment, farm and kitchen paraphernalia, helmets, guns, and other memorabilia from the past including components from the old Southern Pacific Railroad line.


Hidden within the confines of the US Army Depot main operating location is the Walker Lake Country Club. Home of a beautiful executive 9-hole golf course that is open to the public. Initial, the golf course consisted of four-holes created by base employees, who eventually added five more holes over the years. Golf enthusiasts consider the golf course the “Best Kept Military Secret” over the last 50 years with it green fairways, tall trees and picturesque backdrop.

Old Nevada Pizza in Hawthorne, NV

Located on 497 E Street is Old Nevada Pizza. Definitely, a great place to stop and eat when traveling between Northern and Southern Nevada. Although, the original owner Harvey has since pasted away, the new management is keeping the tradition of creative pizza ideas such as Tostada, Cheese Burger, and B&D Womack.


I will continue writing about the history of the town during the next blog, Hawthorne, NV Part II.

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GPS Coordinates: 38.52464 N, -118.62457 W