By Dennis Cassinelli
If it’s outdoor recreation you are after, Dayton State Park is a great place to set up a campsite, fish from the Carson River, or enjoy a barbecue with friends and family in the day use area. My own family and I had an enjoyable family reunion at the park a few years ago attended by many family members from around the state. Paiute Indians used this section of the Carson River as a fishing camp long before all the mining and milling began.
In a state with over 600 early ghost towns and mining camps, the very first gold discovery in the territory was made in the town of Dayton. While resting on his route to California, Abner Blackburn discovered a gold nugget in Gold Creek in 1849, and by 1850, dozens of miners arrived, forming the community of Dayton. The legendary Comstock Lode was discovered ten years later up the canyon from Dayton, in Virginia City and Gold Hill.
It is interesting that Dayton separated itself from other booming prospector camps because it became a milling and ranching community except for some placer mining being done by the Chinese along Gold Creek further up the canyon. For a short time, Dayton was known as Chinatown due to the Chinese population.
The largest milling operation in Dayton was the massive Rock Point Mill, Now a part of the Dayton State Park. It was constructed in 1861 by Charles S. Stevenson (who served as the state’s governor from 1887-1890). The cost of construction was about $75,000, and the mill was equipped with forty stamps. Ore was brought from Gold Hill and Virginia City by way of a tram system, and at the height of the Comstock boom, the mill was enlarged to fifty-six stamps. It continued to operate until 1882, when it was destroyed by fire. It was quickly rebuilt, and soon began receiving ore from the new Carson and Colorado Railroad and from Sutro by the Joe Douglas Railroad. In 1909, the mill was once again destroyed by fire. In 1910, the mill was rebuilt by the Nevada Reduction and Power Company using galvanized iron. The mill was in operation until 1920, when it was finally closed and dismantled. Much of the milling equipment was taken to other locations.
The ruins of Rock Point Mill are in the western half of the Dayton State Park. Massive concrete and steel footings for the stamp mills can still be seen at the site, as well as a concrete water storage tower. Several hiking trails can be accessed in the park as well as picnic areas by the cottonwood groove and near the Rock Point mill site. There is a pedestrian tunnel under US highway 50 that connects the Rock Point Mill area with the campground and day use areas.
The park is equipped with 10 campsites, all of which accommodate tent camping and up to 34 – foot RV parking with picnic tables. There is a sink with running water, dump station, electricity, a large BBQ, lush grassy areas and plenty of parking. If you don’t feel like cooking, Gold Ranch Casino/Restaurant is within walking distance from the park on the west side of Highway 50.