I have a kid who loves ghost towns and abandoned places, so every time we go anywhere we end up hiking down some overgrown, abandoned railroad tracks or getting way closer to a crumbling former hotel than we’re supposed to. So driving through Nevada was kind of like going through a time portal in the sense that the state has like a kazillion ghost towns and also trying to find them was a time suck I really hadn’t planned on.
Still, visiting the creepy yet somehow beautiful ghost town of Metropolis was one of the best things we did early on in our road trip. Our driving route took us right through Wells, Nevada en route to Dinosaur National Monument so we were like, hey, let’s just “stop off” at Metropolis. I put “stop off” in quotes because Metropolis, as it turns out, is just not a place you can really “stop off” at. It’s like a million miles down this not-very-well-maintained road with no cell service and I just want to say, it was the first part of our trip that made me very happy to have a GPS satellite tracking device with me in case my 175,000+ miles car decided that was a great moment to become a permanent fixture of the Nevada desert.
The history of Metropolis is a cautionary tale of people thinking they can triumph over nature and then finding out that you actually can’t really triumph over nature, because nature hates you and also you are in the middle of a freaking sagebrush desert.
Metropolis, which dates back to the early 1910s, was the result of someone’s grand plan to farm wheat in a place with no water. A lot of people bought into the plan because there was a dam and reservoir in the works, and promises of canals that would deliver water to the town and the surrounding farms. At one point 700 people lived in Metropolis, but alas, some other folks downstream were annoyed that Metropolis was diverting all the water, so they filed a successful suit against the town, and that was that. The town’s water supply dried up to a trickle and the farmers were all, “Eff this” only they probably used much more colorful words. By 1947 the whole town had been abandoned.
Today the only thing left of Metropolis is the old school building, which boasts a magnificent stone arch, and the remains of the hotel, which burned down in 1936. Shockingly absent are all the “danger” and “no trespassing signs” that would be all over any similar such place in California, even though you will get an eerie sense of foreboding when you are inside the old school on account of the ceiling being partially caved in and the rest of it looking like it’s going to let go at any moment.
Unlike some ghost towns I’ve visited, Metropolis does not appear to be in a state of “arrested decay,” rather, it is clearly in a state of complete and total decay, so the day will surely come when even the old stone arch is a pile of rubble. It does take longer to drive to and from this place than you will probably spend there, but I’m going to say it’s worth it, especially since one day this place will almost certainly completely disappear back into the desert that vanquished it.
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