Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, a Nevada state park, features the ghost town of Berlin, mining history, camping, hiking, and a look at Nevada's ancient past with fossils of ichthyosaurs, a reptile that swam in an inland sea during the Triassic period around 250 million years ago. The ichthyosaur (Shonisaurus popularis) is Nevada's official state fossil. Even though dinosaur fossils have been found in Nevada, we have yet to designate an official state dinosaur.
Why Berlin-Ichthyosaur is a Nevada State Park
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park encompasses two widely diverse periods in Nevada's history, which happen to be located in the same area. The preserved old buildings of the Berlin ghost town give visitors a look at Nevada's mining history and a flavor of how life was in a rough-and-tumble mining town at the beginning of the 1900s.
Ichthyosaur fossils were discovered in the area in 1928. About 40 fossils have been unearthed and until 2004, they included the largest Ichthyosaurs ever discovered. Visitors can view fossils as they were found by taking a tour of the Fossil House, which protects a bed of these ancient reptile fossils.
What to See and Do at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
Visitor Information: When you first enter the park, you encounter an old building that acts as the visitor center and museum. If no one is there, you can use the nearby information kiosk to learn more and pay fees. The day use entry fee is $7 per vehicle or $17 if you are camping. Nevada residents receive a $2 discount on either fee. (Note: The fee structure is subject to change. Check Nevada State Parks Fees for the latest information.)
Camping & Picnicking: The 14-site campground has a few sites suitable for RVs up to 25 ft. It is located on the side of the Shoshone Mountains above the Berlin townsite and has great views across Ione Valley to the west. The campground is hilly, but well maintained with roomy sites spaced far apart. There is water (mid-April to October), but no hook-ups. There is an RV dump station. A day-use picnic area is located next to the Fossil Shelter. There are no separate group areas, but groups may reserve the picnic area both day-use and overnight camping. Contact the park office at (775) 964-2440 to reserve this area. Because there are no hook-ups in the campground, people with RVs tend to run generators. You'll have to decide whether or not this is bothersome, but I don't care for it.
Hiking: The hiking at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park consists mostly of a system of pathways that take you on a tour of the Berlin townsite and the nearby site of Union, a smaller town that was Berlin's neighbor. If you walk all of these trails, it's actually a workout since you will be going up and down hills that are steep in places. There are information signs at various spots on this self-guided tour, telling about what was at a particular location and giving historical information about Berlin and its mining operations.
There is a nature trail between the campground and Fossil Shelter. Along this pleasant path are signs explaining some of the natural features - plants, animals, geology - you will pass while walking this route of about half a mile.
Tours: In addition to the self-guided townsite tour, two guided tours are available at Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. Guided tours are $3 for adults and $2 for children 6 to 12. Diana Mine tours take visitors into a section of one of Berlin's main mines, with your guide explaining how it was done way back when. Tours are available May 1 through September 30 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Reservations are required.
The Fossil Shelter is a large building enclosing a bed of ichthyosaur fossils preserved just as they were discovered. During a tour, visitors learn about these ancient reptiles and how they came to be located in what is now a high and dry Nevada mountain range. Guided tours are available from Memorial Day to Labor Day, daily at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. There is a noon tour on the third Saturday in March to Memorial Day and from Labor Day to the second Sunday in November: Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. If you can't get on a tour, the Fossil Shelter has interpretive signs next to large windows through which you can view the ichthyosaur fossils.
Hazards & Hassles
If you follow the rules about staying on walking paths and away from hazardous areas like mine shafts, you are unlikely to have any trouble. There are rattlesnakes, however, so keep an eye on your immediate surroundings and watch your step. Pets are okay, but they must be leashed at all times. Park elevation is about 7000' - summer temperatures can reach around 90 degrees and it is cool at night. The desert climate is dry and shade is scarce - drink plenty of water and use sunscreen when outside. Cellphone service is spotty to non-existent in this remote region. Carry extra water and food and stay with your vehicle in event of a break down. It could be a while before help arrives.
Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park Location
The Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park is about 160 miles east of Reno. Take I80 east to Fernley and exit on U.S. 50 going to Fallon. Sixty miles east of Fallon, turn right onto Nevada 361 at Middlegate. Drive south about 30 miles and turn left on Nevada 844 a couple of miles before the town of Gabbs. Follow the signs to Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park, which is just over 18 miles from this intersection. The road crosses the Paradise Range and you'll be able to see Berlin across Ione Valley several miles before getting there. All but the last couple of miles are paved. The final section is a wide gravel road in good condition. You will be in a remote part of the Nevada outback. If you like quiet solitude, this is a good place to be.
Get More Information About Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park
- Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park website
- Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park Brochure
- Nevada State Park Park Fees
Berlin-Ichthyosaur is only one of Nevada's great state parks. Check out the Map of State Parks page to see where more parks are throughout the Silver State. You can also visit the Nevada State Parks Facebook page to get additional information.