Carson River Basin Group

7 Dayton

on U.S. Highway 50 at Dayton, Nevada

Dayton, one of the earliest settlements in Nevada, was first known as a stopping place on the river for California–bound pioneers. Coming in from the desert, they rested here before continuing westward.

In 1849, Abner Blackburn found a gold nugget at the mouth of Gold Canyon and prospecting began in the canyon to the north. Ten years later, this led to the discovery of the fabulous ore deposits at Gold Hill and Virginia City.

Called by several different names in its early years, the place became Dayton in 1861, named in honor of John Day who laid out the town.

For many decades Dayton prospered as a mill and trading center. It remained the county seat for Lyon County until 1911.

1 Empire and the Carson River Mills

On US Highway 50, about 4 miles east of Carson City

When the Comstock Lode was discovered in 1859, the problem of reducing the ore from the fabulously rich Virginia City mines had to be solved.  Mills were built in Gold Canyon and Six Mile Canyon, in Washoe Valley, at Dayton, and on the Carson River which offered the most abundant source of water to operate the mills.

On the east shore of the river near the town of Empire the first small mill, built in 1860, was later enlarged to become the Mexican.  The site of this mill lies to the southwest.  Other large mills were then constructed farther downstream, spurring the growth of the town of Empire.  Ore was hauled to the mills at first by wagon and later by the famous Virginia and Truckee Railroad built in 1869.  Fortunes in gold and silver were produced in over 40 years of operation by the Carson River mills including the Mexican, Yellow Jacket, Brunswick, Merrimac, Vivian, and Santiago.  Traces of Empire and its mills can still be seen today.