Scenic USA - Nevada

Thunder Mountain (L. quirkous attractrio)

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Thunder Mountain (L. quirkous attractrio) - Imlay, Nevada

Photos by Gary O'Toole

   Part residence, part artwork, part political platform and part tribute to the Creek Indians, Thunder Mountain defies a thorough explanation. Thunder Mountain Statuary Now designated as a Nevada Historic Site Restoration Project, Thunder Mountain began to take shape in 1967. Miles from nowhere in the Nevada desert among the rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus) and sagebrush, Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder (Frank Dean Van Zant) built his survivalist retreat. An old travel trailer, covered in concrete, served as home for the chief and his family for the next two decades.
   Perhaps it was part of a 60s hippie counterculture movement, or obeying instructions from an old Creek medicine woman; but, for whatever reason, Van Zant gathered enough junk and recyclables over two decades to fill a five acre compound. Thunder Mountain Statuary Inspired by the Bottle House in Rhyolite, Nevada's 1983 artist of the year created a bizarre three story house, now seen as a roadside attraction. Decorated with bottles, statuary, bric-a-brac and spindly arches, the compound is all contained by a rubble stone wall and fencing. You'll notice at the top of the house an arch that appears as a giant bucket handle. The chief spent his last years awaiting the Great Spirit to swoop down, grab the handle and whisk him aloft.
   Located about 130 miles east of Reno on Interstate 80, all is pretty quiet at Thunder Mountain today. The chief's family is long gone, the chief is dead, the concrete is crumbling, the paint continues to fade in the hot desert sun ... and Thunder Mountain awaits restoration.


        In the final days there shall rise up a place called Thunder Mountain. Only those that live at Thunder Mountain will survive.

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