Burros of Beatty, Nevada

Usually when one considers visiting something historical, it’s a building or site. The visitor can view the architectural details of the building, learn how people lived there, and what important events occurred. At a site, usually a battlefield, one can picture how the opposing forces met and maneuvered. But sometimes a historical representation isn’t anchored to the land.

As my husband and I drive to visit my mother-in-law, we pass through the town of Beatty, Nevada. This is an old mining town founded in 1904 with the discovery of gold in Death Valley, California. Like any gold rush, prospectors flooded the area to stake their claims.

With them came the ever present pack animal, the donkey or the burro. There is no biological difference between them. Burro is the Spanish word for donkey. Burros are the perfect pack animal for the desert. They can carry up to 150 pounds, which means all of a prospector’s belongings, food, and mining equipment. They can withstand the extreme hot and cold of the desert and go for days without water.

Very quickly, the gold rush went bust, but the burros remained in the area. Some of them escaped, and others were turned loose when the prospectors left. They have no natural predators. Beatty is an oasis with water and green plants; the burros established themselves well in their new environment. Indeed, sometimes the local residents regard their loud braying and the occasional kick denting cars as a nuisance. Others recognize tourists like to see this bit of living history.

I am one of those who wanted to see the burros. Before we continued our trip, my husband drove us around the town, hoping to catch a glimpse. No luck. It wasn’t until we gave up and headed north that we spotted the burros grazing by the side of the road.

These photos are a look at some living history, descended from the old prospectors.

Mama Burro Protecting Black Colt