This year, strange fate brought me to travel Interstate 80 through the intriguing state of Nevada. It is a big state, with a subtle and mysterious landscape. On one of the three drives I made through Nevada this year, I remembered to look for the exit to the Thunder Mountain Indian Monument. It is located in Imlay, in between Winnemucca and Lovelock. I pulled off at Exit #145.
There’s no real town to speak of when you take the Imlay exit. But it is the home of the unusual Thunder Mountain Indian Monument. It’s a historical site preserved by the state of Nevada. It can be seen from Interstate 80, as you are passing by. I have stopped here twice before. It is about a ¼ of a mile off the road. The Monument is a bizarre place, set in the expansive West, and each time I have visited, it has struck me as quiet, peaceful, and evocative.
The Monument appears out of the landscape as a man-made collection of material art. Frank Van Zant, a.k.a. Chief Thunder, created the construction design at the site. Chief Thunder made this sprawling work of architectural folk art about forty years ago. The site has an informational booth, and some picnic benches. There is no attendant, no restroom, no formal parking. It is usually fairly quiet there, despite the I-80 passing nearby.
Thunder Mountain Indian Monument was built from materials Chief Thunder had removed from the nearby ruins of the region’s earlier mining industry. There are numerous sculptures, several interesting art buildings, fences, walls, and free form construction throughout the site. The art seems to be a part of the landscape, as if it were created from nature. The art has themes of human struggle. There are various sculptures of women and men expressing powerful emotion. When I visit this place, I feel a reverent awe, as well as a strange sense of emptiness.