Thunder Mountain Monument

The story of Thunder Mountain begins with Frank Van Zant. Born November 11, 1921 in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, Van Zant considered himself 100% Creek Indian despite the Dutch origins of his name. Traveling east from California in a 1946 Chevy truck and travel trailer, Van Zant arrived in Imlay in 1969. He adopted the name Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder and began building his monument, first by covering his travel trailer with cement, stones, and other found objects, then by expanding it into the three-story structure that stands today. In addition, he sculpted over 200 figures and constructed several other buildings. During this time, the monument served as a commune, and up to forty lived there at one time.

By the 1980s, many had moved on and work slowed on Thunder Mountain. In 1983, an act of arson destroyed most of the compound, including a three-story hostel. The place continued to fall into disrepair, and in 1989 Thunder's wife and children too moved on. By the end of that year, Thunder wrote a farewell letter bequeathing everything to his son Dan and shot himself. For a few years, the place was subject to vandalism and a leaky roof until it was listed as a Nevada State Historic Site in 1992. Ever since, efforts have been underway to restore and preserve the monument, spearheaded by Dan Van Zant and funded entirely by donations. While the inside is not open to the public, the grounds are open daily during daylight hours for self-guided tours.

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