Every year, the state of Nevada receives enough tourists that it easily can outnumber the population of a couple of states.
Some only come here for the gambling (Nevada is home to the world’s most popular entertainment and gambling center, Las Vegas) but many also come to enjoy the state’s vast and beautiful plains, deserts, or mountains. Nevada is also a sheep and cattle raising state, and practically all grains that are grown here are for feeding livestock. But there’s more. Many come to visit Hoover Dam, on the Colorado River, or Lake Mead, one of the largest artificial lakes in the world. Until 1775, no European had visited the desert lands and during the 1990’s, Las Vegas’ splendor took on even more impressive proportions, offering more opportunities for newcomers and resulting in pleasant new suburbs.
Quick Facts about Nevada
- Nevada has two of the world’s most famous entertainment centers.
- The state the Union solvent during the Civil War.
- Nevada is one of the world’s greatest turquoise suppliers.
- It is one of the world’s rare opals centers.
- Nevada has the largest open pit copper mine in the world.
- It had America’s first large-scale reclamation program.
- Nevada is claiming the first use of skis in America.
Nevada Brief history
Silvestre Velez de Escalante was a Spanish Franciscan missionary and explorer, who, together with Francisco Domínguez, was visiting the region in 1775 to set up Franciscan New Mexico missions.
We know that they visited the Nevada area in 1775, but it wasn’t until 1826 that records of European exploration show up, with Peter Skene Ogden’s explorations.
Famous Indian basket maker Dat-So-La-Lee, who received world-wide recognition for his great artistry, was born in Nevada around 1826, and Walker Lake and Walker Pass received their names for Joseph Walker who, with his 1833 expedition, discovered a route along the Humboldt River across present-day Nevada.
His return to California was via Walker Pass, named after him by John C. Fremont, a U.S. American military officer and explorer. John Fremont provided later better records on Nevada when he visited the region in his 1843-1844 expedition together with famed Kit Carson.
In the year 1846, a party lead by pioneers George Donner and James Reed was blocked by heavy snow at what is now Donner Pass, as they set out for California. Of the entire group of 87, only around half survived and reached California. Thousands of settlers crossed the country in 1849, and by the end of 1850, more than 60,000 of them had passed through the pass on mule or horseback, in covered wagons, or even on foot.
In 1859, one of America’s most important mining discoveries was made. The Comstock Lode was actually the first big silver discovery in the U.S. and almost entirely brought an end to the California Gold Rush. The ‘Comstock’, named for one of the prospectors, is a huge lode of silver ore that was located under a Mount Davidson slope in Nevada’s Virginia Range.
The mines were to yield over $500 million worth of silver and gold ore in the first decades, and in 1863, Virginia City had turned into one of the West’s most important centers. The town boasted four banks, luxurious homes, six churches, over one hundred saloons, an opera house, and had the only elevator between the west coast and Chicago.
In the days of the Civil War, Nevada’s silver wealth was crucial to keep the North solvent, and Nevada became a state in the Union in 1864, on October 31st. New minerals were found in 1864 at Eureka, and in 1869 at Hamilton, but the huge wealth at Virginia’s Comstock Lode had dwindled, and what was left of Virginia City by 1880 was nothing more than a sleepy village.
The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, and Nevada caught the world’s attention in 1897 when the heavyweight boxing championship was held in Carson City. New mineral finds occurred at Goldfield and Tonopah and the cities boomed for a short while, but it wasn’t long before Goldfield became a ghost town while Tonopah went on to become the town it is today, located mid-way between Reno and Las Vegas.
Nevada made gambling legal in 1931, and this decision laid the foundation for the state’s future reputation. In 1936, construction of the Hoover Dam was completed, and in 1951 the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission had set up the Nevada Proving Ground. By the end of the 1970’s, a group of Nevada ranchers was launching the ‘Sagebrush Rebellion’ with the goal of reducing federal control of Nevada ranch lands.