- For other places with the same name, see Nevada (disambiguation).
Nevada is an arid state of the USA, lying between California and Utah. Most of the state is within the Great Basin, but parts of the northeast drain into the Snake River and the southern portion is within the Mohave desert and the Colorado river drainage. Please note that while many outsiders pronounce the state's name as "ne-VAH-duh", the correct local pronunciation is [nəˈvædə], with a short "a" as in apple.
Although the majority of tourists only visit Las Vegas, Reno and Tahoe to gamble, watch shows, and indulge themselves in food and drink, Nevada offers the more discerning traveler western frontier experiences verging on horse opera cliche, and landscapes utterly different from Europe, East Asia or more populated parts of North America.
In this more primitive environment, gambling seems not so much a high-tech means of fleecing the overly optimistic as the direct descendant of the itinerant cardsharp. Legal brothels are another holdover from the "soiled doves" of frontier times.
| Western Nevada |
(Carson City, Douglas County, Lyon County, Storey County, Washoe County) features the cities of Reno and Carson City and Lake Tahoe
| Northern Nevada |
is mostly sparsely-populated desert
| Central Nevada |
is also mostly sparsely-populated desert and wilderness, though more mountainous, and features Great Basin National Park and the small, pretty community of Ely
| Southern Nevada |
(Clark County, Esmeralda County, Lincoln County, Mineral County, Nye County) features the bright lights and casinos of Las Vegas
- Carson City - The state capital located nearby Lake Tahoe and home to some famous brothels.
- Black Rock City - Temporary city located in the Black Rock Desert of NW Nevada. The fourth largest city in Nevada during the Burning Man in August/September annually.
- Boulder City - Home of the iconic Hoover Dam.
- Ely - Features ghost towns and is nearby the Great Basin National Park.
- Henderson - Second largest city in the state, often considered part of the Las Vegas valley and home to many educational institutions.
- Las Vegas - Known as "The Entertainment Capital of the World", Vegas is known internationally for its adult entertainment venues including extravagant casinos and nightclubs, world class restaurants,
- Pahrump - Wineries and legal brothels.
- Reno - Known as "The Biggest Little City in the World," it is famous for its extravagant casinos and entertainment venues, also the birthplace of Harrah's.
- Sparks - The "Twin" city of nearby Reno.
- Great Basin National Park
- Lake Mead National Recreation Area
- U.S. Route 50 "Loneliest Highway"
- Area 51
- Nevada State Route 375, "The Extraterrestrial Highway"
- Black Rock City — town of 50,000 people during Burning Man Festival, wide open desert during the rest of the year
Nevada achieved statehood in 1864, becoming the 36th state, despite its tiny population. The primary purpose of this early grant of statehood was to pack congress with two more Senators and thus help preserve Northern/Republican dominance in the post-civil war era. At the time, Nevada's economy was dominated by the mining industry, thus tying the state to the industrialized North. Nevada was also seen as a counterbalance to the more agrarian and confederate-sympathizing California.
Over the years, Nevada's economy has diversified somewhat into agriculture, light industry, distribution, and gaming. However, over 87% of the land in Nevada is still owned by the Federal Government.
There are fairly large cultural differences between Urban and Rural areas, and therefore they are treated separately here.
The urban areas, consisting of the Reno and Las Vegas areas, are heavily dependent on tourism and thus very welcoming to outsiders. In addition, these areas have seen a huge influx of immigration in recent years from both inside and outside the USA and thus have a cosmopolitan feel. In a gambling town, everyone's your friend as long as you have money. Recent immigrants from California are widely complained about (especially by the less recent immigrants from California), but that's about the extent of it.
Rural folk in Nevada are about like rural folk in the rest of the US, except more so. Although they are mostly conservative and highly individualistic, you'll be surprised by their helpful, easy going nature and tolerance of people that they don't feel threatened by. As the entire rural economy of Nevada is dependent on access to Federal lands for mining and grazing, environmental activists and BLM and US Forest Service employees may be viewed as a threat. Young and hip people, especially from the Northeastern U.S., may be assumed to belong to one of those groups.
Some rural areas have significant populations of Native American peoples, mainly Paiute and Shoshone. Reservations are found at Fort McDermott on the Oregon border, in the Reese River Valley between the Toiyabe and Shoshone Ranges, around Pyramid Lake and at the northern end of Walker Lake. Local tribes were traditionally identified by their dietary mainstays, which were Cutthroat Trout at Walker Lake, Cui-Ui (a large type of sucker) at Pyramid Lake, and even a type of caterpillar in the mountains near Lake Tahoe. Pine nuts from Singleleaf Pinyons were a staple in most locations and can sometimes be found for sale in rural stores.
English is the official language of Nevada. Spanish is also widely spoken in Nevada, and like much of the Southwest, Nevada is heavily influenced by the language, Hispanic culture, and history under Spanish and Mexican rule. Tagalog is also spoken among Filipino populations. You might also find a few Basque speakers among the state's Basque community.
Two interstates serve both the north & south part of the state. Interstate 15 runs through Las Vegas and has connections to Los Angeles in California and Salt Lake City in Utah. Interstate 80 traverses through Reno and has connections to San Francisco, and eventually Salt Lake City, Omaha, Chicago, Cleveland, and New York.
Amtrak's California Zephyr services Reno and crosses northern Nevada en route from Chicago to Emeryville, California. While Las Vegas does not have scheduled train service, there are Thruway buses that connect the city to several Amtrak routes. Plans for an interstate high speed rail service are underway, possibly connecting to the Californian system currently under construction.
- See also: air travel in the US
There are two major airports, also at big cities: Reno & Las Vegas. Of these, Las Vegas has particularly good connections to everywhere around the country, and some flights from Europe.
There's an awful lot of desert to explore in Nevada, and it's very easy to leave civilization behind. While that is a worthy goal, common sense is necessary to avoid life-threatening situations. Here's some tips for traveling to the more remote desert areas of Nevada:
- What to Drive: Vehicle breakdown and getting stuck are the easiest ways to get into serious trouble in the desert. Don't travel far from the pavement in a low-clearance vehicle. Four wheel drive is strongly recommended for the winter months, and is advised for unpaved mountain roads anytime. It is best to travel in a convoy of multiple vehicles, so that one breakdown will not strand you. Gas stations are few, far between, and often not open around the clock, so it is a good idea to carry extra fuel. If you do break down or run out of fuel, your best bet is to stay with the vehicle unless you're within 10 miles or so of civilization - Odds are that someone will come by in a day or two.
- Roads: Nevada is criss-crossed with unpaved roads, some of which are maintained, most of which are not. Due to the slow growth rate of vegetation, once a road is established it can remain passable for decades with no maintenance and little traffic. Few roads have culverts, so be on the look-out for washed out areas. These generally aren't a problem if traversed slowly, but can cause serious damage if you don't slow down in time.
- Fences: The boundaries between grazing allotments are fenced as are the boundaries between public and private land. On higher volume roads there will be a "cattle-guard" on the road which is passable by vehicles but not by cattle. Lower volume roads will have a gate across the road. Always leave the gate in the same condition as you found it - if open leave it open, if closed make sure you close it behind you. Gates leading into private land will sometimes be locked or marked with a "No Trespassing" sign, in which case you should respect the property owner's wishes and find another way to get where you want to go.
- Livestock: In open rangeland (just about everywhere in Nevada), cattle have the right-of-way. It is not uncommon for ranchers to leave hay and water for their stock close to a road, and thus it is not uncommon to encounter herds of cattle on or near the road. You should always slow way down for these herds, as the calves especially have a nasty habit of running out in front of cars. You break it, you buy it. Cattle are half-wild, often ornery. Don't approach them closely on foot.
- Navigation: Navigation in Nevada is fairly easy if you keep your wits about you. The poverty of vegetation gives astonishingly long sight distance, and mountain ranges are ubiquitous for reference. Large-scale topographic maps of the entire state are available in bound form at most bookstores and many gas stations. These should be sufficient for most purposes. Smaller scale topographic maps are published by the US Geologic Survey (USGS) and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), and can be purchased at outdoors-oriented stores (such as the REI in Reno) or photocopied at the University of Nevada-Reno (UNR) library. The BLM maps tend to be more up-to-date with regards to roads, but are more difficult to find. Due to the small scale of these maps, they are not practical for long-range vehicle travel, but can be very useful on hiking trips.
- Weather: Most of Nevada is cold desert above 4,000'/1,300m elevation with summer daytime temperatures around 85F/30C and nights cooling sharply to 50F/10C. Winter temperatures are more variable and can drop far below zero (fahrenheit or celsius). Lower elevations in the Las Vegas area create hot desert with summer daytime temperatures consistently above 100F/40C and little nighttime relief, but pleasant winters. Carry extra clothing, sleeping bags and tire chains between October and April and remember that occasional snowstorms are possible above 4,000'/1,300m as late as June. Summer thunderstorms can be locally intense, causing flash-floods where roads cross normally-dry washes. Wear a hat, long shirt, long pants, sunblock; and drink plenty of water to avoid heat stroke and sunburn in the summer.
- Water: Away from municipal water districts, water supplies are few, far between, and usually contaminated by livestock except in the highest mountains. Bring enough in your vehicle for your entire trip, plus a few days reserve, with extra for your vehicle's radiator in case it starts leaking. When hiking, seek local knowledge about water supplies on multi-day trips. Don't rely solely on maps.
- Rail Crossings: When travelling along the dirt roads of Nevada, you will undoubtedly need to cross a railroad which has no warning signs or lights. If you can see or hear a train WAIT for the train to pass. In the open range distance is very deceiving and the trains travel exceedingly fast compared to what you may be used to in built up areas. The reflections from the sun and shifting heat waves can easily disguise a moving train to look far away in the distance. That train which looks "miles away" may in fact be within moments of passing through the crossing you are waiting at.
- Great Basin National Park. One of the lesser known National Parks and one of the newest national parks in the system, and therefore not so crowded or overdeveloped. It also is somewhat small, but has some lovely campgrounds and some nice hiking trails. Beware the altitude as the upper campground is around ten thousand feet. The aspens in autumn make this park spectacular.
- Check whether it is possible to take part at a guided tour through the NTS, the former test site of nuclear bombs. Until 2001 it was possible to do such tours.
Gambling is the major industry in Nevada, directly responsible for about 20% of total employment. Gambling establishments range from huge casinos boasting slot machines, table games and sports books to small bars and convenience stores with a few video poker games apiece.
Las Vegas is the mecca for gambling and people from around the globe come to try their luck at winning big in Vegas' plethora of expansive casinos. If you can bet money on it, you will find a location within one of any of the casinos to do so. Keep in mind that strict restrictions are placed upon casinos concerning where minors may be present within a casino and these rules are harshly enforced.
You must be 21 years of age to gamble or be present whatsoever in a gaming area, such as a casino.
Nevada is the only state within the United States in which prostitution is legalized. Exceptions are Clark County, where it is prohibited by state law, and four jurisdictions where local or municipal law bans it—Washoe, Douglas, and Lincoln Counties, and the independent city of Carson City. Note that brothels with a Carson City address are actually outside the city limits. Some of the state's most popular brothels are located near Carson City and in Pahrump; policies and prices vary. Condom use is MANDATORY at all establishments where sexual activities are conducted and you must be at least 18 years of age to participate.
Burning Man Festival The Burning Man festival, held annually in the northern Black Rock City in early September, is a festival of "radical self-expression". The City of Black Rock could be considered one of the most environmentally unpredictable cities in Nevada, travelers going there should be prepared for anything.
Most of Nevada is federal land managed by the BLM (U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management) or by the Forest Service (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service). Self-sufficient campers can camp free of charge on land under the management of either agency as long as camping doesn't interfere with other legitimate uses. Both federal agencies also have developed campgrounds where fees are usually charged. Fees vary by location, averaging about $5 at BLM campgrounds and $10 at Forest Service campgrounds.
There are two National Parks (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Park Service) in Nevada: Great Basin N.P. in east-central Nevada and Death Valley N.P. straddling the California-Nevada state line. The Park Service offers developed campgrounds where fees are charged and no-fee primitive campgrounds.
Most of Nevada lies within the Basin-and-Range geographic province, so there are literally hundreds of mountain ranges. Some ranges are short, ten miles (15 km) or so, but others are over a hundred miles (160 km) long. Several ranges have well developed trails, however others are just beginning to be discovered by enthusiastic hikers, who often make their own routes from backcountry jeep roads, cattle or game trails, desert washes, and crosscountry travel which the lack of dense forests makes fairly straightforward. Perhaps not the place for novices to venture alone, however intermediate hikers will find abundant opportunities.
The highest peaks over 13,000' (4,000m) are right on the California border (Boundary Peak in the White Mountains and near the eastern border with Utah (Wheeler Peak in Great Basin National Park. Other ranges scattered all over the state rise into the alpine zone which begins above 11,500' (3,500m) in the south to as little as 9,000' (2,700m) in the north. Many peaks reaching into the alpine zone have evidence of past glaciation such as cirques, moraines and even glacial tarns (lakes), but Nevada has only one contemporary glacier on Wheeler Peak.
The driest ranges are those of moderate elevation in the rainshadow of California's Sierra Nevada Mountains which parallels Nevada's southwest border. Precipitation increases with elevation, to the north where the Sierra and Cascade ranges are lower, and to the east where the rainshadow effect lessens and moisture moving north from the Gulf of California comes into play. Hikers used to streams and mountain lakes will certainly find them in the Ruby and East Humboldt Ranges in the northeast, and in the Snake Range near Wheeler Peak, however drier ranges have unique landscapes not found in hiking venues elsewhere except perhaps in Central Asia, Africa and Australia. Dry ranges also have unique flora including open subalpine woodlands of Bristlecone and Limber Pine and lower down of Singleleaf Pinyon Pine which bear nuts that were a dietary mainstay of the Paiute and Shoshone tribes.
Restaurants in and around casinos in Reno, Las Vegas and Tahoe especially cater to the dietary whims of urban California. Notable chefs have opened restaurants worth a detour from the usual tourist activities. Buffets in casinos are often heavily subsidized in hopes that those who come to eat will stay to gamble. The more upscale examples offer surprisingly good food and plenty of it.
Outside of these tourist meccas, food takes on a western character. This is certainly the rule in small town cafes, but also in casinos along borders with Oregon, Idaho, Utah and Arizona drawing a western clientele with different dietary preferences than Californians.
Nevada and other parts of the larger intermountain region export beef and lamb, but are no cornucopia when it comes to fruit and vegetables. These are produced in very finite quantities because water is scarce and elevations usually high enough to induce late and early frosts. Accordingly cafes and restaurants with local clienteles serve 'meat and potatoes' fare. Coffee can be a weak disappointment. Nevertheless the food can be interesting in a regional way, often making inventive use of a limited range of ingredients.
Chinese immigration drawn by railroad-building and mining opportunities established Chinese-American cuisine even in remote towns. Urban sophisticates may find it quaintly amusing -- chow mein, sweet-and-sour, egg drop soup, fortune cookies and all. Basque sheepherders went everywhere green grass could be found. Their cuisine may not actually be very distinctive, but it is served in multiple courses -- perhaps three different entrees -- at long communal tables.
Nevada may very well have the most relaxed liquor laws in the entire country. Although anti-drunk driving measures and the drinking age of 21 are as strongly enforced as anywhere else, that's pretty much where it ends. Most bars are open 24-7. Privately-owned liquor stores tend to have an extremely comprehensive selection of liquor, beer and wine, especially in Las Vegas. They may even sell via a drive-through window. While some bars may close they do so by choice, not by legal necessity. Indeed many Nevada bars have been continuously open every single second for well over 40 years, including holidays.
Most bars feature some sort of casino gaming. Video poker machines are often built right into the bar itself. Indeed it's unusual to not see something like that in a Nevada bar. Bartenders may even offer you free drinks if you're actively playing.
As with the casinos, Nevada bars tend to take a decidedly cavalier attitude towards smoking; ask first, but chances are its perfectly OK to light up if you so choose. If that bothers you, well, California isn't too far away ...
Nevada's rugged outdoors is a major draw to thousands of tourists each year. Many venture into the State and National parks only an hours drive from major cities to find themselves at odds with the harshness of the environment. The following suggestions are a starting point to those who wish to venture away from the city and experience the endless beauty that Nevada has to offer. No webpage can substitute for common sense, a minimal of preparations and knowing your own limits. Many of the most scenic areas which can be reached by car are a LONG way from cell service, fueling locations or emergency services. You need to be prepared for the trip so that fun does not turn into difficult circumstances.
- Fill up your vehicle's fuel tank before leaving the main cities. Even while on the interstate, long stretches between fuel stations can strand a motorist with few options except to wait for someone to drive by. On rural roads or two lane highways, this could be a long wait.
- ALWAYS take extra water with you. AT LEAST 2 liters of water per person for a short trip, 3-4 liters per person for an all day excursion. Many locals in the region use inexpensive hydration packs, similar to a camels hump, which hold water for several hours of activity. The "CamelBak" is also a great place for your emergency blanket, map, first aid kit and snacks in case you are injured.
- Always check the weather before you go. Weather can change quickly in Nevada. In summer during the North American Monsoon, powerful thunderstorms often build up near the crest of the Sierra Nevada, particularly during late afternoon. Soaring summer temperatures can quickly drop 20 - 30 degrees when the sun goes down. Even in the height of summer Rain or SNOW can occur when very cold air drops down off the Sierra Mountains. It is unwise to be in a high, treeless place during a thunderstorm. Always bring a jacket / sweatshirt / or other warm clothing in the car. A pocket sized "Emergency Blanket" made of silver foil will keep you warm and can also shade you from the sun if you are injured and must wait for rescue.
- During winter you should always carry tire chains in your car and know how to use them when crossing The Sierra Nevada Range from California to Nevada. This is a high mountain environment containing some of the snowiest places in the US with unpredictable heavy snow coming in late summer/early fall.
- Outdoor 10 Essentials If you decide to enjoy the great outdoors below is a suggested list of minimal equipment you should have if you leave sight of your car. Entering the desert unprepared is trusting Lady Luck with more than just your money.
- Water Be SURE you always have a liter or two of water WITH YOU when you leave leave the car.
- Energy Bar / snack Great for on the trail, but also in case you get lost or injured.
- Emergency Blanket Silver Foil Blanket which keep you warm, and can shade you from the sun.
- Pocket Knife Generally Useful.
- Eye drops! Keep those Eyes Moist!
- Cough Drops Soothes a Parched Dry Throat
- Bandaids / FirstAID Nothing too fancy. Large Bandaids, medical tape, 4x4 gauze pads, cleaning pad.
- Map/Compass or GPS device You need a way to find you way back to your car.
- Flashlight Small LED flashlight is fine, just in case it gets dark.
- Whistle When your throat is dry, you can't yell for help. This works. Many include a small compass / tube for supplies.
- Water Be SURE you always have a liter or two of water WITH YOU when you leave leave the car.
Nevada is the only state in the US where prostitution is not outlawed at the state level, except in the counties around Las Vegas, Reno and Carson City. Other counties are free to allow or outlaw prostitution in licensed brothels. This is a controversial subject with some Nevadans, especially in mixed company. Tread lightly.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (more commonly known as "Mormons") settled in the Salt Lake valley in Utah in 1847, and soon thereafter began to settle various different areas throughout Utah and Nevada (which was part of the proposed state of "Deseret" at the time). A few of these settlements include Mormon Station (modern day Genoa) and Mormon Fort (modern day Las Vegas). These settlements were very active in trade with pioneers migrating west to California for the gold rush after 1849. After the state of Deseret was segregated to help form Nevada, Utah, Arizona, and Wyoming, some of the members of the church left, but many stayed. Today Nevada has a significant Mormon population, particularly in Las Vegas, Reno and the lightly populated eastern part. Mormons, if they strictly follow church teachings, don't drink, are socially conservative and tend to have large families. They even abstain from some other beverages such as coffee if they are particularly observant. They can also be well-travelled and fluent in foreign languages because many men (and some women) are sent as missionaries to nations all around the world. The doctrine of polygamy has been officially disowned since 1890, but there are splinter groups that broke away because of that, some of them still practicing polygamy.
- California - America's most populous state shares an extensive border to the west of Nevada, offering easy access to destinations such as Los Angeles, San Diego, Lake Tahoe and Death Valley National Park.
- Arizona - Home to the Grand Canyon, Arizona borders Nevada to the southeast across the Colorado River.
- Utah - Nevada's eastern neighbor is worth visiting for the mind-blowing rock formations found in places like Arches National Park and Zion National Park, as well as the winter recreation opportunities found around Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Olympics.
- Idaho - Nevada's northeastern neighbor is a rugged state, with snow-capped mountains, whitewater rivers, forests, high desert, and plenty of wilderness.
- Oregon - Sharing a border to the northwest, Oregon is home to impressive mountains and extensive forests.