Many of the early American visitors to Nevada were settlers heading overland to California. OK, other things did happen such as gold strikes, but it was the legalisation of gambling in 1931 that really put the state on the map and started the rapid growth of its most famous city, Las Vegas. Is Vegas the only place to visit in Nevada or is there more to it? Certainly the casino district of Las Vegas is a unique and ever changing phenomenon. If your only stop in Nevada is Las Vegas you will have seen the famous (or infamous) city of bright lights and gambling, but you will probably be poorer for having missed out on a wealth of scenery, museums and ghost towns that can be found elsewhere in the state.
Red Rock Canyon
Colourful canyons are a hallmark of the American west. Many states have a Red Rock Canyon, indeed there are three in Nevada alone. This one is just 16 kilometres (10 miles) from Las Vegas, so it is a popular trip for anyone wanting a respite from the gaming tables. Although the scenery at Red Rock Canyon is pleasant it lacks the strident red rocks of other locations such as Valley of Fire in Nevada and Oak Creek Canyon in Arizona.
Lake Mead near Boxcar Cove
The 221 metre (726 foot) high Hoover Dam, completed in 1935 turned the Colorado River into this huge lake and created a recreation area of 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) in the middle of the desert. Even out here in the desert you can’t get away from Las Vegas as it is this water that provides power to keep the city lit up 24 hours a day.
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Derelict buildings, Paradise Valley
Our side trip to Paradise Valley was a result of a reference on the internet suggesting that it was a ghost town. What we found was a thriving community of over 300 people. The town of Paradise Valley sprang up to serve the many farms in the area, and farming continues to this day, so the town has not seen the boom and bust of mining communities. Nevertheless there are several old and abandoned buildings in the town as shown in this picture, but in no way can it be described as a ghost town.
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Reconstruction of Pueblo, Lost City Museum
Although the land occupied by Lake Mead was mainly open desert, it drowned several Anasazi Indian sites known as Pueblo Grande de Nevada. Between 1933 and 1938 the sites were excavated to recover artifacts threatened by Lake Mead. The Lost City Museum of Archaeology was built in 1935 in Overton, north east of Las Vegas, to house the recovered artifacts. The museum also has a reconstruction of an Anasazi Indian Pueblo to show how it would have looked when occupied.
East Ely Railroad Depot Museum
The Nevada Northern Railway was built between 1905 and 1908 to handle huge amounts of ore that needed to be moved from mine to mill. Traffic thinned as mining operations wound down and in 1982 operations were suspended. However, it was expected that the line would eventually reopen so everything was left in place. It didn’t happen, but White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation was formed and they managed to persuade the company that owned the Nevada Northern to donate the depot, stock and 51 kilometres (32 miles) of track. Steam hauled trips are available in season and tours run all year. The former offices above the station are now a museum, where you can see how the railroad operated, frozen in time.
Aultman Street & Hotel Nevada, Ely
Ely started as a stage stop called Murray Creek Station. In 1867 prospectors found gold nearby but there was too much copper in the ore to make it viable. Extraction of copper started in 1878 with the construction of a copper smelter. A small town called Ely sprang named, it is believed, after the President of the Copper Mining company, a Mr Smith Ely. The town continued as a major copper centre until 1979 and the operations resumed for a few years in the 1990s. Talk of renewed mining continues but for the time being the town survives on employment from tourism and the nearby maximum security jail. The best known building in Ely is the Hotel Nevada which when it opened in 1929 was the tallest building in the state. It still operates as a hotel.