Nevada (abbreviation: NV or Nev.), state of the United States of America, in the west, 286,298 km2, with 1.2 million inhabitants; capital: Carson City (40,000 inhabitants). The state is named after the Sierra Nevada.
Almost all of Nevada is part of the Great Basin. In Nevada, this plateau is interrupted by numerous mountain ranges, mostly north-south. The state’s highest point (Boundary Peak; 4,007 m) is in the White Mountains, which are a spur of the Sierra Nevada. The lowest point (143 m) is where the Colorado leaves Nevada. The desert area of the state includes a fairly extensive swath in the northwest (Black Rock Desert, Granite Creek Desert, Smoke Creek Desert) and some scattered salt and alkali deserts (“flats”).
Except in the far northeast, where rivers drain into the Snake River in nearby state Idaho, and in the southeast, where they do on Colorado, the state’s rivers disappear either through dehydration or emptying into drainless, saline lakes; the most important are the Humboldt, the Carson and the Walker River. The state’s largest natural lake is Pyramid Lake (50 km long, 8–20 km wide), northeast of Reno. In the southeast corner of the state is the huge Lake Mead (Hooverdam) reservoir.
Nevada lies in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and has the driest climate in the United States. The average amount of precipitation per year in Reno is 200 mm, in the driest area, the southwest, 25 mm.
Nevada is one of the most sparsely populated states in the country (average 3.2 inhabitants per km2). Approx. 88% of the population lives in the cities. The largest cities are Las Vegas and Reno. See top cities in Nevada.
Nevada’s primary economic sector is tourism and associated activities. Nevada is renowned for its legal gambling (Las Vegas) and also attracts many visitors for its marriage and divorce facilities (divorce, pronounced in Reno after a six-week stay there, is valid in all US states). After the tourism industry, the government is the most important employer (notably the Nellis Air Force Base and the Nevada Test Site of the US Department of Energy, both near Las Vegas). The other economic activities are trade, construction, processing of agricultural and mining products, agriculture and mining. The main agricultural activity is animal husbandry (sheep, cows; dairy and wool). The main agricultural products (hay, potatoes, vegetables, dried fruits, cotton, grains) are completely dependent on irrigation and therefore for the most part come from the south and (especially) southeast. The main mining products are copper, gold, petroleum, sand and gravel, and manganese. Since the state constitution prohibits estate taxes, many millionaires live there.
Nevada’s biggest tourist attractions are, of course, the gambling cities of Las Vegas and Reno. Near Las Vegas is Lake Mead, with the Hoover Dam, which together with Lake Mojave form the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. The Great Basin National Park (1986; 312.1 km2) contains the Lehman Caves, Wheeler Peak, which is the southernmost glacier in the United States and a unique ecosystem ranging from desert to tundra. Of historical importance are the ghost towns that recall the pioneer days.
In 1776 a Spanish missionary penetrated this area and in 1825 fur trader Peter Skene Ogden undertook a voyage of discovery, followed by a second in 1828, while Jedediah Smith also penetrated Nevada from the south. A general migration of immigrants came only after gold was discovered in California in 1849. In 1859, the Comstock Lode, a rich silver and gold mine, was discovered. In 1861 the elevation to territory followed, in 1864 to the 36th state of the Union. The center of the mines, Virginia City, became very famous as a place of adventure and crime. In 1900 and 1902 some gold mines were discovered again, later mainly copper mines.
Nevada National Parks
Great Basin National Park
This park was granted national park status in 1986 and is located in northeastern Nevada near the Utah state line.
The park got its name Great Basin from a large area that stretches from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah to the Sierra Nevada Mountains Range in California. All the rainwater that falls in this area is stored in huge groundwater basins or evaporates back into the atmosphere. Mountain ranges, stalactite caves and ancient pine forests are some of the features of this national park. Some special animal species that occur here are the mule deer, the golden eagle, the prairie wolf and the puma. There are no hotels in the park, but there are camping areas.