Discover a mother lode of fun in the Nevada mountains
If you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself humming one of those TV Western theme songs as you traverse the majestic terrain of western Nevada. Filled with a mother lode of history stretching from the Carson River to the great Sierra Nevada Mountains, this countryside epitomizes the rugged beauty of the American West. Nestled amid the scenery is the story of a town built on the hopes and dreams of early miners looking to strike it rich.
Carson City: Where Silver Reigns
Although gold was the prize, the miners found silver instead — and a whole lot of it. The Comstock Lode put Carson City on the map as home to the largest silver find of all time. Another major silver strike, dubbed the “Big Bonanza,” was all that was needed to cement Carson City as a key station on the Pony Express and the Butterfield Overland Mail routes, moving on to become the capital of the Nevada Territory.
Visitors can still travel the routes of early miners with a ride aboard an authentic steam train, courtesy of the Virginia & Truckee Railroad. Originally built to transport ore and timber for the region’s burgeoning mining industry, the V&T route spans 16 miles between Carson City and Virginia City. Riders can marvel at the spectacular vistas of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the meandering pathway of the Carson River. Don’t be surprised if you spot a wild mustang traveling solo — or an entire herd of them. The train winds past abandoned silver mine shafts, through a pair of tunnels and across the high desert. Themed train rides feature wine tastings, dinner theater and, of course, “The Wild West.”
At the height of the mining boom, so much money passed through Carson City that the government established a Nevada branch of the United States Mint in town. An estimated $50 million in coins, mostly minted from Comstock silver, passed through the mint’s doors between 1870 and 1893. Repurposed as the Nevada State Museum, the building contains invaluable displays chronicling the history and culture of the region. Among the museum’s most popular exhibits is a replica of a Nevada ghost town, complete with an assay office — where miners could test the purity of their finds and register claims — along with a general store, a newspaper office and, naturally, an old-fashioned saloon. There’s even a reconstructed 19th-century mine in the museum’s basement.
Another thing not to miss is Carson City’s historic district, filled with impressive homes that are known not only for their unique architecture but also for their storied past. Among these is the Orin Clemens Home, built in 1863 by none other than the older brother of author Mark Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens. Twain is said to have lived in the house between 1863 and 1864.
The historic district is a major reason for Hollywood’s century-long love affair with Carson City. It’s believed that the first film shot in Carson City was in 1897 — footage of a prizefight between “Gentleman” Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Since then, parts of Carson City have been featured in scenes in more than a dozen movies, including films starring John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Bernadette Peters, Robert Conrad, Leonard Nimoy, James Caan, Kathy Bates and Tommy Lee Jones.
Just 20 miles to the west of the city, spectacular Lake Tahoe beckons with its shimmering waters, which encompass 191 square miles and straddle the border between Nevada and California. Sand Harbor is one of the most popular places for families seeking fun on the lakeshore.
For More Information
Carson City Convention and Visitors Bureau