Winnemucca is the ultimate Wild West Nevada RV trip.
Located in the north of Silver State, the small town is the ideal launching pad for adventures in the surrounding mountains. Back in town, friendly locals and restaurants that serve up delicious fare complete the scene.
Winnemucca has long fancied itself as “The City of Paved Streets.” Now, that may not seem like much of a boast, but when you’re surrounded by thousands of square miles of northern Nevada desert known as the Nevada Outback, that small touch of civilization means something.
Transportation has always been at the heart of Winnemucca. The transcontinental railroad was built through here in 1868 when this was still Northern Paiute Indian land. The town takes its name from Chief Winnemucca, and it’s the only town in Nevada named for a Native American. Today the town draws much of its identity from the passing of Interstate 80 and it is the halfway point for travelers on the transcontinental highway between Salt Lake City and San Francisco. Likewise, U.S. Route 95 also funnels motorists from Oregon and Idaho into Nevada through Winnemucca.
Winnemucca capitalized early on its advantageous location and became one of the first prominent towns in the Nevada Territory. There were brick buildings lining the streets and enough prosperity to attract Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch into town in September of 1900 to relieve the First National Bank of $2,000 in gold. Or $30,000 in cash. Or maybe the famed highwayman was not involved at all. Whatever the true story, the bank still stands on Bridge Street as does the Winnemucca Hotel, which is the town’s oldest building and possibly dates back to before Nevada became a United States territory in 1864. More of the town’s colorful heritage comes to life in the Humboldt County Visitors Center, which also includes the William Humphreys Big Game Collection, featuring 53 trophy animals amassed across four continents. Also on display is the Buckaroo Hall of Fame, dedicated to the cowboys who make their existence in the Great Basin.
Rodeos remain a central part of life in Winnemucca, with Ranch Hand Rodeo events taking place two or three weekends of every month between February and the Western States Ranch Rodeo Finals in early November. Sheepherders who emigrated from the Pyrenees Mountains on the French-Spanish border helped tame the Great Basin. Their culture is celebrated each June during the Winnemucca Basque Festival, when the barbecues are turned over to Paella and chorizo as the streets come alive with traditional Basque costumes and music.
Mining has been a part of the region since the first claim was filed on Winnemucca Mountain in 1859. Northern Nevada is one of the top gold-producing locations in the world, and the Newmont Mining Corporation offers operation tours at its Twin Creeks Mine in Winnemucca on the fourth Thursday of every month from April through October. Mining need not be a spectator sport, as rock hounds have long beaten a path to Northern Nevada’s Virgin Valley, where the continent’s only significant quantity of black fire opal is found. For a fee, you can dig in Humboldt County’s Royal Peacock Opal Mine, Bonanza Opal Mine and Virgin Valley Opal Mine in search of Nevada’s official precious gemstone.
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