Nevada makes up the 36th state of the USA, and a diamond in the rough at that. With its desert landscape, people could argue that the state would have limited value. However, Nevada today boasts one of the USA’s most powerful economies, drawing people and money from around the world. Learn more with these 80 Nevada facts.
- The state covers an estimated total area of 290,000 km².
- This makes the state the 7th largest in the entire USA.
- At 2,048 km², water makes up less than 1% of Nevada’s total area.
- An estimated 3.2 million people live in Nevada today.
- This gives the state a population density of 11 people for every km².
- Francisco Garces became the first European to arrive in Nevada during the 1770s.
- Nevada became part of Mexico as Alta California on Mexico’s independence in 1821.
- After the Mexican-American War, Alta California became part of the US Territory of Utah in 1848.
- Nevada later broke off as its own US Territory in 1861.
- Nevada became a US State during the American Civil War after a convention voted in Carson City in 1864.
- Gold and silver mining became the main industry of Nevada in the late-19th century.
- Copper mining briefly boomed in Nevada during the early-20th century.
- Nevada’s economy diversified ironically because of the Great Depression.
- WWII contributed to economic prosperity in Nevada.
- Gambling and other luxury businesses boomed in Nevada from the late-20th century onward.
- Most of Nevada falls under the USA’s Pacific time zone, or GMT-8.
- West Wendover makes up the exception, falling in the USA’s Mountain time zone, or GMT-7.
- Nevada’s people call themselves the Nevadans.
- The state has the official nickname of the Silver State.
- Other nicknames include the Sagebrush State or the Battleborn State.
Nevada’s name has a history of its own.
Nevada itself forms an adjective in Spanish, meaning either snowy or snow-covered. The Spaniards first applied the adjective to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which ironically enough mostly lies in California. A part of the range extends into Nevada, known at the time as part of Alta California.
When the USA broke what would become Nevada off from Utah in 1861, they named the new territory after the mountain range. Despite forming a word in Spanish, the name has a different pronunciation from the Spanish adjective. Similarly, Nevadans have a habit of pronouncing their state’s name differently even from fellow Americans.
Nevada has a unique geography.
Most of Northern Nevada lies in the Great Basin, a desert region that occasionally receives rains as part of the Arizona Monsoon. Similarly, winter storms sweeping in from the Pacific Ocean may also sometimes bring snow to the desert.
That said, Northern Nevada does have natural water sources, such as the Humboldt River. Other rivers also flow east down the Sierra Nevada, into the state’s north, such as the Carson, Truckee, and Walker Rivers. All these rivers drain into lakes in the state’s north, Carson Sink, Pyramid Lake, and Walker Lake, respectively.
In Central Nevada, mountains and valleys break up the land, reaching heights of up to 4 km. Finally, Southern Nevada makes up part of the Mojave Desert but still has natural water supplies in the form of the Colorado River.
Lake Mead, the largest water reservoir in the USA, lies in Nevada.
The lake stands 39 km east of Las Vegas, along the course of the Colorado River, between Nevada and Arizona. The lake isn’t natural at all, having formed in 1935, as the reservoir of the Hoover Dam.
At maximum capacity, the lake stretches 180 km long with a depth of 162 meters and contains an estimated 32.24 km³ of water. That said, the lake has never reached maximum capacity since the 1980s, thanks to the effects of drought and increasing water demands in the region. In particular, Lake Mead provides water not just to Nevada and Arizona, but also to California and even Mexico.
Boundary Point makes up the highest peak in the state.
The mountain stands as part of the White Mountains, located in Esmeralda County, Southern Nevada. It also makes up the Boundary Peak Wilderness, part of the greater Inyo National Forest. The mountain’s name comes from its closeness to the border with California, less than 1 km away.
Ironically, a similar peak also stands less than a kilometer away, just across the border, Montgomery Peak. Boundary Point has a height of 4007 meters, only 90 meters shorter than Montgomery Peak. Geologists even consider Boundary Peak a sub-peak of Montgomery Peak. Some geologists even argue that Wheeler Peak in Eastern Nevada should instead become the state’s highest peak, 3925 meters high.
Nevada has a harsh climate.
So much so that it actually has the reputation of being the driest state in the entire USA. In fact, outside of the Las Vegas Valley, the average temperature in Nevada never drops below 22 degrees Celsius in summer. On average, only 180 mm of rain falls in Nevada every year, mostly on the mountains. There, rain can get heavy, with the annual rains exceeding the average to reach up to 1 meter per year.
Temperatures across the state can peak at 52 degrees Celsius in the daytime in summer. They can similarly drop as low as 42 degrees Celsius below zero in the winter. Despite having the driest climate in the USA, temperatures in Nevada still avoid reaching the extremes of their neighbors. In fact, California can get even hotter than Nevada, peaking at 52 degrees Celsius.
Seas once covered what would become modern Nevada.
This took place as far back as the Precambrian Eon, over 541 million years ago, and continued through the following periods. Paleontologists have identified fossils from at least 500 different species, from the Cambrian, Devonian, and Carboniferous Periods.
Starting around 359 million years ago, though, water levels began to drop. This resulted in the formation of lagoons and beaches in Eastern Nevada. Water levels continued to drop over the following periods. Both Eastern and Southern Nevada became wetlands by the Jurassic Period around 201 million years ago. And from 66 million years onward, Nevada as a whole had completely risen from the seas.
Life flourished in prehistoric Nevada.
Woodlands covered Nevada at the start of the Cenozoic Era around 66 million years ago. Trees dating back to that time include oaks, redwoods, and willows. Animal life also flourished, as mammals evolved to form prehistoric horses and rhinos. Wooly mammoths and giant ground sloths also lived in Nevada during this time.
Life in Nevada continued to flourish all the way to the Pleistocene Epoch, featuring various species like lions, mastodons, and wolves, among others. Nevada has such rich fossil records that state parks that feature it exist, such as Ice Age Fossils State Park and Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument.
Spain colonized Nevada in the 18th century.
The Spaniards first reached Nevada in the 1770s, which they incorporated into the Viceroyalty of New Spain. In 1804, the Spaniards split off the area which included Modern Nevada from California as Alta California (Upper California) for administrative purposes. This led to Mexico retaining control of the territory after gaining independence from Spain in 1821.
With the territory’s small population at the time, the Mexicans never considered making Alta California a federal state of Mexico. The US government would retain this policy after taking the territory during the Mexican-American War. Ironically, American pioneers would enter Nevada even before the start of the war.
Gambling ironically used to have an illegal status in Nevada.
This goes back to even before the US government split it off from the Utah Territory, and continued even after statehood in 1864. That said, gambling proved very popular among miners and other settlers in the region. Attempts to stamp out gambling met heavy opposition, leading authorities to look the other way instead.
This changed in the early-20th century, however, with federal authorities launching a nationwide anti-gambling campaign starting in 1910. Then came the Great Depression, and the state government legalized gambling in a desperate effort to keep the economy running. They originally meant it as a temporary measure, but its wide success and Nevada’s subsequent prosperity meant that gambling remains legal in Nevada to this day.
Unlike gambling, prostitution always had a legal status in Nevada.
This goes back to the mid-19th century when settlers flooded into the region and neighboring California in pursuit of gold. The first efforts to regulate the business took place in 1937 when the state required regular health checks for prostitutes. The business boomed in WWII to serve soldiers stationed in the state until President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered the closure of brothels near US bases in 1942.
This order stayed in place until 1948, and from the 1950s onward, local governments in Nevada began shutting down brothels as public nuisances. Starting in the 1970s, however, brothels began receiving licenses to operate legally. Today, Nevada delegates the legality of prostitution to local county governments. Counties that have banned prostitution include Clark County, which includes Nevada, as well as the capital of Carson City.
The USA first set up military facilities in Nevada during WWII.
These include Las Vegas Army Air Field, now known as Nellis Air Force Base. Today it also houses more military schools and squadrons than any other air force base. Other bases which remain in use today include Indian Spring AAF, now known as Creech Air Force Base. There’s also Naval Air Station Fallon and a gunnery range in the Black Rock Desert which remained in use during the Cold War.
Other bases later became civilian airports after the war, such as Reno Army Air Base, which became Reno Stead Airport. There’s also the Churchill Flight Strip, which became Silver Springs Airport, and the Owyhee Flight Strip, which became the Owyhee Airport.
Area 51 lies in Nevada.
Officially called Homey Airport or Groom Lake, Area 51 counts as one of the USA’s most secret facilities. This led many conspiracy theories to surround the place, claiming the base houses stolen or recovered alien technology for study. That the US government and military have refused to comment on Area 51 until recently has only cemented the base’s popular culture reputation.
However, in 2013, the US government finally made an official statement about Area 51. The base serves as a test site for experimental stealth and jet technology, which explains the secrecy surrounding it. Among the planes developed there includes the U2 spy planes from the Cold War, as well as its successors. Stealth fighters like the F-117 Nighthawk also originally came from Area 51, which today houses its more common successor, the F-22 Raptor.
The US Navy has also named ships after the state.
The first USS Nevada started out as the USS Neshaminy, a frigate first laid down in 1865. It later became renamed the USS Arizona in May 1869, and then the USS Nevada in November that same year. The ship never finished construction, however, due to a poor design that led to its scrapping in 1874. The next USS Nevada received its commission in 1903, as a naval monitor for coastal defense before and during WWI. She shared her name with the battleship USS Nevada, commissioned in 1916.
While the monitor got scrapped in 1922, the battleship went on to survive Pearl Harbor, and fight in WWII. The battleship met its end in 1948 when it sank after getting used as a target for gunnery practice. Today, the modern USS Nevada exists as an Ohio Class Nuclear Submarine, commissioned in 1986, and carrying 24 nuclear missiles.
Nevada also has an infamous history with regard to nuclear testing.
The US government set up the Nevada Proving Ground in 1951, located 105 km northwest of Nevada. Here, far from the cities and with the desert keeping contamination of nature to a minimum, the US military could freely test nuclear weapons.
The first test took place that same year, with a 1-kiloton nuclear weapon detonated at Frenchman Flat. Over 1000 tests would take place from 1951 to 1992, with surface detonations stopping in 1962, and underground testing continued until 1992.
Non-explosive testing continued afterward, however, with 27 tests having happened as of 2012. Later on, in 2018, the state government took the federal government to court over plans to store nuclear materials at the Nevada Proving Ground.
The US government also has a controversial plan to store nuclear waste in Nevada.
The plan goes back to 1987, involving building an underground storage facility under Yucca Mountain, 130 km northwest of Las Vegas. Congress approved funding in 2002 under the Bush Administration, only to reverse course and end funding in 2011 under the Obama Administration.
Environmentalists have strongly protested the plan, citing the possibility of underground contamination from leaking waste. They have also received strong support from local politicians and most Nevadans. Despite attempts by the plan’s supporters to resume funding, neither the Trump nor Biden Administrations have done so. In fact, the Trump Administration actually ended all plans for underground nuclear waste storage, while the Biden Administration has admitted it doesn’t exist on its agenda at all.
Nevada keeps its capital at Carson City.
The city takes its name from the nearby Carson River, which takes its name from Kit Carson, an explorer who guided John Fremont and his expedition into the region in 1843. Originally the site had only a trading post and a ranch but expanded into a proper city thanks to the Gold Rush of the mid-19th century. It further expanded with statehood, when it became confirmed as Nevada’s capital.
The city declined in the late-19th century, however, as new railroads far to the north reduced trade. However, industrialization from the 1940s onward caused the city to recover and even grow. Today, the city covers an area of over 400 km², with an estimated population of 55,000 people.
The city has its own hot springs.
Development of the hot springs began in the 1880s, with hotels and other facilities rising around the hot springs. The trend continued in the 1910s when local bottlers began selling mineral water taken from the city’s hot springs. Geologists estimate the springs produce up to 230 liters of water per minute, from underground sources up to 11 km deep. Temperatures average at around 49 degrees Celsius.
Today, Carson Hot Springs features indoor soaking areas, plus an outdoor swimming pool, as well as dining, massage, and other services. While other hot springs exist and have enjoyed development in the surrounding Eagle Valley, Carson City’s hot springs remain the biggest in the area.
Las Vegas remains Nevada’s most famous city, however.
The city got its name from Mexican explorers in 1821, who gave it to the flat plains where the city now stands. It literally means the meadows in Spanish, referencing the grassy and even flower-covered lands of the Las Vegas Valley. Originally, only supply forts stood in the area during the 19th century, with the city only beginning to grow in 1905 as part of railway construction in the area. The legalization of gambling in 1931, and the construction of the Hoover Dam, would cause urban growth to boom in Las Vegas.
The boom continued in WWII and in the 1950s, ironically because people in the city could safely witness the nuclear tests in the distance despite risking exposure to nuclear fallout. Today, the city covers an estimated 370 km² of area, with a population of over 600,000 people.
The Las Vegas Strip similarly makes up the most famous part of the city.
It covers a portion of Las Vegas Boulevard South which has the largest concentration of hotels and casinos in the city. The number of casinos on the Strip allows for maximum recorded profits of up to $6 billion, or 26% of Las Vegas’ total annual earnings.
Major casinos and hotels on the Strip include Bellagio, Caesar’s Palace, and The Mirage. The Strip has also seen celebrities making historic shows and appearances. These include Barry Manilow, Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Elton John, Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Jennifer Lopez, Lady Gaga, and Mariah Carey, among others. Cirque du Soleil, the largest circus in the world, also regularly holds several shows on the Strip.
The Las Vegas Strip also has a reputation for actively pursuing sustainability.
These include measures to minimize water loss, such as collecting and cleaning wastewater before returning it to Lake Mead. The minimization of outdoor water features has also worked to reduce the amount of water lost to evaporation.
Recycling has also enjoyed widespread adoption on the Strip, with an average of 40% of all waste produced undergoing recycling afterward. In contrast, the rest of Clark County outside the strip only recycles an average of 20% of all waste produced.
Measures also exist in place to reduce wasted energy, such as LED lights in place of incandescent or even fluorescent. MGM has also invested in renewable energy for their Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, with solar panels producing up to 25% of their energy needs.
The Golden Gate Hotel and Casino makes up the oldest hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
It first opened in 1906, as the Hotel Nevada, and quickly gained a reputation for having first-class services. Its popularity grew so quickly that its owner John Miller had to expand the hotel in less than a year. The hotel would also go down in history as the first place in Nevada to have a telephone, installed in 1907.
With the banning of gambling in Nevada in 1910, the hotel’s casino closed only to reopen in 1931. It renamed itself as the Sal Segav, or Las Vegas backward, in that same year. The casino received an expansion in 1955, becoming renamed the Golden Gate Casino. The hotel continued to use the Sal Segav name until 1974 when it merged with the casino to simply become the Golden Gate Hotel and Casino.
Ironically, the Northern Club had the distinction of the first casino to receive a gambling license in Las Vegas.
Even more ironically, it started out as a coffee club, first opening in 1913, and only renaming itself the Northern Club in 1920. When gambling became legal in Nevada in 1931, the Northern Club became the first to get a license to operate a casino. The club’s owner, Mayme Stocker, also went down in history as the first woman to receive a gambling license.
The club underwent many renamings over the following decades. In 1943, it got renamed the Turf Club, and again the Monte Carlo in 1945. In 1970, it got renamed the Coin Castle, and finally, in 1999, to its final name, La Bayou. La Bayou closed in 2016, with the building getting demolished later that same year.
Las Vegas also has a museum for used neon signs.
Founded in 1996, but opened to the public in 2012, the Neon Museum collects and preserves various neon signs. These signs feature both artistic and historical importance to the city, as certified not just by business owners and the city government, but also by Las Vegas’ residents.
In particular, the museum’s public opening in 2012 resulted after the Doumani family donated the historic La Concha motel’s lobby to the museum. Over 60,000 people visited the museum in 2012 alone and expanded in 2017 to both accommodate more visitors, and get more space for new additions to the museum’s collection. And in 2018, to celebrate its fifth anniversary, the museum began offering free admissions to visitors.
It also has a museum dedicated to the Mafia’s history.
First opened in 2012, the Mob Museum’s exhibits include a reconstructed courtroom, of the kind used by the Kefauver Committee. Meeting from 1950 to 1951, the Kefauver Committee exposed to the US Senate the extent organized crime had spread across the USA.
The Mob Museum’s exhibits also include the actual brick wall from the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre. Other exhibits include a large collection of photos, each featuring the victim of a mob killing, as well as a showcase on organized crime today. The museum’s opening and continued operation enjoys support from the FBI, while also facing opposition from Italian-American advocates.
Water supply makes up the biggest issue facing Las Vegas today.
While it hasn’t caused problems yet, city authorities ise expecting the possibility of it eventually causing a problem. Statistics, in particular, point to increasing water use per year, with Las Vegas using an additional 4.5 billion liters of water in 2014 than in 2011.
Rather than the wait for a drought to cause catastrophe, Las Vegas has begun work on a new tunnel and pumping station to link the city with Lake Mead. Plans for another water pipeline across the state also enjoy consideration today. While opponents argue to instead limit urban growth over building new water facilities, business leaders instead point to the importance of urban expansion to the city’s economy.
A mass shooting also once took place in Las Vegas.
This took place on October 1, 2017, when 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from a 32nd floor suite of the Mandalay Hotel. Firing over 1000 rounds into the crowd attending the Route 91 Harvest music festival, he killed 60 people and injured another 411. The shooting also triggered a stampede as people rushed for safety, which injured another 456 people.
When police arrived at the suite an hour later, they found Paddock dead from suicide. Investigation revealed Paddock used a bump stock to fire a semi-automatic rifle like an automatic rifle, leading the US Justice Department to ban bump stocks nationwide. However, the Sixth Circle Court of Appeals reversed this ban in 2021, leading to renewed debate over the future of arms control in the USA.
Reno in Nevada has its own special history.
It won its place in history in 1927, when it reduced the legal residency requirement for divorce to just 6 weeks. Suddenly, couples from around the USA began traveling to Reno, and after completing the mandatory 6 weeks of residency, filed for divorce.
This caused the city’s economy to boom, as the service industry expanded to accommodate the new arrivals. It also led to the rise of an idiom, with someone saying “We’re going to Reno” equivalent to “We’re getting divorced.” Reno’s reputation for quick divorces lasted until the 1970s when other states and cities also reduced their legal requirements for divorce.
Wildfires sometimes strike the city.
Most wildfires either burn out or get contained by the fire services before they can threaten the city. Sometimes, however, a wildfire either gets too strong or spreads too quickly, causing them to reach Reno, resulting in damaged property or lost lives. In 1960, the Donner Ridge Fire knocked out Reno’s power grid for 4 days.
Wildfires also don’t always result from natural causes, such as the Sun’s heat or a lightning strike igniting flammable materials. In 2011, damaged power lines started a wildfire that ended up burning 26 houses and killing one man. Then in 2012, improperly-disposed ashes started another wildfire, forcing the evacuation of over 10,000 people in its path.
Earthquakes regularly take place in Reno.
The most recent ones took place in 2008 when multiple earthquakes took place one after another from February to April. The most powerful one took place on April 25, measuring a magnitude of 4.7 on the Richter Scale. It damaged homes across the suburbs of Mogul and Somersett, as well as destroyed over 60 meters of the Highland Ditch fume. The latter, in particular, cut off Reno’s Chalk Bluff Water Treatment Facility from the water it needed to operate. It also inconvenienced farmers and other people in the area who depended on the flume for irrigation purposes.
The earthquakes caused concern for geologists and seismologists, as no major fault caused them. The investigation continues to this day, but scientists have ruled out volcanic activity as the cause.
Nevada shares the Death Valley with neighboring California.
Most of the valley actually lies in Eastern California, but its length means it extends into Southern Nevada. Covering an estimated area of 8000 km², Death Valley has the second-lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, at 86 meters below sea level.
The name comes from the early-19th century after a group of men looking for gold became trapped and died in the valley. The valley also experiences the hottest temperatures on Earth, peaking at 54 degrees Celsius. It even surpassed that at one point, in 1973, at Furnace Creek, with daytime temperatures reaching 94 degrees Celsius, almost enough to boil water.
Rain sometimes falls in the Death Valley.
Enough so that on average up to 40 mm of rain falls in the valley every single year. Some parts of the valley also receive more rain than most, such as Greenland Ranch, which averages 60 mm of rain every year.
During droughts and other hot periods, this can drop even further, with the lowest amount of rainfall in the valley recorded at 16 mm between 1931 and 1934.
Similarly, during wet periods in the climate, more rain can fall in the valley, such as in 2005, which saw 150 mm of rain that year. This proved enough to cause the development of salt lakes at the valley floor, which evaporated in the following year.
Native Americans live in the Death Valley.
Specifically, the Timbisha tribe, who have lived in the valley for the past 1000 years. They call the valley tumpisa, or rock paint, referencing the red ochre-rich clay in the valley. Today, the Timbisha number around 300, of which around 50 live at Furnace Creek.
An older village once stood at Grapevine Canyon, not far from Scotty’s Castle, and which the Timbisha called maahunu. Its meaning remains unclear, only that hunu means valley in the Timbisha ancestral language. Aside from the ones living in the Death Valley, the rest of the tribe lives further west, at Lone Pine in Owen’s Valley, California.
Nevada and California likewise share Lake Tahoe between them.
Located nearly 2 km above sea level in the Sierra Nevada mountains, the lake literally sits on top of the border between the two states. With an area of 490 km², a length of 35 km, and a width of 19 km, it makes up the biggest alpine lake in the entire USA.
In fact, only the Great Lakes of North America have a bigger size than Lake Tahoe in the entire USA. And with a depth of 501 meters, it also has the distinction of being the second-deepest lake in the USA after Oregon’s Crater Lake. First formed around two million years ago, the lake’s surroundings reflect the changes in the landscape caused by the glaciers of the last Ice Age.
Lake Tahoe has a rich biodiversity.
So much so that an estimated 75% of the lake’s surroundings have become a national forest, the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit under the US Forestry Service. Trees in the forest include California incense-cedar, Jeffrey pine, lodgepole pine, red fir, and white fir, among others.
Patches of flatter ground break up the forest, forming meadows, while more plantlife grows along the lake’s shores. These include coontail, curlyleaf pondtail, and Eurasian watermilfoil, among others. Plenty of fish live in the lake, some of them entirely native to it, such as the Lahontan cutthroat trout, Lahontan redside, Lahontan speckled dace, and Tahoe sucker, among others.
The Washoe Native Americans once lived around Lake Tahoe.
Not just around Lake Tahoe either, but also in the neighboring upper valleys of the Carson, Truckee, and Water Valleys. The Washoe have also had a presence extending out across the Great Basin, beyond the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Archaeologists have confirmed their presence as far back as 6000 years ago, with circumstantial evidence extending even further back, to 9000 years ago. The Washoe suffered heavily from the settlement of the region, with fighting breaking out between them and pioneers during the mid-19th century. Eventually, however, in 2002, the US government recognized the Washoe people’s cultural rights in the Lake Tahoe area.
Lake Tahoe’s name became a point of principle during the American Civil War.
In the mid-19th century, American explorer John Johnson renamed the lake Lake Bigler, after California Governor John Bigler. The governor proved sympathetic to the Confederacy in the civil war, however, leading Union figures to oppose the name out of principle.
Newspapers quickly rallied popular opposition, denouncing the name ‘Lake Bigler’ as symbolic of secessionist support. Other newspapers took the opportunity to attack the governor, in particular, his mismanagement of state finances. This eventually led to the federal government formally recognizing the Native American name of Lake Tahoe in 1862.
Intellectuals would grumble over the decision over the late-19th century. However, by the start of the 20th century, it would fully become accepted as the lake’s name.
Water quality makes for a very important issue for Lake Tahoe.
Despite efforts to control the use of land around the lake, as well as treatment of any water that goes into it, Lake Tahoe’s water now suffers from increased nutrient levels. While phosphorus levels remain low, nitrogen levels have become high, raising the possibility of algal blooms in the lake. Algal blooms could cause oxygen levels in the lake to drop to catastrophic lows, triggering mass deaths in the lake.
Investigations have since discovered that the biggest source of excess nutrients in the lake comes from stormwater runoff from urban areas. This makes the issue even more difficult to handle, as this kind of pollution has limited means to control.
Invasive species in the lake make for another important issue.
These include Asian clams and mysid shrimp, which have had a negative effect on the native fish species. In fact, native fish species had almost died out by 2019, when reintroduction efforts finally managed to stabilize their populations.
Another invasive species involves opossum shrimp, which actually wiped out the lake’s native water fleas by 1971. However, the most shocking invasive species in the lake involves goldfish. They start out as pets that their former owners released into the lake. With more food supplies and bigger living space available, goldfish in the lake have grown to what scientists describe as monstrous sizes and strongly compete against native species.
Progress has taken place for the lake’s future, however.
As far back as the 1950s, development of the lake’s shores have existed under heavy regulation. This has faced heavy opposition from business groups, but the US Supreme Court has upheld environmental interests over business ones.
Monitoring of the lake’s waters to measure nutrient and sediment levels began in the 1980s. This has allowed scientists to organize programs to limit the effects of pollution in the lake. It also allowed them to discover the presence of microplastic in the lake in 2019. However, its source remains unclear at this time. And as part of efforts to protect the lake, annual and publicly available reports on the lake get released to raise public awareness about the lake’s health.
Nevada has a very diverse population.
Whites actually make only a very small majority of Nevada’s population, at 51%. Latinos make up the next biggest ethnicity, at 29%, followed by African-Americans, at 10%. Asian-Americans make up another 9%, while Native Americans make up 1%. Asian-Americans in Nevada has a unique history of their own, with Chinese immigrants first coming to the state in the mid-19th century as cheap labor during the Gold Rush.
Japanese immigrants followed in the late-19th century, also as cheap labor for agricultural purposes. More Asian-Americans migrated to Nevada in the decades following WWI. Filipino-Americans, in particular, make up a small majority of the state’s Asian-American population, at 56.5%.
The same goes for religion in the state.
Protestant Christians make up the plurality, at 35%, with people identifying as irreligious following at 28%. Roman Catholics make up another 25%, followed by Mormons at 4%, then Jews at 2%. Finally, Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims, all make up less than 1% of the religions practiced in Nevada.
Surprisingly, though, despite Christian denominations having a majority in Nevada, the state also has the lowest church attendance rates in the entire USA. In fact, only 30% of Nevadans attend church on a regular basis. This contrasts with the rest of the country, which has an average church attendance rate of 42%.
Various Native American tribes also live in the state.
We’ve already mentioned the Washoe and Timbisha tribes, but they’re not the only Native Americans in Nevada. The Northern Paiute Tribe has a presence in Western Nevada, in the Great Basin region. Their sister tribe the Southern Paiute lives in Southern Nevada, while the Western Shoshone also has a presence in the Great Basin.
In fact, the Southern Paiute has a large community in Las Vegas itself. Archaeological evidence even suggests their ancestors might have lived on the site long before the city rose. Another tribe with a presence in the Great Basin involves the Ute, while the Hualapai of Arizona may also sometimes migrate into Nevada at times.
Mining still takes place in Nevada today.
It’s not as important to the state’s economy as it once did, but it still makes up a large part of Nevada’s economy. On average, 190 million grams of gold get mined per year in Nevada, worth $2.4 billion, and making up an estimated 9% of the world’s gold production.
Silver also gets mined in Nevada, with the state producing an estimated 290 million grams of silver per year, worth $69 million. Other metals mined in the state include copper, diatomite, gypsum, and lithium. Despite its value, the Nevadan mining sector has a degree of instability, the result of its sensitivity to changes in world prices.
Cattle ranching also makes for big business in Nevada.
Statistics estimate Nevada has 500,000 heads of cattle alone, along with another 70,000 heads of sheep. Cattle ranchers in Nevada typically let their animals graze on the flatlands in summer, before moving them indoors for winter. Calves make an exception, instead of getting moved out of the state in autumn for greener areas. There they can continue to graze instead of depending on animal feed in winter. Sometimes they don’t return to Nevada, instead getting sold before even reaching adulthood. Only a small minority of cattle in Nevada become used to producing dairy or leather among other products. Instead, they usually get slaughtered for meat and other food products.
Agriculture also takes place in Nevada.
The state’s produce includes alfalfa, hay, onions, and potatoes. The first two both make up the most important crops grown in Nevada. Both alfalfa and hay get used to produce animal feed, particularly for cattle. This becomes especially important in winter when the animals cannot graze in the open.
As the state doesn’t produce enough food for itself, it depends on imports. These imports come from the rest of the country or even from outside the USA to feed Nevada’s population. Even more so given the importance of the tourist industry in the state. All this requires constant imports to keep up with the demand, not just for the basics but also for high-end foodstuffs.
The state has a solid transportation network.
Amtrak’s California Zephyr train passes through Nevada on its route between Chicago and Emeryville, servicing the Nevadan cities of Elco, Reno, and Winnemucca. Amtrak also provides intercity bus services between Nevada and California. These include routes from Las Vegas to Bakersfield and Needles in California.
The Union Pacific Railroad has stops in both Northern and Southern Nevada, while the Interstate-15 passes through Southern Nevada. Interstate 80 likewise passes through Northern Nevada, while the Las Vegas Beltway provides road services in the Las Vegas area. Nevada also has two major airports, McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas, and the Reno-Tahoe International Airport.
The same goes for the state’s educational system.
Nevada has 17 public school districts across the whole state, providing both primary and secondary education. Various private schools also exist in the state, providing students with many choices for education.
Nevada also has ten campuses providing tertiary-level education, with the University of Nevada at Reno (UNR) as the biggest in the state. Its sister school, the University of Nevada at Las Vegas (UNLV) also has the only law school in the state, the William S. Boyd School of Law. UNLV’s Kirk Kerkorian School of Medicine only has an affiliated teaching hospital of its own, the University Medical Center of Southern Nevada.
Nevada has distinctive tax laws.
In particular, Nevada has neither personal nor corporate income taxes, as part of incentives meant to draw people and businesses to the state. Sales tax in Nevada varies from county to county, with the state government mandating a minimum of 6.85%. Five counties follow the minimum: Elko, Esmeralda, Eureka, Humboldt, and Mineral. Clark County, which includes Las Vegas, has a 8.375% sales tax. The extra covers additional costs for the county, such as flood control, law enforcement, mass transit, and public infrastructure. Washoe County similarly has a 7.725% sales tax, the extra meant to cover flood control costs.
Nevada has recently legalized same-sex marriage.
Ironically, Nevada’s state constitution banned same-sex marriage back in 2002. However, the Nevada Legislature recognized same-sex domestic partnerships in 2009 despite opposition from Nevada Governor Jim Gibbons.
Then in 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled the constitutional ban on same-sex marriage as contradictory to the US Constitution. This led to a court order halting all enforcement of the Nevada Constitution’s ban on same-sex marriage. Same-sex marriages finally became legal in 2015. The statutory ban would see abolishment in 2017, and the constitutional ban similarly saw abolishment in 2020. 2017 would also see Nevada issuing its 10,000th same-sex marriage license.
Nevada also has liberal laws on alcohol and drugs, but surprisingly, not smoking.
Bars in Nevada stay open 24 hours, and have no requirement to make last call, after which no more alcohol will get served for the rest of the night. Alcohol also gets sold from multiple outlets, from convenience stores and supermarkets to specialty liquor stores. Medical marijuana first became approved in Nevada in 2000. And in 2016, Nevada legalized individual persons to grow, transport, and use marijuana for personal use only.
Ironically, drug offenses in the state face the harshest prosecution in the entire USA. In fact, Nevada remains the only state to have mandatory minimum sentencing for drug offenses. This means that judges cannot reduce sentences below the minimum for any reason at all, unlike in other states.
In contrast to liberal laws on alcohol and even drugs, Nevada has banned smoking in public and in most workplaces since 2006. Only bars that don’t sell food allow smoking indoors. However, smoking in brothels, casinos, hotel rooms, and tobacco shops remains legal.
Voters in Nevada also have a unique option come election time.
Nevada alone among the US states gives its voters an option to select none of the candidates on their ballot. They first gave this option in 1975 and remain offered to this day for presidential, federal senatorial, and all state elections. Should a majority or even a plurality of voters vote to select none of the candidates, the candidate with the second-highest number of votes becomes the winner.
Nevada has also voted almost always for the winning president since 1912.
They’ve only broken this trend twice, first in 1976 when the state voted for Gerald Ford against James Carter. This happened again in 2016 when Nevada voted for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. This has resulted in the media using Nevada as a way to predict how an election could go.
Nevada contributes to American sports culture.
Las Vegas, for example, has the Vegas Golden Knights, which competes as part of the National Hockey League. They also have the Las Vegas Raiders, which similarly competes as part of the National Football League. Nevada also has a presence in college football, with the Nevada Wolf Pack representing UNR. UNLV also has its own college football team, the UNLV Rebels. Both of them participate as part of the Mountain West Conference. Nevada also has a women’s basketball team, the Las Vegas Aces.
The University of Las Vegas once had a very successful basketball career.
UNLV’s Runnin’ Rebels dominated American college basketball from the late-1980s to the early-1990s. Coached by Jerry Tarkanian, they won Men’s Division I with a final score of 103 to 73 in 1990, setting records for the most points scored as a team as well as the largest margin of victory at the time.
The following year, 1991, they won the regular season without a single defeat, a record unmatched until 2013 when Wichita State Shockers managed the same feat. They also became the Associated Press’ pre-season No. 1 for three years, from 1989 to 1991. It would take until 2007 for others to repeat that feat, with North Carolina’s Tar Heels doing so from 2007 to 2009.
Several famous boxing matches took place in Las Vegas.
There’s Mike Tyson’s match with Evander Holyfield in 1996, with Tyson losing his heavyweight championship to Holyfield. The 1997 rematch also took place in Las Vegas, with Holyfield retaining the heavyweight championship. This outcome proved controversial, however, as he won the rematch not by defeating his opponent, but by Tyson disqualifying him. Specifically, Tyson’s infamous incident where he literally bit off Holyfield’s ear. This not only led to his disqualification but also temporarily cost him his boxing license.
Other famous boxing matches in Las Vegas include Oscar de la Hoya’s 2007 fight against Floyd Mayweather. There’s also de la Hoya’s 2008 match against Manny Pacquiao, which marked the beginning of Pacquiao’s international celebrity status.
The annual Burning Man event takes place in Nevada.
It first took place in 1986 and has continued for 35 years to the present day. The event would see itself canceled for the first time in 2020, in light of the COVID-19 Pandemic. However, in 2021, the event resumed with limited on-site attendance, with the rest of the celebrations taking place online.
Organized by the Burning Man Project, the event takes place in the Black Rock Desert, around 160 km north-northeast of Reno. Tens of thousands of people participate in the event, which celebrates art, the community, self-expression, and self-reliance.
The event takes its name from the Man, a large, wooden effigy of a man that gets burned on Burning Man Night, specifically the Saturday night before Labor Day. The event itself stretches out for a week before Burning Man Night, and one more day after, for a total of nine days and nights of celebration.
Burning Man focuses on 10 principles.
First and most important include what the organizers call radical inclusion, meaning anyone can participate in the event. The only prerequisites include the ability to provide for one’s own basic needs, and paying the $475 ticket fee. The second value involves gift-giving, with participants, called burners, gifting each other unconditionally. Next, we have decommodification, marked by minimal cash transactions among burners. The only cash transactions allowed involve giving for charity, as well as paying for fuel and sanitation services.
Then we have self-reliance, as referenced by burners needing to provide their own basic needs. Next involves communal effort, with burners expected to help each other, and civic responsibility, with burners expected to uphold law and order on their own. After that, we have leave no trace, with burners expected to collect and dispose of their own trash, and then participation. Burners should actively participate in the event, instead of only passively observing. And then we have immediacy, with burners expected to live in the moment and experience the Burning Man on a personal level.
Every time the event gets celebrated, the participants build a temple.
Despite the name, the temple isn’t dedicated to any one religion. Instead, it’s dedicated to all the beliefs and ideals of the burners. Each temple has a unique design and is dedicated to a similarly unique theme.
For example, in 2000, the burners dedicated the temple to the mind, hence the name Temple of the Mind. In 2001, they called it the Temple of Tears, while the most recent temple, in 2021, the Temple of Constraints.
The temple remains open for 24 hours, attended by 400 volunteer Temple Guardians. Burners can visit the temple any time, and are encouraged to leave behind artworks, writings, and other dedicative materials. These offerings get burned along with the temple on the final night of the event.
Black Rock City rises every time the event takes place.
It’s a temporary city, seeing as it only forms from the collection of residential and other facilities that pop up to support the event. It typically takes the form of two semi-circular arcs, one inside the other, within a 2.4 km diameter circle with the Man in the center.
The innermost street always has the name of Esplanade, while other streets get names that reflect the main theme of the event for the year. For example, in 2004, to reflect the Vault of Heaven theme, the streets received the names of planets and other bodies in the solar system. The city also has its own airport, Black Rock Airport, to the south, for long-distance traveling burners.
The event does suffer from some controversy, however.
Environmentalists have blasted the event, claiming it adds an estimated 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. Of these, 87% come from transportation to and from Black Rock City. Other critics focus on the presence of millionaires and billionaires at the event. They even claim it has become a networking opportunity for said individuals. They also argue it subverts the principles of the Burning Man.
In particular, said rich participants don’t even bother to participate in the event. Instead, they remain inside exclusive trailer complexes, only interacting with the public for media exposure purposes. Another criticism leveled against the event involves the banning of burners from using any photos they take for commercial purposes. Critics argue this violates freedom of speech and other individual rights.