Over a century ago, the town of Winnemucca was little more than a stopover point for weary travelers. With the Humboldt River twisting about, it offered water and supplies to the thousands who would wend their way through the treacherous routes of the Great Basin.
Today, this high-desert hub still offers those same amenities. But with 24-hour gaming, a multitude of recreational opportunities, a rich and still-enduring history, and agricultural, mining and other industrial centers, Winnemucca is no longer simply a stopover point. No, truly, in Winnemucca—there's more than meets the eye.
Gateway to the Great Basin
Winnemucca began as French Ford, a wagon crossing on the Humboldt River. It's estimated that half the gold seekers making their way to California and Oregon took the route skirting the Humboldt River, then shot northwest through the Black Rock Desert. It was logical, then, that commerce would begin at the best place to ford the river, and in 1850, a trading post was erected at the present site of Winnemucca. That was followed by a hotel, the Central Pacific Railroad in 1869, and eventually a river bridge.
Winnemucca was at the heart of early emigrant activity and is located today at the crossroads of Interstate 80 and U.S. Highway 95. Further, the town continues to be a gateway of sorts to the Great Basin, with Idaho and Oregon to the north, Salt Lake City to the east and Reno and the Bay Area to the southwest. Winnemucca is the seat of Humboldt County and half of the county's population of more than 18,000 lives within the city's limits.
Winnemucca--Your Best Bet
Winnemucca has five major casinos with exciting 24-hour gaming action, including slots, table games, live keno and sports books. Over 1,150 rooms can accommodate any kind of traveler, and a full menu of restaurants can appease any appetite, including two that serve up traditional Basque fare. The Winnemucca Convention Center offers 26,000 square feet of space, while the Humboldt County Fairgrounds sport an outdoor arena and grandstand, an Exhibit Hall, a large and useful 4-H Barn and over 800 permanent and temporary horse stalls.
Those two facilities host this area's long list of popular events, including Winnemucca's own classic car fest, Fifties Fever, and the West's premiere photography symposium, Shooting the West. In addition, numerous national rodeos make their way to Winnemucca, including the state's oldest rodeo held each Labor Day weekend as part of the Tri-County Fair & Stampede.
A Recreational Paradise
Nestled between mountains to the south, sand dunes to the north and water sources all around, Winnemucca offers a host of great recreational opportunities.
It's just a short trip to some of the best mountain biking in the West. The 36-mile long “Bloody Shins Trail,” as the Winnemucca Trail System is affectionately called, is located on the south side of Interstate 80 along the Sonoma Mountain Range. In addition, Winnemucca maintains four city parks, two lighted tennis courts, seven basketball courts, a skateboard park, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. A very popular 9-hole golf course is also open to the public year-round.
Good hunting includes deer, sagehen, duck, geese, quail, dove, pheasant and antelope. Fishing grounds are stocked with trout, catfish, crappie and walleye. Rockhounds appreciate the local mines and mineral resources, and locals and visitors alike enjoy the sand dunes, trap shooting, boating, water skiing, archery, hiking, camping, ice skating, roller skating, volleyball, basketball and aerobics. In addition, Winnemucca is just a short drive from Rye Patch State Park and Reservoir, Giant Tufa Park, Kingston Canyon and northern Nevada's best natural hot springs.
An Historic Haven
Winnemucca is filled with remembrances of its past. The town is still home to many historic buildings, including the town's first hotel, the Winnemucca Hotel. A church built in 1907 has become the Humboldt Museum; the beautiful Humboldt County Courthouse, built in 1919, has been likened to Thomas Jefferson's Monticello; and the site of Butch Cassidy's infamous robbery of the First National Bank of Winnemucca still stands at the corner of Fourth and Bridge streets.
Just outside Winnemucca, wagon wheel ruts can still be seen near the Humboldt River, and a surprising number of ghost towns, reminders of the perils of mine booms and busts, are one or two hours away in any direction.
Center for Agriculture, Mining, and Industry
Humboldt County is the leading agricultural county in Nevada. Primary crops include potatoes, alfalfa, hay, grains and alfalfa seed. Mint, beans and lettuce are also produced here. Winnemucca Farms, Inc. bases its operation here, making Winnemucca home to one of the largest potato fields and potato dehydration facilities in the world.
Livestock production in Humboldt County includes beef, small flock sheep and a few hog operations. Once a year, the town sponsors a video cattle auction where millions of dollars in cattle are bought and sold via satellite. In addition, mining—especially gold mining—continues to be a major source of revenue in the area.
Be Our Guest
Today, Winnemucca offers an oasis in the high desert for residents and visitors alike. But there is more here than meets the eye. With 24- hour gaming action, recreational opportunities, a rich history, and agricultural, mining and other industrial concerns, plus an overall friendly atmosphere, Winnemucca is the West's best bet. Please, be our guest.