Nevada - Introduction
is in Nevada, and the vast
majority of visitors to the state will travel nowhere else, apart perhaps to the other main city Reno, also noted for its casinos. This is because there is little of obvious interest to see; there is only one national park - Great Basin
, created as recently as 1986, and none of the great canyons, rivers, lakes or snow-covered mountain ranges found in other Southwestern states. There are however 6 National Forests, although mostly without trees, and several unusual state parks including Cathedral Gorge
and Valley of Fire
. The attraction of Nevada lies in the emptiness, the stark beauty and vast scale of much of the landscape and the sense of frontier life that may still experienced in the remote countryside.
Few main roads
cross Nevada - the one east-west route is I-80 which for 407 miles traverses the desert basins and hilly ridges, follows the sprawling Humbolt River for a while then approaches the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains near Carson City. Most other roads follow the valleys north-south, but huge areas are without easy access, particularly the salt flats and dry lakes of the northwest desert, and the Nellis Air Force Base, location of much atomic weapons testing from the 40s to 60s, which stretches over 100 miles. One well-known route is US 93
, dubbed 'the loneliest road in America', which runs from near Phoenix in Arizona all the way to Canada.
Nevada's topography is characterised by long mountain ridges running north-south, with wide, flat basins in between, sometimes with dry lake beds or salt flats - all rivers in Nevada run inwards and the water either evaporates or seeps below ground. The far northwest is more open and desert-like; here is found the Black Rock Desert
, a huge empty area now used for the Burning Man Festival and land speed record attempts, while the opposite southeast corner is part of the Mojave Desert, and has temperatures over 100°F for several months of the year.
Nevada is the most desolate and empty of the Southwest states, with a population of only 2.5 million, 80% of whom live in the two major metropolitan areas. It well rewards the traveller seeking a more peaceful and isolated Southwest experience.