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Elko

Poetry and railroad history live in this cowboy capital


Straddling the Humboldt River, Elko lies along the historic California Trail. Here, builders broke ground on the portion of the Central Pacific Railroad that would eventually connect California to Utah in the 1800s. The unspoiled nature surrounding Elko is a refreshing treat for those who come to visit this stunning high-desert world. The city is said to have been named by the superintendent of the Central Pacific Railroad, Charles Crocker, who was fond of animal names and thus put an "o" at the end of Elk.

For visitors, a great first stop is the California Trail Historic Interpretive Center, where exhibits devoted to local Native American history share space with displays telling the story of determined pioneers who crossed the 500-mile-wide Great Basin. There are lots for adults and even kids to do and see here. It's very informative, interactive and a great overall experience for all. Another great museum option is the Northeastern Nevada Museum, which houses a unique collection that's considered to be one of the best of its kind in the state.

Elko is famous for being the destination of the first commercial airmail flight in the United States. A prop plane flew from Pasco, Washington, to the Elko Regional Airport in 1926. Today, the economy is, not surprisingly, built on tourism, gold mining and ranching. Nevada produces more gold than all but four countries in the world, and Elko is considered the capital of Nevada's gold belt, as most of Nevada's gold is mined in and around Elko.

Depending on the price of gold at a given time, the town has experienced a boom or bust economy. Elko is surrounded by hundreds of mining camps, and people who visit Elko often end up viewing and touring these mining camps while here. The gold booms that have occurred in the past, unfortunately, were followed by eventual busts that have challenged local governments. But economic ups and downs haven't dampened the pioneer spirit of this Western town.

The Western Folklife Center is located downtown in the Old Pioneer Hotel and fosters an understanding of the everyday traditions of those who work and live in the American West. Elko is also the home of the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which has been going strong for more than 27 years. Each January, the weeklong event celebrates life in the rural West and features music, stories, poetry, film, gear, food and photography.

While enjoying Elko, it's an absolute must to head over to the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest and savor the great outdoors in a national preserve that spans two million acres and offers visitors a slew of fun outdoor activities to choose from. With excellent hiking, horseback riding, backpacking and camping, the forest is a prime destination for lovers of nature. You can also enjoy leisurely drives through the forest to see the spectacular scenery. The trails are all well-maintained, with brilliantly colored wildflowers often growing in abundance along the way. The Lamoille Lake hike is particularly breathtaking and features the natural, pristine beauty of the area that refreshes all who encounter it. Along the way there are tranquil picnic spots, beautiful native plants and compelling rock formations.

Since 1963, Elko has hosted the National Basque Festival every July. This year, the festival celebrates its 50th anniversary. Sometimes referred to as the "Basco Fiasco," the festival celebrates traditional Basque culture and the ties it has to the Elko community. There are many events at the festival, including Basque Dancing, Strongman Competitions, Handball, Running of the Bulls and traditional Food and Wine. Another fun festival is the annual Elko Motorcycle Jamboree, also known as "Rumble in the Rubies Motorcycle Rally." It's usually held during the hot summer months in beautiful Elko.

As in so many Nevada cities, Elko is home to several casinos: Stockmen's Casino and Hotel, Gold Dust West, Red Lion Casino, Commercial Casino and more. Inside the Commercial Casino is a stuffed 10-foot-tall polar bear, which stands for all to see. Some visitors stand pose to this goliath mammal for photographs.

Interestingly enough, Elko is also known for being the home to legalized prostitution, with a number of active brothels in town.

Elko is located along Interstate 80 and is the largest city between Reno and Salt Lake City. Many come to enjoy the rugged beauty of the Ruby Mountains and experience the rich Western culture and history. During the warmer summer months, hikers enjoy traversing the rocky trails, while winter brings snowboarders and skiers who shred down the mountainside.

Another fun place to visit while in Elko is The Two Olde Crows country shop, located within a charming vintage house. Each of the rooms inside the house is pleasantly decorated with country items for sale, including some homemade candles that emit a relaxing, homey aroma. The d├ęcor, along with the artwork that is displayed around the house, is simply magnificent, not to mention the delicious apple cider that is in a slow cooker for customers to help themselves to. Truly a heartwarming experience, the ambiance is memorable, as are the delicious samplings of chocolates and breads of every yummy variety imaginable.

Elko is a one-stop shop for fun outdoor activities for any season as well as a great place to visit since it is stock-full of history that brings back images of what the Wild West must have been like. With peaceful forest settings nearby, you get the best of both worlds in a quintessential, high-desert city.

For More Information:
Elko Convention and Visitors Authority
800-248-ELKO
www.elkonevada.com

Travel Nevada
800-NEVADA-8
www.travelnevada.com