Nevada History by John C. Evanoff

Visitreno.com is excited to present this series of articles by noted author and poet, John C. Evanoff. John will tell us about Nevada history and cover some of the more remote and unusual things to see and do in Northern Nevada.

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The Biggest Glory Hole

Ruth, Ely and McGill
by John C. Evanoff
April, 2006

Finally we finish our ride across Highway 50, the “Loneliest Road in America,” at the edge of Eastern Nevada where we visit my friends Ruth, Ely and McGill.

Few places in Nevada move me to reflect on fishing and the outdoors more than this region of the state. Within a fifty square mile area there are so many fishing, hunting, trail hiking, sightseeing and backpacking areas that I could write two or three columns about this territory, but I will endeavor to pack it all into one.

First of all is fishing. Cave Lake, Comins Lake, Illipah Reservoir, Basset Lake and a multitude of creeks and streams in the region are some of the best trophy fish areas in all of Nevada. Cave Lake has the record for the largest German Brown Trout and Comins Lake has the record for the largest Northern Pike with each fish weighing in at more than 27 pounds. Cave and Comins Lakes are just east of Ely and attract the most attention by anglers. But the other lakes and creeks in the region are loaded with rainbow, German brown and brook trout and pike, catfish, and some bass.

My wife, Sharon, and I have fond memories of all of these areas but especially Cave Lake which has a clean well kept state maintained overnight campground and picnic area. We had many days when we caught and released as many as a hundred trout in a day.

The hunting in the region can be summed up with one word…awesome. Bird hunting includes Sage grouse, blue grouse, chukar, dove, quail, duck, geese and pheasant. Some of the largest sagehen I have ever bagged were in White Pine County and the Schell Creek Range. Also, the Mule Deer are huge in the Success Loop area and south of Ely in the Egen Range, the Elk herds have grown substantially.

Success Loop is a few miles east of Ely where a paved road travels towards Cave Lake State Park. If you have a day or two, take the thirty or more mile drive along Steptoe Creek and over Success Summit in the fall to see some of the most moving and remarkable shades of autumn colors you will ever see in your life. When I was much younger, we used to gather chokecherries and elderberries in the canyons and produce wonderful pancake syrup. Some surprising rock formations in the canyons make for great photographs and the hillsides are loaded with wildlife including Mountain Blue Bird, pinion jays, rabbit, golden eagle, coyote and Clark’s Nutcraker. Occasionally, you may also see a mountain lion. I’ve seen mountain lion on the cliff wall side of Cave Lake and at Duck Creek.

More than 40 ghost towns are located in this area of White Pine County which produced more wealth than all the other mines in Nevada put together. Most notably, the town of Ruth was established in 1903 with the discovery of copper and within a few years, the Nevada Northern Railroad began transporting copper ore to the smelters in McGill and 60 pound copper cakes through Cherry Creek north to the Central Pacific railroad line at Wells, Nevada. Kennecott Mining began to close down operations in the area in 1956 and employees of the company were given first rights of ownership of their homes in Ely and McGill. McGill up to that period consisted of segregated blocks of houses and work camps divided by ethnic group.

South of Ely about five miles is the little company town of Ruth. If you take the county road 44A past the old buildings, you will come to the Liberty Pit Overlook. This pit is the result of more than fifty years of huge steam shovels moving more than 40,000 tons of ore per day from the earth producing what is considered the largest Glory Hole in the United States. More than 14 miles of train track within the Liberty Pit were taken out in the late 1950’s and replaced with roads for giant dump trucks. The breathtaking view of this astounding hole makes Ruth a must see on your trip. By 1978, Kennecott had closed all the mines in the area but some new mining companies have taken up ventures in and around the Ruth and Hamilton regions known as the Robinson Region. If you are an amateur prospector, you might also want to stop at Garnet Hill near Keystone Junction to try to find some quality gemstones.

For all its history and attractions, one thing sets Ely apart from any other town in Nevada which is the restored Nevada Northern Railway. The Nevada Northern Railway provides railroad buffs a chance to board an antique steam locomotive for a ride from East Ely to Ruth and north to McGill and Cherry Creek. The scheduled “Ghost Train” runs begin on Memorial Day and go through Labor Day with inexpensive fares and some great events throughout the year. The depot in East Ely on Avenue A also has some great pictures and museum pieces from this famous copper, gold and silver mining period. You can find out more about the rides and events at http://nevadanorthernrailway.net/index.htm.
Also, the White Pine County Museum is just down the street from the depot and is a great place to see mining samples and the local history of the area.

You could spend years in discovering more about this region of Nevada and you would be hard pressed to find an area as diverse and beautiful from the Steptoe Valley to the mountain peaks of the Schell Creek and Snake Ranges. When you go, take the time to visit as many of these areas and in as many seasons as possible. You will be well rewarded with fantastic memories and photographs.

Next month, we will head north from Ely on Highway 93 to Wendover, Nevada, Pilot Peak, Blue Lakes and the Bonneville Salt Flat, the location of some of the fastest men on earth on the ground and in the air.


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