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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Northeast Elko County

Montello, Jackpot, the Jarbidge and Wells
June, 2006
By John Evanoff


I’m taking you to a corner of Northern Nevada very few people get a chance to explore. It’s more raw country than one can write about or experience in just the few paragraphs I have to work with, but I hope you take the time to see this wonderful piece of the west. Once you have, you will agree with me it is very special.

West of Wendover on I-80 a little more than thirty miles is the little town of Oasis and the turn off to SR233 that leads northeast some twenty miles to Montello. Stop in at the Cowboy Bar there and have their famous Cowboy Burger, a treat if you like homemade fries and a giant fresh burger. A bit further east down the road, you will come to Dakes Reservoir which is full of large pike, some up to 40 inches long. If you see a mud hen all of a sudden disappear into the lake never to come back up, it was probably a hungry monster pike feeding in the shallows. I use special care when fishing for these giants because of their extremely long sharp teeth. It’s best to use barbless hooks on your lures and a good pair of needlenose pliers to unhook them for your protection. In the fall, the lake is also a common stopover for thousands of Snow Geese and ducks of all kinds. My favorite drive is back on a dirt road just outside of Montello heading north past the old Gamble Ranch and into the Thousand Springs area and further on to the Grouse Creek area. A little lake known as Crittenden Reservoir about 15 miles north is full of trophy trout. No fish 15 inches or under is allowed to be taken home and fly fishing or barbless lure fishing are the preferred methods of catching rainbow from the 20 to 24 inch range. The fish reach these sizes because of this restriction and the large amount of bass fry in the lake. If you must take home trophy fish, the limit is three, but catch and release is the most practical fishing method for most experienced fishermen. Be prepared to see huge herds of mule deer in Northeast Elko County. We’ve seen herds as big as 200 to 300 strong along the road that traverse the hay fields of the giant Gamble Ranch. The dirt road meanders north and finally meets up with Highway 93 that goes north to Jackpot and south to Wells. This route was also used by the 49ers moving west across Nevada and in several spots in the Thousand Springs area, ruts of those Prairie Schooners or small Conestoga wagons are still embedded in the earth. I’ve been in some of these sturdy wagons and can attest to their durability for use on the old California and Santa Fe Trails, but I can’t even imagine grinding the wagon wheels hub high through muck, sand, water and rock for months at a time. If you have the time, take the northern route on Highway 93 into Jackpot and visit this little gambling town with its small stores and friendly casinos. Just north of town across the Idaho boarder is a road that leads west out of Rogerson into the town of Jarbidge about sixty miles to the west in Nevada. For those who have 4x4s, this is a great chance to see some of the most beautiful wilderness areas in all of Nevada. The Jarbidge Wilderness is by far one of my favorite horseback riding areas and Jarbidge itself has a great many historic tales from its beginning as a gold mining camp in 1910 to its place in history as the last place a stagecoach was robbed in the west in 1916. The Jarbidge River runs through the canyon and narrow ghost town with Matterhorn Peak standing majestically in the distance above at more than 10,800 feet. The colorful Bull Trout is native to the river but we don’t fish them so they may be protected. The canyon water eventually ends up in the Snake River which flows into the Columbia and eventually the Pacific. Although the area is small in size compared to other larger forested areas in Nevada, it has the distinction of being extremely remote and hard to enter unless you have a horse, a helicopter or a lot of time to backpack this very beautiful natural wonder. A lot of the region and wilderness will hopefully be kept roadless to preserve this quality for future generations.

South on Highway 93 from where we came out at Thousand Springs is the little town of Wells. Of course you can reach it by going west from Wendover over the scenic Pequop Summit or East from Elko on I-80. Highway 93 goes south through the town and along the Humboldt Range to SR 232 and SR229. Both of these roads find their way into the back end of the fabulous Ruby Mountains and the Ruby Valley where I wrote a little about the great fishing at Ruby Lake. But just west of Wells is a little paved road that goes to Angel Lake. All the lakes of the Ruby Mountains have either Brook or Rainbow Trout in them, so come prepared to catch a lot of fish. At Angel Lake, there is a clean and quiet campground and the view of the area is breathtaking. The lake is planted with rainbow each year and it’s not uncommon to catch a limit of five ten-inch trout in just a few minutes. I would bring your backpack with you so you can hike into the three other nearby small lakes in the area and see for yourself the variety of animals and plants of this high alpine region. Look for Sagehen, quail, chucker, mule deer, antelope, coyote, eagle, hawks, owls and big horn sheep. The road is usually plowed and opened in June depending on snow conditions of the previous winter. There are hiking trails throughout the range and for those hardy enough, a trip up Hole in the Mountain Peak at 11,276 feet is a truly exhilarating experience and the views and camera shots are well worth the effort.

Next month, we will visit the little Yosemite of Nevada and the grand town of Elko. Lamoille Canyon, Starr Valley and the Ruby Mountains are wonderful places to spend an entire month or more. In fact, the famous “crooner” himself, Bing Crosby, thought so much of the area, he bought a large working ranch there and spent many summers hiking, horseback and buggy riding in the region with many of his movie star pals.


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