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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Paradise and the Santa Rosa Range

October, 2006
by John C. Evanoff

North of Winnemucca twenty-two miles on Highway 95, take the NSR290 turnoff and you will eventually find Paradise. Paradise Valley sits beautifully between a horseshoe shaped range of mountains just north of the Little Humboldt River. If you want to stay in country luxury, check out the Stonehouse Country Inn just south of town and then visit the bar in the center of Paradise. This area of Nevada is a rancher’s paradise where the soil generates growth of almost anything planted in it. Paradise was the bread and beef belt for all of the miners in the region in the 1860’s and with the mining of three million dollars in silver in the nearby hills, the area prospered until the mines ran out about two decades later. Paradise today is more alive than ever with people discovering the valley’s charm and quiet. More and more people have been exposed to this valley because of the nearby Santa Rosa Mountains and the Chimney Creek Reservoir. The Little Humboldt River lazily streams out of Chimney Creek dam, about 20 miles southeast of Paradise. The reservoir has an abundance of walleye in the 3 to 5 pound range and rainbow trout from 9 to 21 inches. Most walleye are caught from boat, but I’ve had luck using a wet fly imitation of a crawdad or a Colorado jig with a weedless hook over some of the rocky points. The rainbow attack the jig also but I’ve caught and released as many as two dozen two-to-three-pound trout with an 1/8 oz. brass colored panther martin on cold autumn mornings. This lake is also full of large crappie and channel catfish and in the summer a lot of the residents in the area can be found bait fishing with red worms. The upland game hunting in the area is also fantastic including rabbit, quail, chukar, pheasant and sage grouse.

North of Paradise is the Santa Rosa Wilderness. The road is bumpy through the mountain pass at Hinkey Summit at 7,867 feet, but it is well worth the effort to reach the little campground called Lye Creek. The autumn is especially colorful in the area, so bring a camera. And if you enjoy the starry nights, bring your telescope because the campground is definitely one of Nevada's best dark sky observation points. The cottonwoods, aspen and poplars brighten the canyons leading down Granite Peak standing at more than 9,700 feet and the hike to the peak’s summit is one you will always remember. The Santa Rosa Range extends northward and several small springs feed into creeks coming from both the east and west sides of the mountains. If you have the time to trail hike or ride a horse along the crest, you will be rewarded with spectacular geographic and wildlife views. The largest mule deer I’ve ever seen in Nevada was just below Calico Mountain in the northeastern Santa Rosa Range back in 1982. As I looked at it through my binoculars, its rack of seven on one side and six on the other looked extremely wide. I could only guess with my Tasco 12 x 50mm binoculars at about 200 yards, but I would make it a Boone and Crockett score of 220 at minimum with a right and left main beam length of at least 28 inches and an inside length of 30 inches. The middle aged buck, probably around six years old, weighed in excess of 350 pounds. Since the rutting season begins in October, you may see some of these large mule deer in and around the Santa Rosa Wilderness along with other Nevada wildlife celebrities such as bighorn sheep, mountain goat, pronghorn antelope, elk, bobcat, mountain lion, coyote, fox, skunk, golden eagle, red tailed and coopers hawk, kestrel, great horned and ground owl, prairie falcon and mountain blue bird. The Nevada Department of Wildlife explains hunting restrictions in detail on its website http://www.ndow.org/ . Most hunting is done with special tags and licenses which are highly regulated. NDOW law enforcement is extremely tough on anyone caught breaking the law. Poaching is a felony and Nevada’s Operation Game Thief campaign has successfully educated thousands of youngsters and adults about the care of our environment and nature and the importance of turning in poachers to protect future generations of wildlife.

Driving down the dirt road a bit further you will meet up with Highway 95 again which leads north to McDermitt. Lt. Colonel Charles McDermitt set up a camp in 1865 along the Quinn River just five miles east of present day McDermitt to protect settlers and travelers moving back and forth from Star and Humboldt City, Nevada into Boise, Idaho. He lost his life along the Quinn River in an ambush and the camp was built up into a fort which was later named after him. The army left the area about a decade later and eventually the cavalry post became home to the Northern Paiute-Shoshone and the Fort McDermitt Indian Reservation.

McDermitt is home to the oldest ranch hand rodeo in the state known as the Twin States Stampede in July and one of the most notable Indian Rodeos in the west in June. It is also home to some of the nicest folks in Nevada, all enjoying a lifestyle of relaxed and cheerful existence. Just ask any of them for the time of day and you may end up talking about the area for an hour or more.

Next month we’ll take you northwest from Highway 95 on a old Willamette Valley detour trail to Denio Junction, the Summit Lake Indian Reservation and the high desert plateau along the Nevada/Oregon border. The Conestoga wagon tracks can still be seen ground into the slate canyon beds from the thousands of settlers headed west into Oregon country which included the entire northwest above the 42nd parallel. This detour trail was used by some emigrants and guides because of hardships encountered along the “Devil’s Backbone,” the Oregon Trail in Idaho, including Indian raids on livestock by the Modoc and Northern Shoshone. Some still say today the death of an entire Indian nation was caused by the Old Oregon Trail through Idaho.


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