Esmeralda is one of the original nine counties in Nevada established in 1861. Comprised of mountain ranges and long stretches of flatland between the rangeland and farmland, Esmeralda is home to plenty of sights, like the 375-foot cinder cone extinct volcano or the 13,147-foot Boundary Peak, the highest point in Nevada. Meanwhile, Esmeralda’s rich mining history, which led to its initial boom at the turn of the century, has remained with the county to this day, as Esmeralda’s mines are a major resource for lithium and other minerals.
In the summer, Esmeralda’s July high is around 93 degrees. Then, in the winter, the January low is 20. Snow averages 6 inches per year, and 290 days per year are sunny. The county proves its variety by its different natural and manmade attractions. Besides Boundary Peak, there is Fish Lake Valley nearby, home to hot springs, views, and business. In Goldfield there’s The International Car Forest, an outdoor art installation drawing travelers from states over. Then there’s the Hard Luck Castle and Mine, located further south in the county, as well as Clayton Valley, Montezuma Range, and the dozens of preserved and abandoned historical buildings located throughout the county that speak to Esmeralda’s rich history.
Esmeralda’s history is full of boom, disaster, wealth, growth, and decline. The Goldfield Historical Society houses incredible information including newspapers going back to 1868, oral histories, photos, and many books covering local history, along with other resources. On their website one can find the outline of Esmeralda’s history as well as in-depth looks at early family stories, and historic properties like the Goldfield Hotel and Goldfield High School, which is in process of being restored as part of The 1907 Goldfield High School Restoration Act. For a rundown, Gold was discovered in Goldfield in 1902, and “by 1903 a tent camp of twenty people” had popped up, “and by 1907 [Goldfield] grew to be the largest city in Nevada with a population of over 20,000 people.” The Historical Society goes on to report that Goldfield then had all the amenities of a large city. Around this same time, Goldfield’s five railroads merged Goldfield with Tonopah, Tidewater, Beatty, Bullfrog, Rhyolite, and Las Vegas. After the fire of July 6, 1923, Goldfield “would never again resemble the great town that it once was.” Since the mining boom, Goldfield’s attraction has expanded into the surrounding region of Esmeralda. Now, mining is still key in the lithium deposits found in the county.
Although Esmeralda is not near boom as it once was, as a close community with recreation and tourism at its hand, it draws visitors from all over. Esmeralda County’s website and the Chamber of Commerce’s website both do a great job at providing residents and visitors of the history and activity of the surrounding region. In Goldfield, the Esmeralda County seat, the community’s activity is seen in its growing number of private businesses, including Dinky Diner, The Hoist House Bar & Grill (or known by some as Mozart Club, and which drivers-through recommend for its fun events and good times) and Rebel Roadhouse for restaurants. Culture thrives in the tight-knit community, and businesses like the Barbarossa and Bear serve to promote Goldfield’s history and solidarity. This involved and active store Barbarossa and Bear showcases mining collectables and vintage wares. The radio station Radio Goldfield (KGFN 89.1) hosts live shows and fundraisers for the community. Similarly, The Burro Express publishes a quarterly newsletter. Other cultural centers include the Warehouse Museum & Orchard Company; the Hidden Treasures Trading Company and the Goldfield Radio Museum, all promoting and preserving Goldfield history. But besides these preservation centers, all stores and businesses in Goldfield bring the community together. This includes Goldfield Fireworks (whose Esmeralda history online is also very informative); The General Store; the jewelry repair shop Gems of the Great Basin; Larry’s Motor Bikes; The Goldfield Emporium; the Santa Fe Saloon and Motel; and Goldfield Stop Inn. This may not match the 49 saloons, 27 restaurants, and 15 barbershops of 1907, but Esmeralda’s current activity represents a community self-reliant and interactive.
Outside of Goldfield and into the rest of the county, recreation and tourism are active in Esmeralda. Fish Lake Valley pulls visitors with its access to both hot springs and cold views of snowy mountain ranges. Although overlooked, all around Esmeralda are sights to see. The Esmeralda Market, RV Park and Cabins is an oasis gateway to White Mountain Peak, Boundary Peak, The White Mountains, Horse Thief Canyon, the Fishing Trail Canyon Reservoir, and more. The Fish Lake Valley Heritage Center brings it all together, with the buildings constructed from timbers salvaged from historical points around the area, dating back to the early 20th century. Outdoor activities include hiking, rock and gem hunting, horseback riding (and wild horse sighting), off-roading, exploring remote canyons, fishing, exploring ghost towns (Gemfield, Gold Point, Lida, Culprite, Diamondfield, to name a few of the dozen), and hunting.
These activities, available for residents and visitors, contribute to the heart of Esmeralda. Both long-time citizens, as well as passers through speak with pride and awe of this county in the desert.