Elko County is the second-largest county by area in Nevada, and the fourth-largest in the United States. At 17,203 square miles, such an open space provides Elko citizens and passerby a varied landscape of mountains, hills, valleys, ranch and rangeland. The cold season averages between -below 0 º to 25º, while the hot season averages at about 79 º. Midway between Reno and Salt Lake City, and bordering Idaho and Utah, Elko County is seated perfectly for a blend of rural industry, small town life, and a not-so-distant city connection. The Shoshone Paiute Tribes of Duck Valley Reservation occupy 289,819 acres, straddling the Nevada-Idaho border.

History tells us that “Sixty years ago Lowell Thomas called Elko ‘the last real Cowtown in the American West,’ and until about 15 years ago that was still a good thumbnail description.”1 Today agriculture and recreational fishing and hunting is still prevalent in Elko County, although it has decreased in total jobs. Meanwhile mining and oil/gas extraction, along with even retail trade, have offered an increase in jobs in recent years, as well as billions of dollars in gold and silver mining production alone.

Geographical conservation along with natural resource extraction are both pivotal aspects of Elko County and its communities. According to a reform report, the county “was hardly scratched [for gold] in the 2008 to 2012 Great Recession” because of economical fears.2 Into 2018, then, mining remains a key industry for Elko County. At the same time, nature conservation helps bring a necessary balance to the region. The Elko County Fire Protection District enforces open controlled burning, and ensures safety.3 The Spring Creek Association promotes outdoor recreation and other amenities for citizens, such as, at the thirty-two acre marina, “fishing, canoeing, wildlife viewing, covered picnic areas with grills, open space, and playground equipment.”4 Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Marshes National Wildlife Refuge, Jarbidge, Wildhorse Dam, and many other state parks provide hiking, camping, fishing, hunting, and other recreational activities.

Culture is alive in Elko County. Every year, for thirty-six years now, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering takes place in Elko. The gathering embraces its role as a “pilgrimage destination for thousands of ranch folk and others who love the West and come to learn and experience art that grows from a connection to the rhythms of earth and sky.”5 Throughout the rest of the year, the Western Folklife Center also hosts private events, dances, and art exhibits.

The community is active in providing for each other and seeing the individuals of Elko grow. The Elko County Art Club is an involved non-profit organization that offers private parties, weekly lessons, kids classes, and special events.7 The Tuscarora Pottery School hosts artists from across the country to enhance their throwing, glazing, and firing skills. Elko Community Concert Association sponsors a performing arts series each year, Great Basin College and other organizations present theatre productions throughout the year, and the Northeastern Nevada Museum features photographers, speakers, performers, film makers, and artists. The Elko County fair is an annual event that draws approximately 20,000 people, and is put on by “a group of dedicated volunteers, hard-working competitors, and generous businesses and individuals who sponsor the event.”8 The Elko National Basque Festival, Cinco de Mayo, and TeMoke Paiute Shoshone PowWows celebrate the County’s diverse population. These events as well as the Mining Expo and the Ruby Mountain Balloon Festival attract exhibitors and balloonists from across the country. Elko’s news source, the Elko Daily, acts as a consistent resource for local and national news.

This rural county, growing in population, represents the type of small-town life that balances the community and the individual, and business and recreation. All signs point to the citizens being able to take pride.

  1. Toll, David. http://nevadaweb.com/cnt/cc/elko/
  2. Schneider, Keith. http://modeshift.org/419/the-white-house-wants-to-disrupt-elko-county-and-a-whole-lot-of-other-places-in-the-west/
  3. https://www.elkocountynv.net/newsdetail_T4_R283.php
  4. https://www.springcreeknv.org/about-us.html
  5. https://www.nationalcowboypoetrygathering.org/about-the-gathering
  6. https://www.westernfolklife.org/
  7. https://elkocountyartclub.wildapricot.org/
  8. https://elkocountyfair.com/about-us/
  9. https://elkodaily.com/

County Website: https://www.elkocountynv.net/

D. Zapata 2021, Cultural Overview for Elko County, NV, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno

Authors of this scholarly work are no longer available.

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elko airport

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP) - Elko County

NEAP's quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analysis for Elko County

Thomas Harris speaking to group of Nevada Economic Assessment Project Stakeholders at an update meeting

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP)

The Nevada Economic Assessment Project focuses on providing Nevada’s counties, state and federal agencies, and their partners with quantitative and qualitative baseline data and analyses to better understand the counties’ demographic, social, economic, fiscal and environmental characteristics, trends and impacts. The data can be used for land use and project planning, grant writing and overall policy assessment.