History

Humboldt County is the oldest county in Nevada, with a description dating back to 1881 of “alkali plains, covered in part with scattering sage-brush, with now and then a tuft of bunch-grass.” Bordering Oregon and the Nevada counties of Elko, Lander, Pershing, and Washoe, today the Humboldt high desert is mostly characterized by flat valleys and abrupt mountain elevations, with views to wildflower, sagebrush, meadows, and even sand dunes. This geographic backdrop and history in the west lends Humboldt County to being part self-reliant and part community-driven.

In Humboldt County summer days are hot, and at night the temperature drops. In the winter, lows average around 16 degrees and the county averages 18 inches in snow. While the county was originally named for the Humboldt River, the county is currently made up of less than 0.1% water.

Apart from census-designated places in the county, such as Paradise Valley or Fort McDermitt, Winnemucca is the county’s sole incorporated city. This city, partly due to its rich history, supports activity that makes this community the chief outsourcing center in Humboldt County. For example, Amtrak, with its California Zephyr, provides daily service in Winnemucca towards both San Francisco and Chicago. Winnemucca also houses the headquarters of the Winnemucca Indian colony of Nevada, which is a federally recognized tribe of both Western Shoshone and Northern Paiute Indians.

Community

As the county seat, Winnemucca, together with its surrounding area, is a very involved community. Annual events are hosted here that draw people from across the country. The Annual Basque Festival celebrates the region’s very prominent Basque culture, which historically, and to this day, plays a huge role in the county’s leadership and industry. The Run-A-Mucca Motorcycle Rally and the Winnemucca Wheels Car Show celebrate all things automotive, with concerts, vendors, and a parade. the Ranch Hand Rodeo, and more. For 31 years now, the Ranch Hand Rodeo is one of Nevada’s largest rodeos. Here folks gather and compete and enjoy Saddle Bronc Riding, Steer Stopping, and more. Similarly, the Western States Ranch Rodeo Association (WSRRA) hosts a rodeo. Other annual events that solidify Humboldt County’s role in the state and nation include the Tri-County Fair & Stampede and Shooting the West, a photography symposia celebrating the beauty of western landscapes.

Even a glance at the current calendar events shows Winnemucca and the rest of Humboldt County to be culturally alive. Recent events include the Winnemucca Nevada Big Game Banquet, the Winnemucca Toy Run, Winnemucca Futures as part of the Boys & Girls Club of Winnemucca, real estate workshops, general business workshops, Wine Walks, and archery challenges. There is also the Humboldt Museum, the Winnemucca Sand Dunes, the golf course, a half a dozen city parks, and, of course, the visitor center.

Perhaps the main core, however, is the school district. The Humboldt County School District serves the northwestern part of the state. The schools themselves are housed mainly in Winnemucca, but they extend to Denio, Kings River Valley, McDermitt, Orovada, and Paradise Valley. Humboldt County offers its students and children a wide variety of sports, including baseball, basketball, football, and volleyball, golf, soccer, tennis, and dance. This brings the community together with weekly events and gatherings and provides a sense of hometown pride.

The Winnemucca Police Department is also an active part of the community. They are an involved, supportive, and supported organization that hosts their own events, but above all, provides safety and security. Similarly, the Humboldt County Sherriff’s Office, located in Winnemucca, “is dedicated to the citizens living and visiting Humboldt County by earning and maintaining their trust and confidence with professional law enforcement services.” From interactive comments on the police department web page to the consistent involvement of officers at events around town, it is clear that the police department is a stable core of this rural community and its surrounding areas.

The Humboldt County Extension offers educational programs to residents of the county from the Winnemucca office to help ranchers, farmers, school children, teachers, caregivers, consumers, homeowners, business owners, and more.

A glance at a satellite map proves Humboldt County’s self-reliant solidarity, with its patches of farmland in-between the interstates and the off-roads. However, Humboldt County is more than just a spot on the map. Its citizens are active community participants, and daily involvement proves the region’s relation to the rest of the state and nation.

Sources:

 

D. Zapata 2021, Humboldt County Cultural Overview, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno

Authors of this scholarly work are no longer available.

Please contact Extension's Communication Team for assistance.

 

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Associated Programs

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.

main street of the town of winnemmucca

Nevada Economic Assessment Project (NEAP) - Humboldt County

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