Mineral County was established in 1911, and since its inception, the county seat has remained in Hawthorne. Hawthorne sits about 120 miles from Carson City and 130 miles southeast of Reno, and the 3,813 square miles that make up all of Mineral are home to lakes, mountains, and 4,471 individuals (DETR, 2017). Much of the county population reside in Hawthorne and Schurz. A large portion of the Walker River Indian Reservation, which belongs to the Walker River Paiute Tribe, resides in Mineral County just north of Walker Lake. US Route 95 which connects Las Vegas to Reno runs north and south through the county and will take you through Mina, Luning, Hawthorne, and Schurz; while State Route 359 will take you west into California.
Mineral County was founded in 1911. At the time, Esmeralda County was considered too large, thus Mineral took Esmeralda’s northern part and was formed. The town of Hawthorne, due to its importance as a pivotal passing point on the Carson and Colorado railroad, became Mineral’s county seat. Growth in Hawthorne was slow at first, increasing from 337 to 436 between 1890 to 1900. Ten years later, the population increased to 469. In 1926, a fire burned most of the business district and downtown. Despite this loss, Hawthorne endured as a community.
During World War II, Hawthorne became the holding site for a naval ammunition depot. This national installation increased Hawthorne’s population to 13,000, and, after the war, population lingered around 1,000 to 2,000. Since then, the ammunition depot has moved from the navy to the army, and today a private contractor oversees surveillance of the depot. Meanwhile, the population has gradually grown, and Hawthorne, within the rest of Mineral County, remains a center for outdoor recreation.
Landscape and Climate
With 273 days of sunshine on average, Mineral County is quite dry and gets approximately five inches of rain per year (Climate, n.d.). Well above sea level, much of Mineral sits at around 5,500 feet in elevation. The highest point in the county can be found at Mount Grant, at over 11,000 ft. This point is located in the Wassuk Range which spans across 424 sq. miles in the northwest part of the county. Much of the county falls into the Shrubland category of land coverage (42%) which is home to dry summers and a dominance of woody plants not exceeding 15 feet in height (Smith, 1996). Other notable categories of land coverage include barren deserts and grasslands.
Walker Lake is the largest body of water located within Mineral and feeds the Walker River running north and south up through Schurz. Smaller lakes litter the county such as Alkali and Weber Reservoir. Within the Wassuk Range you will find North Fork Cat, Rose, Dutch, and Cottonwood creeks flowing.
Community and Events
Hawthorne is called “America’s Patriotic Home”, and you can find red, white, and blue running through its streets. The city is home to the Hawthorne Army Depot which served as an ammunition staging area during World War II, it is said to be the largest of its kind in the world. Similar to the Army Depot, the historic 1942 USO/Courage Theater is located in Hawthorne and has been restored for special events and visitors alike.
For those looking to explore the outdoors, Mineral provides hunting, fishing, four-wheeling, boating, hiking, and camping opportunities throughout its land. If you are looking to ATV, OHV, or take your 4x4 for a spin, Mineral County offers many hiking opportunities. For example, there’s Pilot Peak in Mina, or Allum Creek Canyon in Hawthorne. Also in Hawthorne, Walker Lake State Recreation Area is best known for its miles of sandy beaches, its golf course, and its access to boating, wind sailing, 4x4ing, and camping (Walker Lake, n.d.). Elsewhere around Mineral County, there’s the little shop Rock Chuck in Schurz, and many ghost towns can be accessed in Mineral County running along US 95, such as Aurora just outside of Hawthorne or in the southern part of the county one will find Candeleria.
Other attractions include the Paiute Indian Museum located in Schurz, and each September the city hosts an annual Pine Nut Festival which includes a 4x4 mud run. The Ordnance Museum in Hawthorne houses a tank, wartime ammunition, missiles, and other military gear from the past. For the rockhound, one may visit the Aurora Crater or take advantage of the numerous geocaching opportunities within Mineral County.
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