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A prolonged drought in the Southwest has communities contemplating a dry future and the potential consequences. But for one Nevada town it wasn’t the lack of water, but the opposite, which caused it to disappear more than 70 years ago. Today, Lake Mead has receded to the point that visitors now have an opportunity to see a town that was once submerged.
On July 4, 1910, boxer Jack Johnson defeated former champion and white opponent James Jeffries in Reno. Although lesser known, Johnson’s triumph (and seven-year reign as champ) is as culturally important as Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her seat on a busy Alabama bus 45 years later.
Her gold cross and spire crown the Comstock from any direction, white tower gleaming in the sun. When lit by dozens of lights at night, she becomes a heavenly beacon. Saint Mary’s in the Mountains church has been a staple in Virginia City for nearly 150 years.
Imagine climbing countless flights of stairs for three consecutive days with little rest and a 60-pound pack on your back to boot. This is the level of rigor Carson Valley legend John A. Thompson endured on each of his expeditions while delivering mail from Genoa to Placerville, California for nearly 20 years in the mid-1800s.
Did Reno’s divorcees really throw their wedding rings into the Truckee River? If so, has anyone ever found any? Or, was it just something dreamed up by a novelist in 1929? The answers are yes, yes, and, most likely, yes.
William Lewis Manly and John Rogers filled their canteens with brackish water, loaded their rifles, and stuffed as much ox meat as they could fit into their makeshift packs. Striking west from near Furnace Creek Wash in early 1850, they shouldered the forlorn hopes of a dozen men, women, and children lost in the Nevada-California desert for three months.
Alice Ramsey’s most vivid Nevada memory during her 1909 visit wasn’t the chocolate cake and pork chop she was served for breakfast at a ranch west of Austin; nor the “rather enjoyable” sensation she felt when she saw a dozen bare-chested American Indians on horseback, bows drawn and galloping toward her outside of Eureka; nor her delight at the beauty of the irrigated ranches surrounding Fallon. Rather, it was the electric feeling of reaching Sparks.
A few hours drive east of Tonopah off U.S. Highway 6, the eastern slope of the Hot Creek Range is a testament to rural Western culture. Tucked into canyons and near scarce water sources are crumbling monuments to mid-19th- and early 20th-century miners and ranchers. A trip to the area transports visitors to a time when life was hard and self-reliance was the order of the day.
Virginia City’s Piper’s Opera House has stood as a monument to Comstock entertainment for almost 150 years. Even after withstanding two disastrous fires and suffering through financially tough times when the Virginia City mines ceased operation more than a century ago, Piper’s has managed a successful transition into the 21st century—but it hasn’t been easy.