Discovering the truth behind Nevada legends.


Researching a story on Nevada’s biggest, smallest, largest, shortest, oldest, etc., facts was a scavenger hunt, and proof that one day a new adage will be noted: Just because it’s on the Internet, doesn’t make it true. While some of the information I found had a kernel of truth, much was simply equal parts distortion and rumor.

There are, however, plenty of distinctions held by Nevada. What follows is a smattering of fun facts, record-breaking feats, a couple of corrections, and some simply cool observations for anyone who loves Nevada.


The Bristlecone Pine grows in harsh conditions with cold temperatures and high winds.

Let’s start with a fairly well-known fact: The oldest single living organism in the world is the Bristlecone Pine, Nevada’s state tree. Until 2012, the oldest non-clonal tree was Prometheus—a Bristlecone found in Great Basin National Park near Ely that was dated at almost 5,000 years old.

Not true: “The oldest skeletons of early man were found in Hidden Cave near Fallon.” While Hidden Cave is legit, and large caches of artifacts were found in the cave dating more than 4,000 years old, no skeletons were found. (Check out a video of Hidden Cave at

We like it hot: Nevada has more hot springs than any other state—312, to be exact. Not surprisingly, Nevada leads the nation in geothermal energy capacity and plants. and (To read more about hot springs, visit

Not quite true: “Great Basin National Park is home to the USA’s southernmost glacier.” Close but no cigar; Wheeler Peak Glacier is one of the southernmost glaciers in the country. Lilliput Glacier in Tulare County, Calif., is the farthest south.

This one works: Nevada has more than 300 individual mountain ranges and 42 named summits higher than 11,000 feet, making the Silver State the most mountainous in the country.

Where the pavement ends: The Black Rock Desert hosts so many records it’s hard to keep track of which are real. A couple true ones include the world land speed record set there in 1997 (760.3 mph), and it includes the longest intact segments of the California-to-Oregon historic emigrant trails. Not quite true is the claim that it’s the largest playa/lakebed in the USA; but it is one of the largest!


Winning: Nevada’s Senator William Stewart was a principal sponsor of the 15th Amendment, and Nevada was the first state to ratify the amendment giving African-American men the right to vote in 1869.

Unfortunate, but true: Kit Carson—the explorer John C. Frémont named the Carson River after—was the only U.S. Army brigadier general who couldn’t read. Carson was not born in Nevada, nor did he attend school here.

The Galena Bridge in Washoe Valley outside Reno rises 300 feet above the valley floor.

Is it or isn’t it? For years it was thought the Nevada Constitution was the longest telegram ever sent—16,543 words sent across the wire in 1864. And while that was true for 18 years, in 1881 the English Standard Version of the New Testament was transmitted from New York to Chicago at a whopping 118,000 words.

Hopefully never true: Reports claim the Washoe language of the Washoe Tribe is the No. 1 most endangered language in the world. While it’s estimated that there are fewer than two dozen speakers, there are other languages more critically endangered.


Standing tall: The LINQ’s High Roller is the world’s tallest observation wheel at 550-feet tall, 107 feet taller than London’s Eye. The pods hold up to 40 people each, and a single-rotation trip takes 30 minutes.

The Stratosphere Las Vegas was originally planned to be more than 1,815 feet high, but the FAA said the building would interfere with flights to nearby McCarran Airport.

Lights out: Nevada State Route 604—aka the Las Vegas Strip— is the only neon-lit road decreed an “All-American Road.” The Department of Transportation has named only 15 All-American Roads.

The LINQ’s High Roller moves at just 1 foot per second to allow passengers to load and unload without stopping the ride.

Get a room: Not surprisingly, there are more hotel rooms in Las Vegas than any other metropolitan area in the country, with 149,347 as of May 2014.

Going up…and up: The tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States, The Stratosphere Hotel and Casino, is 1,149-feet high. If that weren’t enough, the highest commercial decelerator descent facility is the Stratosphere’s Sky Jump. The jump from the 108th floor descends 829 feet and riders reach speeds of 40-50 mph on the way down.


Wendover Will greets West Wendover visitors.

Howdy! Wendover Will is—at 63-feet tall—the World’s Largest Mechanical Cowboy. Will has two “little” brothers; Vegas Vic and River Rick, both of whom are 40-feet tall.

This one doesn’t make it to the top: As recently as 1995, Nevada newspapers have told the story of how the Goldfield Hotel had the first electric elevator west of the Mississippi. Alas, mythbuster Guy Rocha notes that distinction goes to a building in Spokane, Wash.

Details, details: Both the O’Callaghan-Tillman Memorial Bridge at Hoover Dam and the Galena Bridge outside Reno have been called the longest arch bridges in the country. Like most debates, there’s a bit of truth on both sides: O’Callaghan-Tillman is the longest concrete arch bridge in the USA, and the Galena Bridge is the longest cathedral arch bridge in the world. Note how just a couple of tiny words make a world of difference.


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