Winnemucca is a town in Humboldt County, Nevada. The entire region in which this beautiful city sits is made up of vast and graceful desert valleys with streams and lakes full of fish, magnificent mountain ranges and a temperate year round climate. There is plentiful hunting and world-class fishing here. Numerous hotels, restaurants and cultural attractions sit here just waiting for visitors and residents alike to explore them.
This town provides a colorful historical perspective of the Emigrant Trail and the early days of gambling. It has much folklore and legends that spark the imagination about the lore of the old west.
Beginnings of a city
The town of Winnemucca evolved out of a wagon crossing on the Humboldt River. At the time, in 1850, this area was called French Ford. It was only a trading post and hotel which serviced miners and settlers on their way to the new land. When a bridge was built across the river and the ford was no longer necessary the town was renamed Centerville.
The first mining claim was made on Winnemucca Mountain in 1859. This makes Centerville one of the oldest mining sites in Nevada.
Naming of the Town
When the railroad arrived to Centerville in 1863 it was decided that the town needed yet another new name. It was decided that the name would honor the neighboring Paiute tribe so it is named after the tribe’s chief. The City of Winnemucca was named after Chief Old Winnemucca, a famous Northern Paiute Indian. It was one of President Lincoln’s map makers who gave this city its name.
Before the California Gold Rush, many prospectors came into the area of Humboldt Sink from the Boise River country. The chief the town is named after was first seen by these prospectors, as he stood there wearing one moccasin. His other foot was bare. “Mu-cha” is the Paiute dialect for moccasin and so these men referred to him as “wan-na-muc-cha” which means “one moccasin.” The Chief was pleased with this part English, and part Paiute name. He adopted it as his own and was from that point on referred to by his tribe as Wan-ne-muc-cha.
In 1870 Basque men started coming to northern Nevada, and once they had enough money would send for their wives and children. Even now northern Nevada, including Winnemucca, has the largest Basque population anywhere in the USA. The Winnemucca Basque Festival, that is held the second weekend in June each year celebrates the unique customs of this cultural group.
When gambling became legal (after some repeals and repleals of repeals) gaming tables started popping up all over Winnemucca. Thanks to an entrepreneur by the name of Joe Mackie, and his promoting of the gambling there, people started visiting Winnemucca not just as a place to stop on a long trip, but to enjoy the gaming and other attractions offered there.
Most of the residents of this town make their living with agricultural quests and mining. The town is located 265 miles southwest of Boise, Idaho and 167 miles east of Reno, Nevada. The city covers 5.4 square miles with only about 11,000 residents. Because the entire Humboldt County is rural, almost half of its population lives within this city’s limits. Despite the fact that many people in this world think that the “cowboy way” is just a movie legend, in Humboldt County it really is the way of life for many.
Winnemucca, In the Present
Winnemucca sits at a geographic crossroads. Adventurous drivers come into the heart of the Black Rock Desert via Jungo Road. A rail line with daily Amtrak service runs parallel to many of the town’s major streets. Drivers from Oregon and Idaho come into the middle of town on US Highway 95. East and west through Winnemucca runs Interstate 80. Because of this it is an ideal location for many conventions and meetings. The Winnemucca Convention Center is managed by an enthusiastic and highly qualified staff. They offer amenities to make any convention a success. The convention center offers reasonable rates and if certain criteria are met, sometimes use of it is free.
Not only is it a geographic crossroads, but also a cultural one. Besides the large Basque population, who speak their native language, Euskera, and practice customs of their homeland, there is also a large and active Hispanic population here. There is also the Western Band of the Western Shoshone Native American tribe colony within the city limits.
There are four building in Winnemucca that are on the National Register of Historic places. The first of these is the Winnemucca Grammar School. The grammar school, located at 522 Lay Street, has pleasant red brick and white trim exteriror. The school is arguably the most impressive in the city. It was built in 1927 and 1928 and cost $100,000 to do. Second is the W.C. Records House. Third is the old Winnemucca Post office. The W.C. Record House, located at 146 West Second Street, is a house that was built in 1874. It is one of the cities oldest structures. It features gingerbread gables and other Gothic Victorian touches. Finally, the fourth, the Humboldt County Courthouse. The courthouse at Fifth and Bridge streets, was constructed in 1919 after the original one built down. It opened in 1921 with much fanfare.
Winnemucca has over eleven hundred hotel rooms and at least 350 RV spaces. It offers over 30 restaurants ranging from elegant dining to the most casual fast food. It has 5 casinos for twenty-four hour fun and excitement. On the northeast side of Winnemucca is the Events Complex. It covers 56 acres and has 10,000 square feet of exhibit space in two buildings. It also has two large arenas. The fairgrounds features warm-up facilities and stalls and a livestock barn.
Due to the town’s central location between San Francisco, California and Salt Lake City, Utah, is has long been a stopover for weary travelers wending their way through the Great Basin. The Humboldt County Visitors Center holds a wealth of information about the area, with visitors welcomed by the Humboldt County Chamber of Commerce. William Humphreys Big Game Collection is a major display in the Visitors Center. The Buckaroo Hall of Fame, which is a display of authentic buckaroo life from those who helped tame the Great Basin, is also displayed here. Other exhibits at the Visitors center include some representing the mining and other local industries as well as historical representations of the Great Basin, the pioneer trail, local Native American heritage and Basque heritage. The visitor’s center, full of local history and information is a definite must-see for any visitor.
Some of the events that happen in Winnemucca include:
Winnemucca Visitors Guide, 2003