[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 3: US 6 in Nevada (Tonopah to Ely; Nye County, White Pine County)

Go to: Part 2 | Main US 6 page | Part 4

In this part we travel through an awful lot of nothing. I promised you that US 6 in Nevada is as lonely, if not lonelier, than US 50, the official loneliest highway in Nevada. You be the judge.

This entire segment of US 6 is the former routing of NV 4 to Ely.

Distance signage leaving Tonopah.
PM 4.
Shortly out of town is a junction with NV 376, which treks between two of the short northern ranges on its isolated way to US 50.
Distance signage leaving the NV 376 junction, with our first signage for Delta, UT.
I hope you filled up in Tonopah. If not, go back!
PM 9 and Grand Army of the Republic signage.
Outside of town, the Tonopah Speedway, with an amusing cloud of dust demonstrating it is very much in use. The local (non-military) airstrip is nearby.
Entering the Toiyabe National Forest. This is now part of the consolidated Humboldt-Toiyabe NF and is the principal national forest in Nevada with a small section along US 395 in California. At 6.3 million acres, it is the largest National Forest in the lower 48, unusually composed out of ten scattered discontinuous ranger districts. The Humboldt, named by explorer John C. Fremont for German naturalist Baron Alexander von Humboldt, was established in 1908; the Toiyabe, the Shoshone word for "mountain," was established in 1907.
PM 19.
The majestic mesas overlooking us as we start the first of several ascents and passes in the next two Parts. Mostly igneous basalt, their volcanic origin is typical of the geology in this region.
McKinney Tanks Summit, 6,391'. Most of these summits' origins have long since disappeared in history. I will comment on them where I have reasonably solid information on their provenance.
Descending into the valley.
PM 24.
Curving back towards the second ascent.
EB US 6.
Saulsbury Summit, 6,522'.
The rough, rocky terrain.
PM 30.
Leaving Toiyabe NF.
Out into the wide desert of central Nevada.
PM 40.
Curving around on a gentler ascent.
Warm Spring Summit, 6,293'. The weather here can be unpredictable. On this particular summer day, a thunderstorm was forming in the east and we'll be driving right into it.
The bleached white sandy soil infests the crags and plains we dart along.
Advance signage for NV 375.
Junction NV 375 at Warm Springs.
That's about all there is for Warm Springs. I don't even know if this cafe is open with any regularity. It wasn't when I drove through.
NV 375 is officially the "Extraterrestrial Highway" (the sign is erected by NDOT). Acting as a cutoff between US 6 and US 93 on its way south to Las Vegas, NV 375 actually terminates a bit shy of the US highway at NV 318. Its course may not be nearly as lonely as US 6 due to the nearby presence of the military, various amateur alien vivisectionists and of course the infamous secret Area 51 military installation. For some years the route was actually closed to public travel and represented a glaring gap in the routing of NV 25, which was its number prior to the Nevada Great Renumbering in 1976. It received several realignments to yield a route more palatable to the military to take its final form in 1957.
The Extraterrestial Highway moniker dates back relatively recently to 1989 when engineer Bob Lazar claims to have seen alien spaceships and saucer test flights in the nearby Tikaboo Valley. By the 1990s, these stories had entered the popular consciousness and the ever-ready Nevada Commission on Tourism was able to get the highway designation in 1996. Tied in with the recent movie Independence Day, the dedication ceremony in April 1996 was attended by actors Jeff Goldblum, Robert Loggia, Bill Pullman and Brent Spiner, and then-Governor Bob Miller declared the speed limit to be "Warp 7." The effort was quite successful, bringing visitors and tourism dollars to the region and the little town of Rachel despite the relatively low traffic count of about 200 cars per day. The stickers are not NDOT issue.
Distance signage leaving the NV 375 junction.
PM 52.
The clouds are rolling in, yielding dapples of light and shadow on the rocky hills.
PM 61.
EB US 6, probably the view I think is most typical of this stretch.
Curving around to another lower summit as the storm clouds coalesce further.
Sandy Summit, 6,030'.
Down and curving through another valley.
This local geographic depression, however, is part of the Lunar Crater and the Lunar Crater Back County Byway, designated by the US Bureau of Land Management. The name is an intentional misnomer: the bowl-shaped depression through which we drive did not originate from a meteor impact but rather from a collapsed volcanic cinder cone. The Byway follows a 24-mile loop of unpaved road circling US 6 roughly circumscribing the depression. It was designated in 1973.
PM 82.
Ascending out of the Lunar Crater.
Blackrock Summit, 6,257'.
Interesting NDOT test signage at the summit, with PM (MP) 88.
The descent down from Blackrock Summit is rapid and steep, and the volcanic rocks are sharp and gnarled.
Into another strandy valley.
Distance signage.
Along the low curves.
Black Rock Station, the only gas since Tonopah, if they have any.
And if they don't, you're really in trouble if you're starting to run low.
EB US 6.
PM 100.
Some refining operations out here in the nothing where it won't bother anyone.
PM 110.
BLM signage for Ely District.
PM 115.
NV 379 and the junction of Currant.
NV 379 exists mostly to serve the Duckwater Indian Reservation, populated by the Western Shoshone and covering 3,815 acres. It continues from there as county road to US 50 near Eureka, although NAVTEQ gives it a state shield throughout.

The little town of Currant is probably named for the wild currants that grow along the nearby creeks.

Distance signage leaving the NV 379 junction.
Curves dominate this section and gradual ascent with the storm clouds now darkening in earnest. There were flashes of lightning in the distance.
A gloomy and harrowing scene as we creep between sheer outcroppings and crags. The ripped escarpments show their layers of geologic history in the bare rock faces.
Now the Humboldt portion of the Humboldt-Toiyabe NF as we continue to climb.
PM 127.
This higher altitude scrub forest contrasts with the desert waste we left only a few miles ago.
Currant Summit, 6,999', probably also named for the fruit. There is also a nearby Currant Mountain and the Currant Mining District, all likely named for the same.
The descent is just as twisty as the rise.
White Pine county line and final postmile for Nye County (PM 132.02).

White Pine County, NV

White Pine county is named after the limber pine (Pinus flexilis), a common subalpine tree throughout western North America that also goes by the names of Southwestern white pine and Rocky Mountain white pine. Related to the long-lived bristlecone pine, at least one specimen of the limber pine in Oregon is known to be over 2,000 years old. Established in 1869 from Lander county, its county seat since 1887 has been Ely, which we reach in this part and see in more detail in the next. Dominated by the mining industry, some limited operations continue today, particularly copper. The population is 10,030 [2010].

Continuing down from Currant Summit.
Leaving Humboldt NF.
PM 5.
Leaving the crags behind for older, smoothed hills.
PM 9.
And now the rain falls. The remainder of these pictures were taken under glass. Sorry about the image quality.
Approaching the NV 318 junction to Lund.
NV 318 junction at Lund Jct.
Originally NV 318 was NV 38/38A prior to the Great Renumbering, and was subsequently consolidated into one route by 1946. It mostly follows the White River through the small town of Lund down to Nye and Lincoln counties through Sunnyside and Hiko, picks up the end of NV 375, and proceeds thence to Crystal Springs and US 93. NV 318 is most famous as the site of the Silver State Classic Challenge road race, the venue of the highest speed record ever achieved on a public highway (207.7801 mph, in 2000, set by Chuck Shafer and Gary Bockman in a Chrysler LeBaron ARCA racer). Note to Nevada Highway Patrol: my Saturn SL2 was not driving anywhere near that fast. Twice a year, almost 100 miles of its 110 mile length are closed for the Classic Challenge and the Nevada Open Road Challenge. It was renamed the Silver State Classic Challenge Highway in 2012.
Now you tell me! (PM 14.)
Distance signage leaving Lund Junction.
Ascending for one more summit through the sheets of rain as thunder rumbles.
PM 21.
PM 28.
Forest loses its appeal when the precipitation is torrential.
Curving around the tree line.
Murry Summit, 7,316'. There are many things in White Pine county named Murry and they are probably all the same Murry, likely one Lieutenant Alexander Murry, the commanding officer of the local Army escort at the time of the Ely area's settlement circa 1870. We will see more of this name in the next Part. Despite its altitude, this is not US 6's highest reach in Nevada (let alone the entire route).
Descent into Ely.
Leaving the Humboldt NF. We'll come back in Part 4.
PM 35.
Municipal limits of Ely proper.
Tonight's deluxe accomodations and tonight's full course meal while we wait for the storm to pass.
Continue to Part 4
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