[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

Floodgap Roadgap's Summer of 6 -- U.S. Highway 6, Part 4: US 6 in Nevada (Ely to Utah State Line; White Pine County)

Go to: Part 3 | Main US 6 page | Part 5

With last night's storm mostly behind us, we start today where we left off in Part 3 in Ely. Ely is the county seat for White Pine county and its largest and only incorporated city at 4,255 [2010]. Originally Ely was Murry Creek Station, founded as a stagecoach station on its eponymous creek along the Pony Express and Central Overland Route lines around 1869 or 1870. The name Murry, which we saw at the Murry Summit in Part 3, probably comes from Lieutenant Alexander Murry, who was the commanding officer of the local Army escort in the region.

Interestingly, the name "Ely" was already in use around that time with a completely different origin. John Ely, a native of Illinois, was one of the principals of the Raymond & Ely Mine in Lincoln county, and the Pioche Mining District was renamed for him in 1870. As a result, the boomtown that subsequently grew up around their stamp mill was the first "Ely City" and contemporary accounts of "going to Ely" referred to this area near Pioche.

However, the "Ely" in the modern city of Ely actually comes from another mining principal, Smith Ely (say EE-lee). Smith Ely operated a copper mine in Vermont and the town of Vershire in which he operated changed its name to Ely in 1878 to court his investment. (This didn't last long, because unbeknownst to the town, Ely's operation had serious financial issues. After substantial local unrest, the town changed the name back in 1882, and Ely's mines all but collapsed financially by 1900.) As it happened, Smith Ely also owned property nearby Murry Creek Station; presumably for this reason and no other, Frederick F. Thomas, a local miner, ignored the established Murry Creek Station name when applying for a post office and used Ely's name instead. No one objected at the time, but the coincidence with Lincoln's Ely City snarled local historians for years as late as the 1980s. In 1883 and 1885 the once proud previous county seat of Hamilton burned to the ground in stages and the few remaining residents abandoned their holdings; Ely took its place in 1887.

In 1906, Ely took its turn as a boomtown, but for copper instead. Unlike the gold and silver towns, Ely's copper mines remained in large-scale operations well into the 1970s until the price of copper collapsed. A brief gold boom operated during the 1980s to keep the town afloat. By then, however, technology solved the problem by enabling copper extraction from more plentiful lower-grade ore and a new set of mining corporations continue to work the copper mines, strengthening the economy as copper demand has increased. This caused the rare situation of reactivating former railroads; for a time the now-defunct Broken Hill Proprietary Nevada Railroad ("BHP Nevada") operated regular service from 1996 to 1999 to haul the ore for from BHP's concentrator to the processors over what used to be a section of the Nevada Northern Railway. This reactivated line ran from the Union Pacific station in Shafter, NV through Ely up to Riepetown. However, the volumes proved more economical to transport by truck and the railroad folded, and most of its rolling stock went to the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. Much of the rest of the Nevada Northern trackage is also part of the museum, formed after the NNR shut down in 1983, with a section owned by the City since 2006; the old railroad to Ely is now the Ghost Train of Old Ely tourist attraction. Copper mining operations continue to this day.

In this section we meet the mighty (lonely) US 50 coming east from Carson City (see US 395 in Carson City for this segment) and US 93 coming north from Las Vegas (see US 95 in Las Vegas for this segment). US 50 in this section is of course the famous Lincoln Highway and is well marked as such into the present day; see US 395 Part 11 for a voluminous discussion of this transcontinental highway's history. US 50 will travel with us for a long run well into Utah.

Back at the municipal limits.
Distance signage looking westbound, with Bishop listed correctly as terminus, 283 miles distant (Part 1).
At this point (PM 36) old US 6 and old NV 4 branch off along a business route. The modern truck bypass exists to keep the mining trucks out of the downtown and was built in the 1990s. We will do each of these routes in turn.

Fork 1: Business US 6 and Old US 6 in Ely

The old routing of NV 4 and subsequently BR US 6 proceeds down Murry Street to the US 50 and the former routing of NV 2 on Aultman Street.

The downtown is well signed as the historical district from modern US 6 proper.
Old slotted STOP sign at one of the local side streets.
This section of old US 6 is now a residential block and would be totally unsuitable for commercial traffic.
The stately brick city hall, built in 1928. Next door is the fire department.
Junction BR US 50. It is unclear, but unlikely, that US 50 proper was ever routed on Clark mostly because of several old and well-known landmarks on modern US 50 on Aultman (a block north). Neither business route is not very well signed in general, though US 6 is clearly signed worse, at least at the time.
Junction US 50 at Aultman St (and old NV 2). This is the end of old NV 4 and BR US 6. The historical junction is clearly acknowledged by NDOT, who placed this control city sign here (notice DELTA on greenout covering probably ELY based on the size), not something they typically do for ordinary city streets intersecting the highway.
Looking west at US 50 snaking back into the mountains. We turn right into downtown Ely to continue US 50/old US 6.
Entering downtown Ely.
The historic six-story Hotel Nevada. Opened in 1929, it took the crown from the Mizpah Hotel in Tonopah (Part 2) as the tallest building in Nevada and remained so for nearly two decades. The state's first fire-proof building, it continues to offer lodging, dining and (of course) gambling to the modern traveler.
Courthouse Park, though the building behind it is the library.
The old White Pine High School, built in 1913. It is the middle school now; the modern high school moved to the US 6 bypass in 1996.
US 50 shield, obviously with something missing to the left where the US 6 shield used to be.
Approaching the US 93 junction.
Just next to us is a Lincoln Highway post, which appears to be an original installation dating to 1928. Weighing approximately 220 pounds, the posts are built to last with solid concrete and central steel-rebar reinforcement. President Lincoln is stamped on a bronze medallion embedded in the head, and the L badge and colour strips are typically cast concrete with colour added for superior durability, though this one seems to have been painted, possibly secondarily. Unfortunately many of these stately artifacts of highway history have become targets of theft and vandalism.
Notice that the arrow faces east along US 93, and not along US 50/93 south. That's because the Lincoln Highway actually leaves north of town with US 93 (and old NV 2), a holdover of a fight between Utah and Nevada where Utah refused to pave the original course of the Lincoln Highway west of Salt Lake City concluding it was expensive and of no benefit to Utah. Nevada and the Lincoln Highway Association desperately lobbied for Utah to change their position to no avail; Utah instead paved the Wendover Cutoff, part of the competing Victory Highway and becoming part of the original US 40. The Lincoln Highway Association conceded and adopted the new routing, and it also became US 50 in 1939 (and subsequently US 50 ALT in 1957, read on). When Interstate 80 was built in parallel, the old routing became part of BR 80 in Wendover, UT and West Wendover, NV, a rare instance of a cross-border business route. (Another example is BR 8 between Yuma, AZ and Winterhaven, CA.)

As signed in 1939, US 50 left town to the north with US 93, as the post indicates. It then diverted along modern US 93 ALT to US 40 and the Wendover Cutoff. Meanwhile, US 6 existed on the then-unpaved road between Delta and Ely (which we'll travel in this part and the next). This was planned as a major future corridor, the so-called Grand Central Highway between Ely and the Arrowhead Trail (later US 91 and now I-15) in Santaquin, UT, because it avoided the Great Salt Lake Desert and was allegedly a superior route to Los Angeles than the Arrowhead. Utah and Nevada eventually completed paving on this stretch and US 50 was moved to it with US 6, leaving the old alignment as US 50 ALT circa 1954 to continue through Salt Lake to US 50 in Provo (we'll see this too). Utah discontinued certain overlapping portions of US 50A in 1972 and Nevada left its piece as US 93A.

US 50 had one more major realignment in Utah, but we'll get to that when we get to Delta.

US 93 is also signed TO US 6 (the truck bypass). We leave our brief sojourn on the Lincoln Highway and turn right.
This modern sign obviously omits the US 6 shield.
Distance signage leaving downtown Ely, with a single mile to go to US 6.
Looking back at the junction as we leave town.
US 93 is a scenic route, but apparently only US 93, I guess.
Junction modern US 6. All roads in Nevada apparently lead to Vegas. If you take US 93 south, you can go that way (284 miles) more or less directly, or you can take US 6 back to Lund Jct, take NV 318 down to US 93, and then to Vegas from there (240 miles). Your choice, of course.
Fork 2: Modern US 6

And now, modern US 6.

Prepared for your business!
EB US 6.
PM 37.
The modern White Pine High School. Visit the Bobcat Store!
Approaching the end of our previous fork and merging together. We turn right.
Leaving town as EB US 6/EB US 50/SB US 93.
Looking back at the US 6 junction.
Distance signage leaving Ely. Pioche is included for US 93 drivers.
Grand Army of the Republic signage.
Briefly we pass through the Ely Shoshone Indian Reservation.
PM 40.
The scrub valley terrain shines in the bright morning sun.
Comins Lake, one of the little small lakes outside of town. The construction of US 93 dammed up several of the local creeks and formed the lake in 1953, which acts as a reservoir. Local fishing had been seriously impacted by pike predation on the trout, which were illegally introduced, and pike cannibalism have even taken a toll on the invaders themselves.
PM 52.
Passing by Ely State Prison. Opened in July 1989, Ely SP is Nevada's highest level maximum security prison. It houses Nevada's death row and has a capacity of 1,150.
Curving around to our next series of summits. These crossings are higher altitude than our last set in Part 3.
Entering Humboldt NF as we cross the treeline (and that Scenic Route sign).
Probably some white pines in there.
Connors Pass, US 6's highest point in Nevada, at 7,722'. Possibly named for a Col. P. E. Connor, who established Fort Ruby in White Pine county in 1862. Also known as Camp Ruby, it protected the various overland coaches and Pony Express routes, and operated from 1862 to 1869. Located near Hobson, NV, it is now a National Historic Landmark.
Descending sharply from the Pass.
What looks like an old alignment of highway sits in the gorge floor as we pass PM 63.
Looking back up the mountain terrain.
Leaving Humboldt NF.
Down off the mountain.
The old alignment snakes in to join us as we level off.
Advance signage for Majors Junction, where US 93 splits off.
Majors Junction and the nearby Majors Place are named for Major Wood, who was the owner and operator of the local cafe. It's the only gas station for miles, so if you were short leaving Ely, it's time. Like Warm Springs, that's about all there is here.
Control cities, with US 6/50 signed for Delta and Great Basin National Park, and US 93 signed for Pioche and Las Vegas.
Separation.
Looking back at the distance signage, with Majors Place in the background. McGill is signed for US 93.
Continuing as EB US 6/EB US 50.
Nothing like handwritten sign inventories!
Distance signage leaving Majors Jct. Baker would ordinarily be an odd choice to sign, since it's not really all that near the highway, but there are few towns of any kind out this way between here and Delta.
Apparently this is Spring Valley, in one of the more amusing euphemisms the BLM has come up with.
PM 66 (or possibly 00.99).
Turnoff for NV 893, which serves the local ranches up to Muncy Creek where it dribbles off into dirt road and follows several county roads back to US 93 north of Ely. Look at that road in the background! Does US 6/50 go straight up the hill? Let's see!
That's about all there is to NV 893, by the way.
And the answer is ... no. The road over the mountain is a county road. Would have been cool though!
Snow in July, because we really are at that kind of altitude.
More basalt formations.
Curving back around and up to our final summit in Nevada.
Sacramento Pass, 7,154', crossing the Snake Range.
Leaving the summit.
PM 88.
Down into the central Great Basin.
Signage for the Great Basin National Park.
Wheeler Peak, the second highest point in Nevada after Boundary Peak (Part 2) at 13,065' and the highest point in the Snake Range and Great Basin National Park. It is named for George Wheeler, leader of the Wheeler Survey, which ran from 1872 to 1879 to map the portions of the United States west of the 100th meridian. It, along with the King and Powell Surveys, were consolidated into what is now the modern US Geological Survey. Besides their detailed topographic maps, many of the photographs their surveyors took survive in the Library of Congress.
The Great Basin National Park takes its name from the Great Basin itself. Virtually all of US 6 that we have travelled so far (and will travel up to Provo, UT) is part of the Great Basin, the largest region of contiguous endorheic watersheds in the North American continent. Its arid 184,427 square miles extend from the Californian Sierra Nevada in the west to the Wasatch Range in Utah to the east; the Columbia and Colorado Plateaus hem it on the north and south. Other than the major cities of Reno and Salt Lake City, its sparse population of just over three million is scattered throughout in the small settlements and towns just like the ones we've seen.

The Nat'l Park features the Lehman Caves, at the base of Wheeler Peak, which was the original Lehman Caves National Monument as established in 1922. Discovered by Absalom Lehman in 1885, the 550 million year old Caves teem with life, some of which never see the surface in their entire life cycle, and are best known for their Sunken Gardens. The monument was reorganized into the larger National Park in 1986. It covers 77,180 acres.

Selfie stop!
BLM signage for Snake Valley, somehow more appropriate than Spring Valley.
Approaching the junction for NV 487.
NV 487 is the route to Baker, the only town of note in this region, and the Great Basin Nat'l Park visitor center.
Ew! What was NDOT thinking?!
Distance signage leaving the NV 487 junction.
Curving around into the plain.
PM 100.
Utah state line.
Looking back at the Nevada state line and our final postmile for White Pine county (PM 101.88).
Continue to Part 5
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