Nenzel, which until recently was called Nixon (see sheet 21, p. 184), is near the site of the old town of Oreana, noted as being the place where silver-lead smelting was first successfully carried on in Nevada. Oreana has been referred to as the birthplace of smelting silver-lead west of the Rocky Mountains, but some lead was produced earlier at Argenta, Mont. The Nevada ore that was first smelted at Oreana in 1867 came from the Montezuma mine, in the Trinity Mountains, west of the railroad.
Nenzel is now a supply station for the new camp of Rochester. A branch railroad, the Nevada Short Line, extends from Nenzel for 5 miles to the mountain foot, but the mines and settlement are high up on the Star Peak Range. As late as August, 1912, Joseph Nenzel relocated some old claims in this district and discovered the ore which has made it a producing district. A small shipment of ore made in August was followed by the discovery of larger bodies later in the year. In less than a month the hitherto desolate canyon had a population of more than 2,000 people and contained many substantial two-story buildings. The total production to September, 1914, is reported to be over $1,200,000.1 In the early days Rochester Canyon and the adjacent ravines yielded considerable placer gold that must have been derived from the disintegration of the gold-bearing veins on the mountain slopes above.
The West Humboldt Range is divided southeast of Nenzel by a low pass, Cole Canyon, which crosses the range obliquely. This pass separates the Star Peak division of the range from the lower Humboldt Lake division. The pass probably marks the place where a fault, which runs along the west base of the Star Peak Range and has caused the elevation of that block, swings across the range to the south. If so, the Star Peak and Humboldt Lake ranges are distinct in structure as well as in form. Traces of recent fault movement can be found also along the alluvial slopes at the west base of the Humboldt Lake Range.
Below Nenzel the train again approaches the river, and the deep trench cut by the river into Lake Lahontan clays is well exhibited to the traveler. Some of the artificial cuts along the railroad are also in these lake-deposited clays, which are capped by gravelly beach deposits. The gravel in places slides down over the clays and conceals them.
Beyond Woolsey, a siding and section house, the upper beaches of Lake Lahontan are very distinct, especially in evening light. The railroad now begins to descend to the broadening bottom lands of Lovelock Valley, with its trees, fields, and ranch buildings.
Kodak is a sidetrack from which gypsum was formerly shipped to a plaster mill at Reno, and fragments of the gypsum rock are strewn along the railroad. They are of granular texture, like loaf sugar, and some portions show distinct lamination or banding. The deposit is an immense mass that forms a bare bluff of light-colored material in the low slopes of the Humboldt Lake Range opposite Kodak. It is evidently an interbedded layer in the Triassic sedimentary series, probably a chemical deposit formed in Triassic time in a comparatively small basin. Deposits of gypsum were laid down over very extensive areas during Triassic and Permian time in other parts of the country, indicating widespread conditions of aridity in those periods.
Lovelock and the adjacent Lovelock Valley, the lower 16 or 18 miles of the valley occupied by Humboldt River above Humboldt Lake, constitute one of the most prosperous agricultural settlements of Nevada. Lovelock is also the railroad and supply point for a number of mining districts. At present its principal industries are connected with the raising of sheep and cattle and especially the winter feeding of stock. The river is 15 to 25 feet below the general level of the cultivated flood plain, so that it is necessary to bring the water for irrigation in ditches from points upstream. In 1900 about 14,000 acres were irrigated, and a little over half of this area was in alfalfa. Wheat, barley, and potatoes are also grown, and the town has a flour mill.
Of the mining camps which are generally reached by way of Lovelock, Seven Troughs,1 a gold camp, is at present the most important. North of Lovelock, in the Trinity Mountains, is the Montezuma mine, which supplied antimonial lead-silver ore to the Oreana smelter in the sixties. There are a number of antimony deposits in the mountains hereabout, one of them in the West Humboldt Range a few miles east of Lovelock. Nickel and cobalt deposits, not now worked, occur in the Stillwater Range about 30 miles southeast of Lovelock. A little niter has been found in this neighborhood, chiefly in the Humboldt Lake Range.2
From Lovelock the railroad continues down to the west side of the Humboldt Valley, at first through broad fields of hay and grain. At Perth (a sidetrack) there is a very large pit from which gravel has been taken for grading along the railroad. The gravel here, as at other places in this part of Nevada, is one of the old beach deposits of Lake Lahontan. Shore terraces, which are in many places very distinct, may be seen here on both sides of the valley.
Beyond the cultivated region the low irregular valley surface consists of a mixture of clay and sand in dunelike form, the lumpy surface being due more or less to the growth of brush and to consequent local protection from the wind. The yellowish-green brush that covers the country is greasewood (Sarcobatus), which seems to prefer ground that is otherwise unproductive.
Granite Point (elevation 3,973 feet), a railroad siding and group of section houses, is named from a rocky bluff that projects into the west side of the valley below Lovelock. It is horizontally scored by the upper Lake Lahontan terraces. Below this point the valley is more barren, the hard white clay in the low-lying ground supporting only isolated clumps of greasewood.
Humboldt Lake, a water body of irregular outline and variable area which receives the surplus drainage of Humboldt River, comes into view at or a little southwest of milepost 334. It is on the left (east) of the railroad, at the bottom of a broad, smoothly graded wash slope. The level and size of the lake vary greatly with the seasons. At times of high water it overflows into Carson Sink. At other times, however, evaporation exceeds the supply and the lake decreases in size. The water is not densely saline, as it is partly freshened by occasional overflow into the final "evaporation pan" of the Carson Desert.
Beyond Toulon (a sidetrack) the railroad gradually approaches the lake. There is no cultivation of the ground about here, nor any settlement other than that represented by the railroad section houses. At high water a narrow ridge parallel to the railroad appears as a long tongue of land that extends out into the lake parallel to the shore. A telephone line runs down the valley, and very commonly the poles here stand well out in the water. These poles were set when this part of the valley was dry, but the wire was later put on them from boats.
The Humboldt Lake Range, at the east side of the valley, dwindles to a long, narrow ridge extending off to the southwest. Over this summit, beyond its southwesternmost point, lies the Carson Desert, one of the most extensive of the Nevada desert valleys, and its saline lake, Carson Sink.
Toy (formerly Brown's station), a group of railroad section houses, stands just above the edge of Humboldt Lake at high water. A little beyond this place the railroad crosses the line between Humboldt and Churchill counties. In the hills northwest of Miriam (a siding) a deposit of scheelite1 was recently found.
The basin of Humboldt Lake is partly closed at its lower or southwest end by a remarkable gravel embankment which looks like a great artificial dam. Just beyond milepost 323 the railroad passes though one end of this embankment in a deep cut that exposes well the character and attitude of the beds of which it is built. The embankment is clearly one of the beaches or bars of former Lake Lahontan. Such bars are formed by waves and currents in lakes or along the seashore at the present time. This embankment, now high above any recent water level, with even crest and smoothly curving front in its sweep across the valley, is a striking topographic feature.
The embankment is cut across in one place near its south end by the overflow from Humboldt Lake. The breach has been partly repaired by an artificial dam which largely increases the area of the lake and, it is stated, furnishes power for mining and milling. Humboldt Lake overflows only a part of the time, but at very high water a considerable stream passes from it to Carson Sink. The breach though which it overflows can be seen from the train by looking back after the embankment has been passed. The embankment is more or less concave toward the valleys on both the upper and lower sides, but the backward view from the lower side best shows its form.
The railroad crosses and recrosses the overflow channel, traversing broad stretches of bare white mud and irregular areas of lumpy ground built up from white sand and clay. About 2 miles beyond Ocala (a section house at milepost 320) salt vats and a small salt-making plant lie close to the railroad, in the middle of one of the white clay flats or playas. (See p. 154.)
The station called Huxley (formerly White Plains) is approximately at the junction of the present railroad with the original line of the Central Pacific, which ran from this point due southwest, climbing over a divide of several hundred feet and passing a station called Mirage. The present line swings southward along the border of the Carson Desert.
The Jessup mining district, a gold camp, lies in the mountains 10 miles northwest of Huxley. Some shipments of gold-bearing ore were made during 1908 and later, but the district has not been a large producer.
One of the first deep wells drilled in the West was put down near this place by the Central Pacific Railway in 1881, in a search for good water. The boring reached a depth of 2,750 feet, but the water obtained was of very unsatisfactory quality. At 1,700 feet the drill encountered a bed of "petrified clams," and the record states that at 1,900 feet well-preserved "redwood timber" was found.
Huxley is the shipping point for the small salt plant passed a short distance back. An old kiln east of the track has been used in the past for making lime from a mass of compacted shells constituting one of the shore deposits of the former Lake Lahontan. This deposit seems to indicate that the lake waters could not have been very heavily charged with salts at the time when the inhabitants of these shells lived, although it must be admitted that the shells might have been washed into the lake by Humboldt River. Many of the shells are intact and perfectly preserved. The shell deposit is said to be continuous for several miles along this part of the valley.
Near Huxley the river spreads out, forming extensive marsh lands (the Mopung marshes), and during flood seasons this region is often a favorite resort of waterfowl. The small lakes are said to be full of carp and other fish at such times, doubtless carried down from Humboldt Lake. Pelicans, ducks, geese, snipe, and other waterfowl are found in the vicinity of the Nevada lakes and marshes.
At milepost 315 is the beginning of another long tangent of the railroad which heads almost directly south. Along this stretch the valley opens out toward the Carson Desert, across which the Stillwater Range may be seen in the distance. From Huxley to a point a little beyond Hazen the train passes through some of the most typically desert country to be seen along the whole route. The overflow channel from Humboldt Lake is crossed for the last time, as it turns off to the east toward the lowest part of Carson Sink. The railroad passes along the margin of the sink, which has here a lumpy dunelike surface consisting of sand and clay soil, the mounds surmounted by isolated patches of greasewood.
Parran is the lowest point on the Nevada portion of the Southern Pacific route. The salt-incrusted surface about the station is typical of the margins of the large playas that are common in these deserts. Water generally stands on the surface of the sink, and in the distance on its south side may be seen a thin line of dark trees trailing out into the desert. These trees are cottonwoods, which border the lower channel of Carson River, the principal source of the water that flows into the sink. At Parran is an old salt plant which has not been operated for several years, but which formerly produced a few hundred tons of salt annually for local use at near-by settlements. There is a water tank and pump station at Parran, but all the water used at this place is brought in tank cars, being run into an underground cistern from which it is pumped into the tank.
Beyond Parran lies a desolate stretch of barren dunes of clay and sand with scattered clumps of greasewood. The desert is bordered on the northwest by bare hills, whose slopes, in many places even to the summits, are covered with white, wind-drifted sand. The scenery along this part of the route offers but little variety and suggests extreme desolation. (See Pl. XXXVIII.) High sand dunes, more or less covered with greasewood, and small bare mud plains (playas) continue beyond Hazen. Just east of Hazen is another gravel pit which, like several already mentioned, is in one of the beach-bar deposits of former Lake Lahontan.
An extensive area in Nevada may be considered tributary to the main line of the Southern Pacific by way of Hazen. Within this area are the Tonopah, Goldfield, Yerington, Luning, Silver Peak, Rawhide, Wonder, Fairview, and other well-known mining districts.
Fallon, 15 miles away on the low, broad alluvial fan of Carson River, is the center of the Truckee-Carson irrigation project.1 It is reached by a branch railroad from Hazen which passes the old settlement of Ragtown.2
Another branch line runs south from Hazen to Goldfield, which is connected by rail with Las Vegas, Nev., on the Los Angeles, San Pedro & Salt Lake Railroad, and with Ludlow, Cal., on the Santa Fe system. This line gives access to Yerington2 by a branch from Wabuska, to Rawhide by a branch from the head of Walker Lake, to Silver Peak by a branch from Tonopah Junction, to Tonopah, and to numerous other mining districts. Connection may be made also at Fort Churchill for Virginia City (the Comstock lode; see Pl. XLIII, p. 189), Carson, and Reno.
The deposits at Tonopah3 were discovered in 1900, when the mining industry generally in Nevada had sunk to a very low level. The discovery greatly stimulated prospecting and led to the revival of mining throughout the State. The district has produced silver and gold to the total value of more than $60,000,000 from veins in Tertiary volcanic rocks. (See Pl. XL.)
The discovery of gold at Goldfield1 in 1902 was a direct outcome of the development at Tonopah. The deposits here also occur in Tertiary volcanic rocks, but in form and character they are entirely different from the Tonopah veins. The total production from Goldfield to the end of 1913 was over $65,000,000 in gold and silver. Of late years considerable copper has been recovered from the concentrates of the Goldfield mills. (See Pl. XLI.)
Argo and Luva, west of Hazen, are merely sidetracks, except that Luva stands at the junction of the main line with a now little-used branch that connects with a part of the original line of the Central Pacific, until lately operated as far east as Leete, where there are old salt works. Formerly the main line of the railroad followed a more direct route through this valley to White Plains (Huxley). The present route by Carson Sink, though longer, avoids a steep and troublesome hill, where helper engines were employed.
Last Updated: 28-Mar-2006