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NICKNAME: The Silver State
STATEHOOD: 1864; 36th state
POPULATION (as of July 2015): 2,890,845
CAPITAL: Carson City
BIGGEST CITY: Las Vegas
STATE BIRD: mountain bluebird
STATE FLOWER: sagebrush
Experts aren’t exactly sure when people first came to the area now called Nevada, but they have found petroglyphs (rock carvings) up to 14,800 years old there. Starting thousands of years ago Native American tribes, including the Northern and Southern Paiute, Washoe, and Western Shoshone lived on the land.
The area was claimed by Spain in 1519, but once Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the land became part of Mexico. Then in 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, the United States took over the area.
In 1859 gold and silver were found in the region, and thousands of settlers rushed there in hopes of getting rich. Nevada became a state in 1864.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Nevada’s name comes from the Spanish word nieve, which roughly means “snow-capped.” The state’s name refers to the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
It’s nicknamed the Silver State in honor of a major silver deposit that attracted settlers and strengthened the area’s economy.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Nevada is bordered by Oregon and Idaho in the north, Utah and Arizona in the east, and California in the west, and California and Arizona in the south. It’s the most mountainous state in the United States and also the driest.
The state’s land can be divided into three different regions. The Columbia Plateau formed over hardened lava in Nevada’s northeastern corner. Its high ridges and deep canyons were carved as water slowly eroded the land over thousands of years.
The steep Sierra Nevada mountain range crosses part of southern Nevada. In one of its valleys along the California border, you’ll find Lake Tahoe, North America’s largest alpine lake.
The remainder of the state is covered by the Basin and Range Region, an area of more than 150 mountain ranges, plus many buttes (flat-topped hills), hot springs, and geysers. The region is also home to the state’s highest point, Boundary Peak, which rises up about 13,140 feet. Also in this region, in the southern part of the state, the low Mojave Desert crosses the California border into Nevada.
Nine types of squirrels, antelope, desert bighorn sheep, Rocky Mountain goats, and black bears are some of Nevada’s many mammals. Chuckwallas (a type of lizard), desert tortoises, banded gila monsters, and western diamondback rattlesnakes are among the reptiles that live here. Look up to spot a peregrine falcon, bald eagle, or mountain bluebird, the state bird. Nevada’s amphibians include Great Plains toads and Columbia spotted frogs.
Pinyon pine, Utah juniper, mesquite, and Great Basin bristlecone pine are trees that grow in the state. Flowering plants such as sagebrush (the state flower), tar-scented creosote bush, Indian blanketflower, and blooming cacti such as beavertail prickly pear also grow in Nevada.
Nevada produces about three-quarters of all of the gold mined in the United States. Its underground treasures also include silver, copper, and some of the world’s best black opals.
- Famous folks from Nevada include tennis pro Andre Agassi and Patricia Ryan Nixon, former first lady of the United States.
- Hidden Cave, discovered in the 1920s, was filled with thousands of artifacts such as arrowheads and other tools that ancient peoples may have stored there for safekeeping.
- Las Vegas is the state’s largest city, and it gets more than 42 million visitors a year. Here tourists can find the Stratosphere, the tallest freestanding observation tower in the United States. It’s over a thousand feet tall, and brave visitors can bungee jump off it!
- So many people claim to have seen extraterrestrials along the 98-mile (158-km) stretch of State Route 375 that the state transportation board named it Extraterrestrial Highway in 1996.
Text by Jamie Kiffel-Alcheh
Photo credits: ayzek, iStockphoto (flag); sierrarat, iStockphoto (pine); natureniche, iStockphoto (bluebird); MrPants, iStockphoto (sagebush); Gaussian Blur, iStockphoto (quarter)
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