Western Nevada is home to the Comstock Lode, one of the richest silver finds in history. The discovery of silver in 1859 led to a massive mining boom in the area creating fortunes for some and poverty and despair for most. The nickname for Nevada, The Silver State, was coined for this era. The most enduring legacy of the Comstock rush is the advances to mining technology the effort to extract silver brought.
The mining history of this region is very much in alive with Virginia City being the crown jewel of the mining district. The parallel history of the railroads that supported the mines is also very much in the forefront here in the form of the Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City and a restored section of the historic Virginia and Truckee Railroad running passenger excursions.
The climate in this region ranges from the forested mountains around Lake Tahoe to the semi-arid high desert of the eastern areas in the rain shadow of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade mountain ranges. With this wide variation in altitude and climate, temperatures and precipitation vary throughout the region.
For the areas east of the mountains, the annual low is about 19°F and the high is 92°F (-7°C–33°C) with annual precipitation of about 7.5 in (19 cm). For Lake Tahoe area, the large body of water had a moderating effect on the temperature with a low of 23°F and a high of 78°F (-5°C–25°C). Annual precipitation is about 18 in (45 cm).
The southwestern portion of this region is dominated by Lake Tahoe and heavily forested slopes surrounding it. The shoreline of the lake rests at 6,230 ft (1,899 m) while the mountains surrounding it reach to over 8,000 ft (2,438 m) topping out at Mt. Rose with an altitude of 10,776 ft (3,285 m). This region is known for its skiing in the winter and provides a cool escape from the heat of the lower eastern portions of the region during the summer.
The remainder of this region slopes down to the east into the Great Basin ranging from 5,000 ft to 3,500 ft (1,524–1,066 m) in elevation. As with much of Nevada, the terrain is composed of north-south trending mountain ranges with valleys in between. The northern half of this region is particularly mountainous and sparsely populated with Gerlach being the northernmost town of any size, located 90 miles (145 km) from Nevada northern border.
General aviation pilots may use any of the following airports:
From the east and west, Interstate 80 offers the best way to get to the region. From the south, U.S. Highway 395 enters the Carson Valley at Dresslerville. Access from the north is via State Route 447, Surprise Valley Road, a 2-lane highway which snakes its way down to Gerlach. The far northern portions of this region are predominantly roadless wilderness; however, the far north can be accessed via County Road 8 from the east and west and County Road 34 from the east and north.
Travel between the northern and southern parts of this region requires a detour west into California or east into Northern Nevada to bypass the brutally rugged terrain the dominates the north part of Western Nevada.