Nevada State Study

NevadaThe Vegas Strip, silver and gold mining, and lots and lots of dry, today, a Nevada State Study…


Nevada was inhabited by the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes.  The Spanish claimed the territory early.

It was first explored by white trappers beginning in the 1820’s.  The famous explorers, John C. Fremont and Kit Carson, explored Nevada from 1843-1845.  In 1848 the US acquired Nevada by treaty after beating Mexico in the Mexican-American War.  There were no Mexican settlements, no European settlements at all in the area at this time.

The first permanent settlement was Mormon Station, built by Mormon Pioneers in 1851 as a resting place for people traveling the wagon trails.  But Nevada, being so dry, didn’t attract many people until silver was discovered in the Comstock Lode Mine in in 1859.

Bullion Mine in Virginia City, Nevada

People poured into the State, but not enough for statehood until the middle of the Civil War, in 1864.  The population dwindled as the miners left for greener pastures, and Nevadans were desperate to increase their numbers.  In 1931 their ingenious solution was to make very libertarian divorce, marriage, and gambling laws.  It worked and Nevada became the divorce, marriage, and gambling capital of the U.S.  Now Nevada’s major industries are gambling, mining, and cattle ranching (other states have now made easy divorce laws, so people just stay home for that).

Las Vegas, this is the entrance to “the Strip”, a road along which hotels with their attached casinos are located. Photo by David Vasquez, released to the public domain.

Fabulous Facts About Nevada

  • Nickname: Silver State
  • Motto: All For Our Country
  • The Humbolt River has no outlet, it just sinks into the desert sands.
  • Area 51, a secret military research site, is the center of wild rumors including alien research . . . but actually has been used for secret military testing of planes.
  • An astounding 87% of Nevada’s land is in the control of the Federal Government.
  • The Comstock Lode, a massive silver deposit, is one of the largest silver deposits in the world.
  • Nevada produces more gold than anywhere else in the U.S.
  • Las Vegas is the gambling capital of the world and has more hotel rooms than other place on earth.
  • “Nevada” is Spanish for snow capped.
  • Nevada is the driest state in the U.S.

    This rock formation is in Valley of Fire State Park. Photo by Frank Kovalchek, CC license, Wikimedia.
  • Almost half of Nevada’s tax revenue is from gambling taxes . . . which explains why it’s legal.
  • Las Vegas, in one of the driest places in the United States, uses more water than any other city on earth.

    The Wynn Hotel, Las Vegas.  Photo by Jim G., CC license, Wikimedia.
  • Nevada has more mountains than any other U.S. State.
  • Nevada was the test site for nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War.
  • The State Flower is sagebrush.
  • Nevada has the highest crime rate in the country.  But most of those committing crimes are visitors, not residents.


  • If you live out west, there is probably a ghost town nearby.  Visit it.  Nevada is full of ghost towns. Many only existed for a few years before being abandoned.  The gold ran out, the miners never found what they were looking for and they left.
This is the abandoned general store in the ghost town of Rhyolite, Nevada. Photo by Ken Lund, CC license, Wikimedia.
  • Hoover Dam was the largest structure to be made from concrete, ever.  Over a hundred people died in the construction of the dam.   Make a model of the dam.  The dam is set in a steep sided cliff.  You can build the landscape out of paper mache with a chicken wire frame.  Build a form out of stiff cardboard, like from a cereal box, for the dam.  Pour in plaster of Paris.    Set the dam in place.  Paint your paper mache landscape including the water of the river and reservoir.  Read and view images about the dam construction here.
  • Visit Mormon Station, the first settlement in Nevada.  If you can’t get there in person, visit via the web at
  • The Pony Express went through Nevada, here’s an activity to do.
  • Prepare your gear and search for gold.  Hide a prize somewhere in the yard or house for the kids to find.  Then have them pack the things they think they would need if they were to set out across the Nevada deserts and mountains looking for gold.  Give them a treasure map or clues to get them started and send them off to find their prize.

Map of Nevada

Color a map of Nevada.  Here’s a Nevada Map.  Include major cities, mountain ranges, and the Great Basin.  Use a student atlas to find the information.

Nevada web

Additional Layers

  • Nearly every state in the union was settled for primarily economic reasons, in Nevada it was gold that brought permanent settlements and gambling that kept them there.  Has your family moved to a new place for economic reasons?  Would you?  What else would you take into consideration?  Have a discussion about the importance of money and proper priorities.
  • Hoover Dam is an arch dam.  Find out more about different methods of dam construction.
  • The Comstock Mining Operations had unique problems and many different technologies were invented just for that mine, that have later been used for many applications.  You know what they say, profit is the mother of invention . . . no wait, that was necessity is the mother of invention.  Anyway find out about some of the technologies and learn more.
  • There was big controversy over the naming of the Hoover Dam, not least because Herbert Hoover was incredibly unpopular due to the Depression.  Search for the other name the dam was going to be called.  Write a persuasive paper telling which name you think is best and why.

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