Eureka is the largest community in Eureka County, a county named after this very town. Located far from just about anywhere in Nevada, Eureka is a museum of mining history, situated on "America's Loneliest Road" halfway between Austin and Ely. Compared to other Nevada mining towns, Eureka has stayed relatively quiet throughout history. The town was first settled in 1864 by a group of prospectors from nearby Austin; the men discovered rock containing a silver-lead ore on nearby Prospect Peak, and within a month, population was booming in shallow Eureka Canyon. This is how the great legacy of Eureka begins.

It is said the area that was to become Eureka was undisturbed by humans prior to 1864. Soon after their discoveries, the claims were sold to a New York mining company. The year 1864 saw the discovery of lead-silver deposits as spectacular as any in the country. But there was a problem. Ore from these claims had a heavy lead content that caused many smelting problems and held back substantial production. It wasn�t until early 1869 that a successful draft furnace was developed that made it possible to mine large amounts of the silver-lead ore. By October 1869, around 100 residents had settled in Eureka. The small camp acquired a post office without a name. The postmaster christened the camp "Napias," which is the Shoshone word for �silver.� Within a short time, however, the town was renamed Eureka, christened by an overzealous miner. Eureka, with its beginnings typical of many mining chapters in Nevada history, was declared the county seat of its own namesake county in 1873, a new county carved out of adjacent Lander, Elko, and White Pine Counties. But there was a problem. Bi-metallic ore required refining methods and techniques not yet developed. The first plant built in 1869 was a failure, but another built in 1870, was far more successful and the very forerunner of even more advanced methods. Soon, the nearby hillsides of Eureka ranked as Nevada's second-richest mineral producer (behind the Comstock Lode), particularly for lead, with small traces of silver. The town began to grow quickly and by October 1870, 2,000 people populated the town. By 1872, Eureka had doubled its population; by 1874 to 6,000; and by 1878, the town reached its peak of ten thousand ripe and hardy citizens. The town at its peak was the scene of unbelievable activity: 125 saloons, 25 gambling houses, 5 fire companies, and many business establishments, including several lawyers, doctors, and tailors.

  • Welcome to Eureka, Nevada.
  • Eureka, Nevada.

The refining of the ore brought a few challenges to bustling mountain town. Eureka was quickly coined with the nickname, the "Pittsburg of the West," in which thick, black smoke from the intense smelting process blackened the skies for hundreds of miles. The glory years of Eureka saw production in outstanding figures, clearly, one of the top three richest places in Nevada history: $40 million in silver, $20 million in gold and 225,000 pounds of lead, taken from the hillsides of Eureka. A landmark day in Eureka was Friday, October 22, 1875, the day when the railroad arrived in Eureka. The town's centralized location in the state made the railhead for the whole area. Ironically, as soon as a railroad was brought into Eureka, production began to decline. Eureka's population shrank considerably as production slowed and eventually, the mines closed for good, never again reaching such outstanding numbers. One of the largest contributors to this decline was a clash between the town's two largest mining corporations -- The Richmond Mining Company and the Eureka Mining Company. These two companies, of whom often collided, brought production to massive halts, and in one instance, their litigation reached the U.S Supreme Court. All of this, combined with a decline in the lead market, brough Eureka to its knees. Regardless, let there be no doubt: Eureka was a mining community of great historical importance to all Nevada.

Today, Elko is living on gold, supported by the massive Getchell Mine, the largest gold producing operation in the United States. The giant mining magnate has pretty much re-vamped and commercialized almost everything in this community, turning Elko into a once sleepy little town to a booming mini-city fed by fortunes that rack up to several million dollars a year. Still, Elko's heart and soul hasn't changed much over the last 130 years. Elko is a proud host to a number of celebrations, including the annual National Cowboy Poetry Gathering and has been the host of this event for the last 27 years. THe festival is held each January and is a week-long celebration of food, photography, and life in the rural West featuring poetry, music, film, and literature. Additionally, very July since 1963, Elko is host to the National Basque Festival. Humorously referred to as the "Basco Fiasco," this festival celebrates traditional Basque culture and its strong ties to the Elko community. The festival includes strongman competitions, handball, a running of the bulls, traditional food and wine, and Basque Dancing. 2013 marks the festival's 50th Anniversary. In terms of services, there should be little to worry about. A Nevadan could describe Elko as a sleepy, little city in the middle of nowhere, a town full of proud and rowdy residents who like things just the way things are. This interstate city comes complete with everything a visitor could possibly need. From high dollar, to hole-in-the-wall casinos, or fine dining to a Big Mac with fries, Elko is proud to cater to anybody with any and all services.

  • The stately Eureka Opera House
  • The 1874 Eureka Courthouse

Eureka is still a quiet place in the pages of Nevada. Simply put, things just don't seem to change in Eureka County, and as such, its residents do not complain. Like many other old mining towns, today's Eureka is a mere shadow of what it was ... a town of steady habits. Perched three-quarters of the way eastward on "America's Loneliest Road," Eureka is full of many of its original buildings, without a doubt, one of the more interesting places in the America. Mining in Eureka itself is stagnant, but far on the northern fringes of the county, mining is still paramount. Today, two of America's largest gold mines, the Getchell and Carlin Mines, responsble for funding Elko's bustling future, also funds much of this old mining town. As such, the town of Eureka has been able to afford restoration on some of its fine, historic structures, buildings today that easily that postcard the American West. The Eureka Opera House (built in 1880 and restored in 1993), Raine's Market and Wildlife Museum (built in 1887), the Jackson House Hotel (built 1877), and the Eureka Sentinel Museum (housed in the 1879 Eureka Sentinel Newspaper Building, all trademarks of this old mining queen, are also long reminders of our mining past. This town might seem small, but it sports everything a visitor and resident could possibly need. Its residents boast three part, a modern-enclosed swimming facility, two baseball fields, football field, track, two volunteer fire departments and an emergency dispatch team who service all corners of central Nevada. The Eureka Opera House and the Owl Club Casnio operates as the functioning governmental and legal center of Eureka County. The two-story courthouse, built in 1874, is one of the more dominant buildings in Nevada, and no doubt, one of the oldest courthouses in the state.

Status: Incorporated City & County Seat
Founded: January 1864
Population: 610 (2012)
Zip Code: 89316
Motto: "The Friendliest Town on the Loneliest Road"


Distance in miles from ...
Austin -- 70
Ely -- 77
Elko -- 114
Tonopah -- 164
Fallon -- 180
Reno -- 243
Beatty -- 256
Salt Lake City (UT) --318
Las Vegas -- 325

Fun Facts:
- Eureka is one of twelve towns in America named "Eureka."
- Students at the University of Nevada (Reno) excavated a series of underground tunnels spanning the length of Eureka in 1984. The purpose of these tunnels, some barely tall enough to accommodate an average man, were used by townspeople transporting themselves and goods back and forth during the fierce winter months.

Greetings from Eureka
by KTVN 2 News Reno

In 4 minutes or less you'll find out why Eureka might be the picture perfect poster child of Nevada's old mining camps. This story was produced by KTVN Channel 2 News Reno during a short series called "Postcards from Nevada."