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Elko, the largest city in Elko County, Nevada, has a population of approximately 20,564 residents. The city is located in the heart of northeastern Nevada and serves as an economic hub of the Ruby Valley. Elko has a total area of 17.6 square miles, with an elevation of 5,066 feet.[1] The majority of wildlife within the area typically inhabits certain areas near Elko such as Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, and Angel Lake Scenic Byway. Some potential animal encounters include bighorn sheep, mountain goats, deer, and various types of birds.[9] The Lamoille Canyon and Ruby Mountains provide year-round access to several outdoor recreational activities, specifically hiking, skiing, bird watching, or hunting.[1] Located in Humboldt National Park is the Ruby Crest Trail, which is primarily used for hiking or bird watching. The trail is 35 miles long in total and features a lake.[6] Elko’s history began in the 1860s when the Central Pacific Railroad crews were in the area for construction purposes. However, Elko wasn't officially made a city until 1917 after undergoing many changes for economic growth.[1] Some of the changes came from the many gold mines that rapidly expanded Elko and made northeast Nevada the largest gold-producing area in the nation at the time.[2]

What Elko is known for

Elko is the largest city in Elko County, with a population of 20,564 residents as of 2020, based on the most recent census.[1] The population growth rate is currently at 0.34% annually. Over the span of 18 miles, the population density is 1,153 people per square mile. The majority of demographics for Elko consist of Caucasians, which take up 86.57%.[4] Elko is located in the northeastern area of Nevada, and is 21 miles from Lamoille Canyon and the Ruby Mountains, which both provide various outdoor activities, including hiking, hunting, and skiing. Over twenty alpine lakes are available to visitors for recreation.[1] Some towns with close proximity to Elko include Carlin, Spring Creek, Battle Mountain, Wells, Ryndon, and Lamoille, to name a few.[1] 

One of Elko’s notable attractions is the Northeastern Nevada Museum, which features a collection of artifacts that have been preserved as records of the past. More than 50,000 photos and even newspapers that date back to 1869 are maintained by the staff. Additionally, the museum includes a 4,000 volume library, as well as a collection of historical archives, an art gallery, and several exhibits. A theater used for educational purposes is included inside the museum for groups who want to present or teach.[8]

Another notable attraction near the Elko Destination is Humboldt-Toiyabe National Park, which is an hour's drive away from Elko. It takes up 6.3 million acres of land, making it the largest national forest in the lower 48 states. The forest offers year-round recreation to visitors.[5] The Ruby Crest Trail located in Humboldt National Park is a 35-mile long point-to-point trail, rated as moderate. The trail is used for hiking and bird watching, with the busiest season of visitors being from July until August when the weather is generally warmer.[6] 

The Ruby View Golf Course has been found to draw in visitors who typically prefer to spend time outdoors. The course covers approximately 160 acres of terrain and is open to people of all skill levels. Ponds, creeks, trees that provide shade, and other traditional golf course elements are incorporated into the course.[7]

Another one of Elko’s most renowned local attractions is the Western Folklife Center. Every year the establishment hosts its signature event, the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, which has been taking place annually since 1985. The organization is a regional non-profit cultural center with a mission to educate the public about the traditional and dynamic cultures of the American West. The cultural center features an exhibition gallery, 300-seat theater, 20-seat black box theater, a historic saloon, and a gift shop.[10]


Elko has a total area of 17.6 square miles, according to the United States Census Bureau. The city sits at an elevation of 5,066 feet and experiences a semi-arid climate, with January typically being the coldest month of the year and July the hottest. The daily average temperature during January rests near 25 degrees Fahrenheit, in contrast to the daily average temperature for July which is around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The growing season in Elko is relatively short as the average window for freezing temperatures is from September remaining cold until June. Annual precipitation for Elko averages a total of roughly 9.89 inches over the course of about 81 days throughout the year. As for annual snowfall, the average tends to be about 41.5 inches.[1]

Much of the wildlife in Elko is located in the nearby state parks, wildlife refuges, and scenic byways. Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge, located 65 miles from Elko, consists of open ponds, a freshwater bulrush marsh, and grassy uplands with various birds, fish, and animals. Mostly Rocky Mountain bighorn sheep can be seen at Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway since it runs through a sheer-walled canyon, although many other animals such as sheep, mountain goats, mule deer, Himalayan snowcock, and peak-dwelling birds can be encountered as well. Another wildlife inhabited area is Angel Lake Scenic Byway in the East Humboldt Range. The area is accessible through a paved road, where visitors can see a wide variety of animals at the byway, depending on the season.[9]

Elko is one of ten counties in the United States with more than 10,000 square miles of area and it contains 49.8% of the Duck Valley Indian Reservation. The elevation ranges from 4,300 feet at the edge of the salt flats of the Great Salt Lake Desert, to 11,387 feet on the summit of Ruby Dome in the Ruby mountains. Pilot Peak is the most topographically prominent mountain in Elko County.[11]


The early history of Elko dates back to the 1860s when it was at the east end of the railroad tracks that were built by the Central Pacific Railroad. The first inhabitants were the railroad crews when they were in the area in 1868. At the time, the land served as a center for ranching, mining, rail freight, and general supplies.[1] Because of this, the majority of occupants consisted of miners, railroad constructors, gamblers, and some merchants. When the railroad crews moved east for construction purposes, a small tent town on the banks of the Humboldt River remained.[2]

The community developed into more permanent buildings and the economy expanded into freighting, becoming a ranch supply center with a few mining camps around the area. Since then, gambling, tourism, and modern gold mining have added to the economic growth. The name, Elko, is said to have derived from Charles Crocker, a superintendent of Central Pacific Railroad who was fond of animal names. He simply added the letter “o” to the end of “elk”, because of the abundant elk within the desert.[2]

The community was run by Elko County Commissioners from 1869 to 1917.[2] Elko was officially incorporated as a city in 1917.[1] The twenty years prior to 1998, Elko underwent changes and growth arising mainly from nearby gold mines. It made northeast Nevada the largest gold producing area in the nation, as new methods of gold extraction were being discovered, as well as the discovery of microscopic gold. Elko began to draw in people from all over the world, causing the population to rapidly increase.[2]

In 1967, the Great Basin College was established there. Segments of the Humboldt National Forest encompass the area of Elko, which is headquartered in the city.[3] In current times, Elko is the largest community between Salt Lake City, Utah, and Reno, Nevada. The city remains one of the American West’s premier frontier towns with a remote community.[2]