Carson City, Nevada, is the capital of the Silver State. An interesting fact is that Nevada's capital has been Carson City since territorial status was established in 1861 and statehood granted in 1864, making Nevada one of the few states where the seat of government has never changed. There were rivals when it came time to choose a capital, but Carson City won and has kept the title.
A Brief History of Carson City, Nevada
When westward expansion of the United States drew rough lines around Utah Territory, what is now Nevada was included in the area. Mostly unexplored and empty, this huge piece of the Great Basin held little attraction for the white man. It was merely a dreadful and dangerous place to be crossed on the way to the promised lands of California and Oregon.
John C. Fremont's expedition, which included scout Kit Carson, passed through the area in 1843-1844. Fremont named the Carson River after his companion and later settlers chose the name Carson City in honor of the famous Pathfinder. A small town sprang up in the 1850s, but things didn't really take off until gold and silver were discovered nearby in the Comstock Lode of Virginia City.
The mining boom led to explosive economic and population growth. Virtually all of the action in the state was concentrated in northern Nevada and a few scattered (much smaller) mining boomtowns. Carson City was on the line of the famous Virginia & Truckee Railroad and was home to a branch of the United States Mint. Las Vegas was nothing more than a dusty watering hole in the desert.
When the Comstock played out, Carson City went back to being the quiet town it was before the rich ore was being mined. Today, it is a bustling community of some 55,000 and supports a diverse economy. For more details, refer to Carson City history from the Carson City government website.
Things to See and Do in Carson City, Nevada
- Nevada State Capitol - Tour the silver domed Nevada State Capitol building and surrounding grounds.
- Nevada Day - Parade and celebrations commemorating Nevada statehood.
- Nevada State Museum - House in the old U.S. Mint in Carson City.
- Nevada State Railroad Museum in Carson City - Featuring a V&T steam locomotive and the world's only operational McKeen Motor Car.
- Carson Hot Springs Resort - Historic place that has been in business since the 1800s.
- Virginia & Truckee Railroad - Ride the historic route between Carson City and Virginia City.
- Children's Museum of Northern Nevada - Fun for kids of all ages. Housed in the historic Carson City Civic Auditorium.
- Stewart Indian School - The school annually hosts the Stewart Father’s Day Powwow, which presents traditional competition dancing, Stewart School alumni recognition, arts and crafts, special events and exhibits. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Carson City Ghost Walk - Spooky fun on tours of Carson City's old historic district.
- Kit Carson Trail - Self-guided walking tour through historic sections of Carson City.
Carson City by the Numbers
Here are some of the numbers and statistics associated with Carson City, Nevada.
- Date of Nevada Statehood: October 31, 1864
- Population: 54,521 (2015 estimate)
- Area: 146 square miles (371.8 square kilometers)
- Elevation: 4687 feet above sea level
- GPS coordinates: 39:32:39N 119:44:13W
- Average annual rainfall: 11.8 inches
- Average annual snowfall: 22.2 inches
In addition to being state capital, Carson City was the seat of Ormsby County. In 1969, the county and Carson City, along with surrounding towns, were merged into an independent city called Carson City Consolidated Municipality. This change eliminated the political entity of Ormsby County. With the consolidation, the city limits extend west to the Nevada / California state line in the middle of Lake Tahoe. This merging of city and county accounts for Carson City's relatively large size (146 square miles).
Getting to Carson City From Reno
It is around 30 miles from Reno to Carson City. The drive is fast and easy since the I580 freeway opened in August of 2012. Before then, you had to follow old U.S. 395 through Pleasant Valley and Washoe Valley, a decidedly slower and more hazardous trip.
Other Attractions Near Carson City, Nevada
Notable People With Ties to Carson City
The list is longer than you might think. Here are some of the most prominent personalities. Places around Carson City were named after some of the early residents.
- George Ferris (inventor of the Ferris wheel)
- Mark Twain (author and adventurer)
- Sarah Winnemucca (prominent Paiute Native American)
- Paul Laxalt (Nevada governor and U.S. Senator)
- Duane L. Bliss (early resident)
- Abraham Curry (early resident, considered Carson City's founder)
- Hank Monk (famous stagecoach driver)
- William Ormsby (early resident)
- David Lundquist and Matt Williams (Major League baseball players)