I have lived in Lincoln County all of my life, save a short time in Cedar City, Utah where I attended Southern Utah University. So with that being said, I will describe each of the communities in the county. I will explain locations, a hint of their uniqueness and detail a few points of interest.
Pioche is our county seat located in the northern section of the area. Panaca is 15 miles south, a superb farming community. A little further south, Caliente is nestled in a splendid canyon with a railroad track dividing the town. Continuing on to the southwest about 55 miles, the Pahranagat Valley is found with several natural springs and the town of Alamo being the major center of population for the valley. Rachel is to the far west in the county. Eagle Valley is back to the northeast. Lincoln County, according to the last census, has around 5,300 people and covers quite a vast area over 98% public land. You can do a lot of driving on some of our county roads, see a lot of fabulous high desert terrain and see very few people. Now, if you think I am saying desert is all we have, that is far from the truth. We possess some of the highest, roughest, remote, spectacular, unexplored mountains in the world. Many of which are accessible by vehicle including 4-wheelers, motorcycle, horseback, and a-foot.
I recognize that hiking and horseback is not a vehicle but they are modes of travel that will get you to a unique location where you can gaze upon vistas that look the same today as they did in the beginning of time. I must confess it could be dryer now than it was centuries ago, however. I also must confess that I do have a few cattle and most of my friends and family are either farmers or ranchers so we are given to complaining of the lack of moister.
Now, lets go back and see if I can do justice to some of the interesting and important parts that when put together makes us who we are.
Pioche is home to the Million Dollar Court House and the Opera House, both of which are old and have colorful histories that can be seen on a self tour. Mining is how the town started and there are remnants of that bygone era to be seen everywhere. There are motels, a restaurant, bars and a big Labor Day celebration that is as good as it gets in rural America and should not be missed if you are the fun loving type. The road to Eagle Valley Reservoir heads east from Pioche where there is camping, fishing, hunting and the Eagle Valley Resort to enjoy. This is quite high altitude and is a cool place to go when the heat is on.
Panaca is home to Cathedral Gorge State Park where there is also camping and hiking. This community also hosts the Lincoln County Fair, typically in August, where world-class cowgirls and cowboys compete in a Rodeo for two nights and consists of other fair activities throughout the day. Up the road a few miles is Echo Dam with some fishing and camping. But if you like a little comfort there is a very inviting bed and breakfast in town. Panaca is also the home of Lincoln County High School where youth attend from all of the communities other than Rachel and Pahranagat Valley.
Caliente originated because of the railroad, and like previously mentioned, a friendly train whistle occasionally echoes through the canyon. It is technically a city, the only one in the county. The city hall is located in the old train depot, much of which is still like it was when originally built and is well worth a look around. This city has motels, restaurants, food, a hardware store and is home of the Lincoln County hospital. Regrettably, there are no tours of the hospital without some unfortunate injury or illness possessed by he or she. Caliente has a great Homecoming celebration each year during Memorial Day weekend, which utilizes some very fine city parks for food, drink and fun. When I have told people I was from Lincoln County many of them say, “that’s where Caliente is and that is an amazing place.” It seems to be famous; you best come check it out. A drive south down rainbow canyon is time well spent if things built by nature interest you.
Then with a short 55-mile drive to the southwest you will enter the Pahranagat Valley. Though there is some dispute over the precise meaning of the word “Pahranagat,” the Piute natives say it means, “wet feet.” The valley does have three large springs that never vary in output: Hiko, Crystal and Ash Springs. Because of these springs this valley has been home to many people for different reasons. The Native American was here first for farming, fishing, hunting, and the easy life. They left many artifacts and a lot of rock art that can be seen throughout the valley. The valley was settled by pioneers starting in the 1860’s. Mining, ranching and farming was the start needed and other than the motels, restaurants, State and Federal wildlife refuges, the elementary and high schools in the town of Alamo, things are not much different.
I’d like to add just a short story about the Alamo area in reference to the water and the steep side hills that lead to the valley floor. The story is about the elusive and infamous critter known to locals as the Side Hill Gouger. The critter’s specie is not known and is disputed whether it is mammal, reptile or fowl. I myself make no stand on this matter but my grandchildren know that he lives by any deep or fast running water. They understand if any child under the age of 10 doesn’t obey their parents or grandparents and venture near the forbidden streams the Side Hill Gouger will lay in wait for just such a moment to strike. We have no evidence of this animal’s existence, but with legs on its left side longer than the ones on the right (or visa versa) he can stand level with one side in the water and the other on the bank. The only advantage we have is he can only motivate in one direction. Only wisps of sightings are reported. Real or not, you make the call.
Now a drive of around 40 miles to the northwest will put you at Rachel, Nevada, famous for the Little A’Le’Inn with food, memorabilia and some stories to be listened to. The town came into existence from mining in the nearby hills; mainly the Tempiute tungsten mine that is not in operation any longer due to cheap tungsten from China. The area has some large farms that grow mostly alfalfa hay. The children are bussed into Alamo for school.
The highway known as US- 93 is the way to travel through all the communities in the county except Rachel, to which SR- 375 must be taken. The county has two paved landing fields for smaller aircraft, one in Panaca and a new one in Alamo. If you like adventure we offer places to the north, south, east and west that will amaze you and make you glad to be an American and live under the safety and freedoms of the God-given Constitution.
I personally look back at my life spent here in this area and marvel at the fact that I have been able to experience life to the fullest. I have hiked the hills, I have hunted in the mountains, I have fished the lakes and streams, I have trailed cattle many miles, I have been entertained by motorcycle and truck races, I have participated in the many rodeos and other sporting events with my family and friends, I have been captivated by the roar of high performance fighter jets overhead, I have even been witness to the strange and unexplained events in the southern Nevada night sky. Each of the communities I have mentioned offer these unique experiences and much more. We invite you to come and see Lincoln County, the people and the stories that make one of the West’s great places to visit and live.
Ed Higbee is the chair of the Lincoln County Commission and represents the Southern Lincoln County area.