Travels in the American Southwest

The Geographic Center of Nevada

Friday AM, 8/29

The storm passed sometime in the night. At 5:30 AM, the stars shone brightly, Mars being the brightest point of light visible. By dawn, only a few clouds hung in the morning sky. A Nevada bluejay chastised us for being in his territory, but there was no sign of the donkey which provided our 4 AM wakeup call only six days earlier. Spensers Spring was a cauldron of hot water, darn near boiling hot water! Toes stuck in the water for testing sent urgent messages to the brain - Get us the heck outta here!

I opted for another pool not quite so close to where the water percolates from the earth. In this pool, the hot water cools slightly as it winds its way through trenches to the pool. MSO and I savored an extra cup of tea and coffee as we were in no hurry for the day's activities - Finding the geographic center of Nevada. After two years of fruitless searching, I was well prepared.

Back in April, I'd received the exact coordinates for the geographic center of Nevada. What piqued my curiosity of this particular site is that it appears on Nevada's official state map but nowhere on the web could I find any more than "The center of Nevada is 26 miles SE of Austin," though one website incorrectly had the center located northeast of Austin! [The Center of Nevada is 26 miles from the Austin Courthouse.] In April 2003, I decided to try Nevada DOT for an answer. They were unable to provide assistance but forwarded my e-mail to a cartographer for the state. Within 48 hours, I had the coordinates for the center with a bit of the centerpoint's history thrown in. In 1962, the center was located by the US Geological Service at N39° 19' 11.7" W116° 38' 13.3". Using data unavailable to those cartographers forty years ago, the center is today positioned at 39° 19' 48.0" W116° 37' 56.0", 3900 yards northeast of the 1962 location - well within the USGS margin of uncertainty - according to the e-mail I received. I was so impressed with the timeliness of the reply that I sent a complimentary letter to Gov. Guinn mentioning by name those who provided such outstanding customer service.

Armed with the 1962 and 2003 coordinates, MSO and I decided to physically locate the points turning our search into a series of three geocaches. The first cache is the 1962 location and is now marked with rebar and a laminate notice. This cache contains coordinates for the second geocache which we placed exactly midway between the '62 and '03 locations. On a lark, we erected a couple of fluorescent orange cones marking the general location of the midway point, and included a listing of distance and bearing  to various locations in the the world as measured from this point. Coordinates found at the second cache lead to the third cache which we located near the 2003 Center of Nevada coordinates. Like the '62 location, we marked the '03 spot with rebar and laminate notice. All three spots are within a 1/2 mile of SR882 which runs from Belmont to US 50. Densely clustered sagebrush makes these hikes a long pants "must" and hiking boots "a plus" jaunt in the desert.

The air was crisp and dry despite the rain of the previous evening. It kept the dust down nicely. As you hike through the sagebrush, you catch glimpses of lizards scampering between the clumps of sage. The clean, fresh scent of sage is everywhere. While hiking back to the RV, I did find a BLM survey marker. What it delineates is beyond my knowledge. It's at N39° 19' 15.0" W116° 38' 18.9" so if you find it or know what it signifies, let me know! Note: I've discovered that this marker is a  Cadastral Survey marker. Update 12/04: Thanks to Mike from UNR for providing this info:  The marker is the midpoint between 2 section corner markers and in this case, is between sections 11 and 14 in T17N,R47E.

Our self-imposed mission completed, we headed back north to US50, then continued east to Ely, NV. (We found out that it's pronounced E-Lee, like the Confederate General Robert E. Lee, not E-lie like the Three Dog Night's hit back in 1969.) The Holiday Inn at Ely has an RV park and the motel offers RVers a free night stay including water and electric hook up. A bargain like that I just couldn't pass by. The Holiday Inn is near the railroad tracks so you'll hear the whistle of Ely's Northern Nevada Railway but it's infrequent and adds to the ambiance!

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