Carson City, Nevada

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Carson City, Nevada
Consolidated Municipality of Carson City
Nevada State Museum.jpg
Carson, CC, The Capitol
Proud of its Past...Confident of its Future
Map of Nevada highlighting Carson City.svg
Location within Nevada
USA Nevada location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Carson City
Location in Nevada
Usa edcp location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Carson City
Location within the United States
Coordinates: 39°9′52″N119°46′1″W / 39.16444°N 119.76694°W / 39.16444; -119.76694 Coordinates: 39°9′52″N119°46′1″W / 39.16444°N 119.76694°W / 39.16444; -119.76694
Country United States
State Nevada
County None (Independent city)
Founded1858;163 years ago (1858)
Named for Kit Carson
  MayorLori Bagwell
   State Senate 13 (D) 8 (R)
   State Assembly 29 (D) 13 (R)
   Representatives 3 (D) 1 (R)
   Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
Jacky Rosen (D)
  Total157.24 sq mi (407.26 km2)
  Land144.66 sq mi (374.66 km2)
  Water12.58 sq mi (32.59 km2)  8.0%
4,802 ft (1,463 m)
(2019) [2]
  Density386.54/sq mi (149.2/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
  Summer (DST) UTC−7 (Pacific)
ZIP code
89701–89706, 89711–89714, 89721
Area code(s) 775
GNIS feature ID 863976
Reference no.44

Carson City, officially the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City, is an independent city and the capital of the U.S. state of Nevada, named after the mountain man Kit Carson. As of the 2010 census, the population was 55,274, [3] making it the sixth largest city in Nevada. The majority of the town's population lives in Eagle Valley, on the eastern edge of the Carson Range, a branch of the Sierra Nevada, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Reno.


The town began as a stopover for California-bound emigrants, but developed into a city with the Comstock Lode, a silver strike in the mountains to the northeast. The city has served as Nevada's capital since statehood in 1864; for much of its history it was a hub for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, although the tracks were removed in 1950. Before 1969, Carson City was the county seat of Ormsby County. The county was abolished that year, and its territory merged with Carson City. [4] With the consolidation, the city limits extend west across the Sierra Nevada to the California state line in the middle of Lake Tahoe. Like other independent cities in the United States, it is treated as a county-equivalent for census purposes.


Abraham Curry Abraham Curry.png
Abraham Curry
Illustration of Carson City in 1877 Carson City, 1877.jpg
Illustration of Carson City in 1877

The Washoe people have inhabited the valley and surrounding areas for about 6,000 years. [5]

The first European Americans to arrive in what is now known as Eagle Valley were John C. Frémont and his exploration party in January 1843. [6] Fremont named the river flowing through the valley Carson River in honor of Kit Carson, the mountain man and scout he had hired for his expedition. Later, settlers named the area Washoe in reference to the indigenous people. [7]

By 1851 the Eagle Station ranch along the Carson River was a trading post and stopover for travelers on the California Trail's Carson Branch which ran through Eagle Valley. The valley and trading post received their name from a bald eagle that was hunted and killed by one of the early settlers and was featured on a wall inside the post.

As the area was part of the Utah Territory, it was governed from Salt Lake City, where the territorial government was headquartered. Early settlers bristled at the control by Mormon-influenced officials and desired the creation of the Nevada territory. A vigilante group of influential settlers, headed by Abraham Curry, sought a site for a capital city for the envisioned territory. [8] In 1858, Abraham Curry bought Eagle Station and the settlement was thereafter renamed Carson City. [9] Curry and several other partners had Eagle Valley surveyed for development. Curry decided Carson City would someday serve as the capital city and left a 10-acre (40,000 m2) plot in the center of town for a capitol building.

After gold and silver were discovered in 1859 on nearby Comstock Lode, Carson City's population began to grow. Curry built the Warm Springs Hotel a mile to the east of the city center. When territorial governor James W. Nye traveled to Nevada, he chose Carson City as the territorial capital, influenced by Carson City lawyer William Stewart, who escorted him from San Francisco to Nevada. [10] As such, Carson City bested Virginia City and American Flat. Curry loaned the Warm Springs Hotel to the territorial Legislature as a meeting hall. The Legislature named Carson City to be the seat of Ormsby County and selected the hotel as the territorial prison with Curry serving as its first warden. Today the property is still part of the state prison.

When Nevada became a state in 1864 during the American Civil War, Carson City was confirmed as Nevada's permanent capital. Carson City's development was no longer dependent on the mining industry and instead became a thriving commercial center. The Virginia and Truckee Railroad was built between Virginia City and Carson City. A log flume was also built from the Sierra Nevada into Carson City. The current capitol building was constructed from 1870 to 1871. The United States Mint operated the Carson City Mint between the years 1870 and 1893, which struck gold and silver coins. People came from China during that time, many to work on the railroad. Some of them owned businesses and taught school. By 1880, almost a thousand Chinese people, "one for every five Caucasians", lived in Carson City. [11]

Carson City's population and transportation traffic decreased when the Central Pacific Railroad built a line through Donner Pass, too far to the north to benefit Carson City. The city was slightly revitalized with the mining booms in Tonopah and Goldfield. The US federal building (now renamed the Paul Laxalt Building) was completed in 1890 as was the Stewart Indian School. Even these developments could not prevent the city's population from dropping to just over 1,500 people by 1930. Carson City resigned itself to small city status, advertising itself as "America's smallest capital". The city slowly grew after World War II; by 1960 it had reached its 1880 boom-time population.

20th-century revitalization and growth

As early as the late 1940s, discussions began about merging Ormsby County and Carson City. By this time, the county was little more than Carson City and a few hamlets to the west. However, the effort did not pay off until 1966, when a statewide referendum approved the merger. The required constitutional amendment was passed in 1968. On April 1, 1969, Ormsby County and Carson City officially merged as the Consolidated Municipality of Carson City. [4] With this consolidation, Carson City absorbed former town sites such as Empire City, which had grown up in the 1860s as a milling center along the Carson River and current U.S. Route 50. Carson City could now advertise itself as one of America's largest state capitals with its 146 square miles (380 km2) of city limits. [12]

In 1991, the city adopted a downtown master plan, specifying no building within 500 feet (150 metres) of the capitol would surpass it in height. This plan effectively prohibited future high-rise development in the center of downtown. [13] The Ormsby House is the tallest building in downtown Carson City, at a height of 117 feet (36 m). The structure was completed in 1972. [14]



Carson City features a cold semi-arid climate (Koppen: BSk) with cold winters and hot summers. The city is in a high desert river valley approximately 4,802 feet (1,464 m) above sea level. There are four fairly distinct seasons. Winters see typically light to moderate snowfall, with a median of 8.9 inches (23 cm). [15] Most precipitation occurs in winter and spring, with summer and fall being fairly dry, drier than neighboring California. There are 37 days of 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs annually, [15] with 100 °F (38 °C)+ temperatures occurring in some years.

The average temperature in Carson City increased by 4.1 °F (2.3 °C) between 1984 and 2014, a greater change than in any other city in the United States. [16]

The Carson River flows from Douglas County through the southwestern edge of Carson City.

Climate data for Carson City, Nevada (1981–2010 normals)
Record high °F (°C)72
Mean maximum °F (°C)60.6
Average high °F (°C)45.2
Daily mean °F (°C)33.5
Average low °F (°C)21.7
Mean minimum °F (°C)6.0
Record low °F (°C)−27
Average precipitation inches (mm)1.59
Average snowfall inches (cm)3.4
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Average snowy days (≥ 0.1 in)
Source: NOAA (extremes 1893–present) [15]

Places of interest


Secret Harbor Beach, Lake Tahoe Secret Beach - Lake Tahoe East Shore.jpg
Secret Harbor Beach, Lake Tahoe
  • Yesterday's Flyers, an aviation museum in Carson City. [20]
  • Children's Museum of Northern Nevada – Carson City

Open land


Carson City is the smallest of the United States' 366 metropolitan statistical areas.

Historical population
1850 714
1860 7140.0%
1870 3,042326.1%
1880 4,22939.0%
1890 3,950−6.6%
1900 2,100−46.8%
1910 2,46617.4%
1920 1,685−31.7%
1930 1,596−5.3%
1940 2,47855.3%
1950 3,08224.4%
1960 5,16367.5%
1970 15,468199.6%
1980 32,022107.0%
1990 40,44326.3%
2000 52,54729.9%
2010 55,2745.2%
2019 (est.)55,916 [2] 1.2%
U.S. Decennial Census [21]
1790–1960 [22] 1900–1990 [23]
1990–2000 [24] 2010–2018 [3]

As of the 2010 census, there were 55,274 people, 20,171 households, and 13,252 families residing in the city. The population density was 366 people per square mile (141/km2). There were 21,283 housing units at an average density of 148/sq mi (57/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.1% White, 1.9% Black or African American, 2.4% Native American, 2.1% Asian, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 9.4% from other races, and 2.9% from two or more races. 21% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

As of the 2000 census, there were 20,171 households, out of which 29.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.0% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 27.8% of all households were made up of individuals, and 11.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.97. The city's age distribution was: 23.4% under the age of 18, 7.9% from 18 to 24, 28.9% from 25 to 44, 24.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 106.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 108.2 males. [25]

Data from the 2000 census indicates the median income for a household in the city was $41,809, and the median income for a family was $49,570. Males had a median income of $35,296 versus $27,418 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,943. 10.0% of the population and 6.9% of families were below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.7% of those under the age of 18 and 5.8% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.


As of 2010, 82.3% (42,697) of Carson City residents age 5 and older spoke English at home as a first language, while 14.1% (7,325) spoke Spanish, 0.6% (318) French, and numerous Indo-Aryan languages were spoken as a main language by 0.5% (261) of the population over the age of five. In total, 17.7% (9,174) of Carson City's population age 5 and older spoke a first language other than English. [26]

Government and politics

Ormsby County consolidated with Carson City in 1969, and the county simultaneously dissolved. [27] The city is now governed by a five-member board of supervisors, consisting of a mayor and four supervisors. [27] All members are elected at-large, but each of the four supervisors must reside in respective wards, numbered 1 through 4. [27] The mayor and supervisors serve four year terms. Elections are staggered so the mayor and the supervisors from Wards 2 and Ward 4 are elected in presidential election years, and the supervisors from Wards 1 and 3 are elected in the even-numbered years in between (i.e., the same year as gubernatorial elections). [27]

The city is generally considered a Republican stronghold, often voting for Republicans by wide margins. In 2004, George W. Bush defeated John Kerry 57–40%. In 2008, however, Barack Obama became the first Democrat since 1964 to win Ormsby County/Carson City, defeating John McCain 49–48%, by 204 votes, a margin of under 1%. [28]

United States presidential election results for Ormsby County (Carson City), Nevada [29]
Year Republican Democratic Third party
2020 16,11354.18%12,73542.82%8913.00%
2016 13,12552.47%9,61038.42%2,2819.12%
2012 12,39453.15%10,29144.13%6342.72%
2008 11,41948.22%11,62349.08%6382.69%
2004 13,17157.00%9,44140.86%4942.14%
2000 11,08456.98%7,35437.81%1,0145.21%
1996 9,16848.73%7,26938.64%2,37712.63%
1992 7,30238.83%6,03532.10%5,46629.07%
1988 9,70163.44%5,08833.27%5023.28%
1984 9,47770.01%3,79028.00%2691.99%
1980 8,38966.81%2,76922.05%1,39811.13%
1976 5,28254.11%3,87439.69%6056.20%
1972 5,39671.79%2,12028.21%00.00%
1968 3,16956.58%1,77031.60%66211.82%
1964 1,99748.40%2,12951.60%00.00%
1960 1,94660.27%1,28339.73%00.00%
1956 1,74968.03%82231.97%00.00%
1952 1,65374.06%57925.94%00.00%
1948 1,09560.80%68137.81%251.39%
1944 84155.84%66544.16%00.00%
1940 74848.79%78551.21%00.00%
1936 53341.71%74558.29%00.00%
1932 48645.63%57954.37%00.00%
1928 59058.07%42641.93%00.00%
1924 41344.31%41544.53%10411.16%
1920 59257.81%41340.33%191.86%
1916 53443.52%61049.71%836.76%
1912 15022.22%29443.56%23134.22%
1908 35046.60%34345.67%587.72%
1904 40960.15%21832.06%537.79%

Carson City, being the state capital, is home to many political protests and demonstrations at any given time. [30] [31] [32]

In an attempt to either make proposed spent nuclear fuel storage facility at Yucca Mountain prohibitively expensive (by raising property tax rates to the maximum allowed) or to allow the state to collect the potential federal payments of property taxes on the facility, the state government in 1987 carved Yucca Mountain out of Nye County and created a new county with no residents out of the area surrounding Yucca called Bullfrog County. Carson City became the county seat of Bullfrog County, even though it is not in Bullfrog County and is more than 100 miles (160 km) from Yucca Mountain. A state judge found the process unconstitutional in 1989, and Bullfrog County's territory was retroceded to Nye County. [33] [34]


Sports and recreation

Carson City has never hosted any professional team sports. However, a variety of sports are offered at parks and recreation. [35] Many neighborhood parks offer a wide variety of features including picnic tables, beaches, restrooms, fishing, softball, basketball hoops, ponds, tennis, and volleyball. The largest park is Mills Park, which has a total land area of 51 acres (0.21 km2) and includes the 2 ft (610 mm) narrow-gauge [36] Carson & Mills Park Railroad. [37] While there are no ski slopes within Carson City, the city is near the Heavenly Mountain Resort, Diamond Peak and Mount Rose Ski Tahoe skiing areas. [38]

Notable people

Carson City has served as one of the state's centers for politics and business. Every state governor since Denver S. Dickerson has resided in the Governor's Mansion in Carson City. [39] The following personalities took up residence in Carson City at some point in their lives. [40]

Economy and infrastructure

The following is a list of notable employers in Carson City from the fourth quarter of 2012: [63]

1,000–1,499 employees

500–999 employees

200–499 employees

100–199 employees


Looking south on US 395, just south of US 50 in Douglas County near Carson City US395SouthofCarsonCity.jpg
Looking south on US 395, just south of US 50 in Douglas County near Carson City

There are four highways in the city: Nevada State Route 28, U.S. Route 395, U.S. Route 50, and Interstate 580, its only freeway. Phase 1 of the Carson City Freeway Project from US 395, just north of the city, to US 50 was completed in February 2006 and Phase 2A, extending from Rt. 50 to Fairview Drive, was officially opened on September 24, 2009. Phase 2B, Fairview Drive to Rt. 50, was completed in August 2017. Prior to 2012, Carson City was one of only five state capitals not directly served by an Interstate highway; the city lost this distinction when I-580 was extended into the city limits.

Carson City's first modern bus system, Jump Around Carson, or JAC, opened to the public in October 2005. [64] JAC uses a smaller urban bus ideal for Carson City. [65] However, there is virtually no ground public transportation to other destinations. Passenger trains haven't served Carson City since 1950, when the Virginia and Truckee Railroad was shut down. Greyhound Lines stopped their bus services to the town in 2006 and Amtrak discontinued their connecting thruway bus to Sacramento, California in 2008. There is now only a limited Monday – Friday RTC bus service [66] to Reno which is still served by both Greyhound and Amtrak, as well as Eastern Sierra Transit Authority service from Lone Pine to Reno.

Carson City is also served by the Carson Airport, which is a regional airport in the northern part of the city. Reno–Tahoe International Airport, which is 28 miles (45 km) away, handles domestic commercial flights. [67]


The Carson City School District operates ten schools in Carson City. The six elementary schools are Bordewich-Bray Elementary School, Empire Elementary School, Fremont Elementary School, Fritsch Elementary School, Mark Twain Elementary School, and Al Seeliger Elementary School. The two middle schools are Carson Middle School and Eagle Valley Middle School. Carson High School and the alternative Pioneer High School serve high school students. Carson High is on Saliman Road. [68]

The Carson City School District sponsors Carson Montessori School, a public charter school serving grades K-6. [69] Students residing in any Nevada county may enroll. [70] Carson Montessori School is the only school in district operating with a balanced budget. [71] In 2019 Carson Montessori School received the Governor's STEM Schools Designation, [72] an official recognition given to 25 schools statewide which causes a short ceremony attended by the governor during which receiving schools are assigned a 10-foot banner. [73]

Western Nevada College (WNC) is a regionally accredited, two-year and four-year institution which is part of the Nevada System of Higher Education. The college offers many programs including education, arts and science. [74]

Carson City has a public library, the Carson City Library. [75]

Historic buildings

See also

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Henry Rust Mighels was a US journalist and politician. A writer of the Sagebrush School, he was the editor and publisher of Carson City, Nevada's Nevada Appeal. He was born in Norway, Maine. He served in the Union Army during the American Civil War as assistant adjutant general, with the rank of captain, and was wounded in action. In 1868, he was elected State Printer and served a two-year term. In 1876, he was elected to the Nevada Assembly, serving as Speaker in 1877. The following year, he ran unsuccessfully for Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. He was also an artist, painting still life and landscapes. His one book, Sage Brush Leaves (1879), consists of literary essays. He died of cancer in 1879 in Carson City and is buried at Lone Mountain Cemetery next to his wife Nellie Verrill Mighels Davis. The Mighels had three sons, including Henry R. Mighels Jr. and Philip Verrill Mighels; and two daughters. Henry J. Mighels Jr. took over as editor of the Appeal in 1898. Philip's ex-wife, Ella Sterling Mighels, was the "First Literary Historian of California".


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