Nevada Land for Sale
There are few people anywhere who have not heard of Las Vegas. This city has a worldwide reputation, evident in its many colorful nicknames: Sin City, Capital of Second Chances, Entertainment Capital of the World, Gambling Capital of the World and Marriage Capital of the World. Hundreds of millions of visitors visit Las Vegas every year, taking in the luxury and allure of world-class hotels, dining, nightlife, shopping and scenic wonders. However, Nevada, the state in which Las Vegas resides, has much to offer beyond the flashing lights of its famous boomtown.
Nevada is the seventh-largest state in the nation, covering an area of 177,712 square miles. It is the nation’s driest state, receiving only 9.5 inches each year, on average. Nevada’s terrain includes a large patch of uninhabitable desert, but the sagebrush and Joshua tree found in these areas are but a small part of the natural sights to see in Nevada. While Alaska boasts the highest individual peak in North America, Nevada can make the claim of the most mountainous state. It has 314 ranges and peaks, many at elevations that keep them covered in white snow all year. Nevada is named for the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which literally translates to “snow-capped mountains” in Spanish.
Between the many mountain ranges, there are picturesque valleys, some of which are home to ranches used for farming livestock or raising crops. A number of salt flats dot the landscape of the central and eastern regions of the state. Fourteen percent of the land is forested, and numerous rivers and lakes cut through the varied terrain. Despite the fact that the majority of the state has a population of less than one person per square mile, Nevada is home to more than 2,700,000 people. The majority of the cities are located in the cooler reaches of the mountains, except for Las Vegas, which is in the heart of the Mojave Desert.
Nevada’s official nickname, the “Silver State,” advertises the metal that literally ensured its admission as the 36th state in the union. The Comstock Lode was the first major discovery in the then U.S. territory, coming just 10 years after the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in California.
An unofficial state nickname is the “Battle Born State.” Nevada became a state on October 31, 1864, during the Civil War. President Abraham Lincoln pushed for its official statehood, which ensured his reelection the following month and secured a Republican majority in Congress. Nevada’s current boundaries were drafted on May 5, 1866.
The federal government owns a whopping 84 percent of the state of Nevada — the most of any state in the nation. The government-owned lands are used for a variety of purposes, including munitions testing and nuclear waste disposal. The infamous “Area 51,” located just northeast of Las Vegas, is rumored to be the home of alien and UFO research facilities. Rumors of space aliens in government facilities aside, there are plenty of opportunities for investors to purchase large tracts of Nevada land. Nevada can be divided into three regions, based on the distinct climate, population density and industry in each.
Sierra Nevada Mountains
The coolest and highest region in Nevada is the eastern face of a portion of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This range is made by a block fault that creates deep basins and high ranges. The glaciated peaks of the Sierra Nevada range are composed primarily of granite, but a mixture of native conifer trees grow in the soil on its surface. High mountain lakes and streams feed meadows and wildlife, including black bears, bighorn sheep cutthroat trout and the iconic California condor. Interestingly, the eastern and western sides of the Sierra Nevada peaks have vastly different profiles. Because the mountains cast a rain shadow to the east, the Nevada side and California side of Sierra Nevada Mountains seem almost as two completely different ranges.
Several important cities sit just beyond the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The state’s capital, Carson City, is a picturesque city with more than 50,000 residents. It has remained the only capital of Nevada since the state was formed. The capitol building in Carson City boasts a silver-colored dome, built in homage to the state’s glittery nickname. The town began as a resting point for migrants heading for California in search of gold, but it became a city in its own right when prospectors found silver just northeast of the town. Carson City was also a long-time hub for the Virginia and Truckee Railroad, which serviced the mines in the region.
Reno is Nevada’s third-largest city and the second-largest metropolitan area in the state. It is similar to Las Vegas in that it has the same shining casinos, restaurants, spas and resorts that people seek when visiting the state. However, the climate, geography and culture deviate sharply from that of Las Vegas. Frothy whitewater rapids are easily accessible in Reno’s downtown Truckee River Whitewater Park, a destination where enthusiasts enjoy the early summer thaw free of charge. Reno and the neighboring city of Sparks are excellent places for outdoor activities, including hiking, mountain biking, skiing and snowboarding.
When it comes to winter entertainment, however, Lake Tahoe, on the border of California, is a world-class destination. The pristine lake is the third-deepest in North America and is surrounded on all sides by gorgeous Sierra Nevada peaks. Tahoe is home to some of the prime ski destinations in the country. Fifteen downhill and ten cross-country resorts surround the lake, hosting nearly one million visitors annually. While winter brings visitors from around the world, Lake Tahoe is a popular year-round destination. Visitors enjoy water sports, hiking and fishing in the valley after the snow retreats. On the Nevada side of Lake Tahoe, more casinos and resorts beckon visitors to linger within the state during their stay.
The area surrounding the Sierra Nevada Mountains represents Nevada’s mid-range price point for real estate. While it is possible to find land at a reasonable price, demand and prestige keeps the prices higher than the norm. Prices hover around $1 million per acre in the densely populated tourist areas near Reno and Tahoe, but are generally more affordable than land in Las Vegas.
The Great Basin
Stretching nearly across the entire state of Nevada is the Great Basin. It extends into Utah, Idaho, Oregon, Wyoming, California and even Mexico, but the vast majority of the 190,000 square mile desert is located in Nevada. It stretches from the northern border of the state to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the west and the Mojave Desert in the southeast part of the state. The Great Basin is considered a “cold desert” because of its northern latitude and high elevations. No part of The Great Basin dips below 3,000 feet above sea level. Although it is classified as a desert, the annual precipitation in this region ranges between seven and 12 inches. Winter precipitation usually comes in the form of snow.
A number of rivers flow through the Great Basin. Alongside these rivers, verdant valleys give rise to trees and other vegetation. Douglas fir trees, aspen and single-leaf pinion can all be found in this region of Nevada. Many of the state’s forests are located in the Great Basin, including the Toiyabe and Humboldt National Forests. A diverse population of wildlife includes 73 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles, 238 species of birds, 2 species of amphibians, and 8 species of fish.
While much of the Great Basin is sparsely inhabited, farming in the Great Basin is possible with irrigation. Elko and Winnemucca are the largest of cities in this, the least-populated region of Nevada. These two principal cities are home to less than 25,000 people combined. The roads that travel through the Great Basin are few and sparsely traveled. Interstate 50 in this location holds the nickname “Loneliest Road in America.” Though the nickname was supposed to be a pejorative jab taken in 1986 by Life magazine, the state of Nevada took it on as a marketing slogan in an unsuccessful attempt to attract traffic. However, novelist Stephen King took an interest in this lonely stretch, citing it repeatedly in his 1996 thriller, “Desperation.”
The small communities that inhabit The Great Basin are centered primarily on mining and ranching, so land is more affordable on average than that of the Sierra Nevada and Las Vegas areas. Real estate in this region of Nevada ranges from less than $500 per acre to more than $1,000 — affordable for enterprising investors.
The Mojave Desert
The Mojave desert takes up the southeast portion of Nevada. It is both the smallest and driest of all of the four deserts in the United States. The Range and Basin landscape continues through this region, creating mountains and valleys throughout the landscape. The Mojave is another high-altitude desert, never sinking below 2,000 feet below sea level. Like the Great Basin, there are cool temperatures in the winter, with occasional snowfall in this region. However, Mojave temperatures hover in the 90-110 degree range the rest of the year. The Mojave Desert is the most barren region of Nevada as far as plant and animal life, but it is the natural home to desert dwelling plants, including desert sand verbena, mesquite creosote bush and Joshua tree. Animals in this region include the bighorn sheep, jackrabbit, zebra-tailed lizard, coyote, chuckwalla and sidewinder rattlesnake.
Despite the harsh living conditions, the majority of the human population of Nevada lives in the Mojave Desert. Las Vegas and the neighboring city of Henderson are the two largest cities in the state, defying the heat of the desert with their sprawling skylines. From the beginning, Las Vegas was built around the tourism industry, prioritizing the accommodation of its visitors before that of its residents. At any given time, there are 23 visitors for every resident of Las Vegas.
On the southern end of the state at the border of Arizona, lies Lake Mead. Also at this point, the Colorado River runs through the Mojave Desert. The famous Hoover Dam is built on the Colorado River, generating 4 billion kilowatts of electricity every year to supply power to Arizona, Nevada and California. The Hoover Dam, named after President Herbert Hoover, is also among the largest hydroelectric power facilities in the nation. More than one million visitors visit this historic landmark every year.
Understandably, land parcels near Las Vegas and Henderson are at a premium, fetching millions of dollars per acre. In other parts of the area, it is possible to find land at prices as low as $15,000 per acre, still quite pricey when compared to the rest of the Great Basin, but an excellent prospect for ambitious investors.
By far, the most valuable industry in Nevada is tourism. From the attractions of Lake Tahoe to the Hoover Dam, millions of visitors flock to Nevada every year. The glittering allure of Las Vegas and Reno resorts and casinos are the largest generator of tourism income for the state. While nearly half of the state’s residents are employed by the service industry, jobs and revenue are also generated by the manufacturing demands for gaming machines and related products. Nevada has one hotel room for every 14 residents, a staggering ratio that speaks to the number of tourists that are accommodated every year in the state.
Mining is another industry upon which Nevadans rely. The discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1858 first drew settlers to Nevada. The Comstock Lode and surrounding deposits produce nearly $70 million of silver each year. It is the largest silver deposit in the nation, and the state of Nevada produces more silver than any other state. Although less gold is mined in Nevada than silver, gold’s higher price per ounce makes it a higher-grossing commodity: An estimated $2.84 billion in gold is mined per annum in the state. Nevada is the largest producer of gold in the United States and the third-largest producer in the world; only South Africa and Australia produce more gold. Also mined in Nevada are copper, mercury, gypsum, lithium and petroleum.
The agriculture industry is alive and well in Nevada, despite obstacles that prevent ranching and farming in large regions of the state. More than 500,000 cattle and more than 70,000 sheep graze on the high plateaus among the cool mountain range regions of Nevada. During the winter months, the livestock is fed on fodder shipped in from other areas or shipped to feedlots out of state. In addition to livestock, farmers produce hay, alfalfa, onions, potatoes, wheat, barley and dairy products. From the glitter of Las Vegas, the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe and the fertile plains of the Great Basin, investors are sure to find their pot of gold — or silver — in Nevada.