Railroad Tracks

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Town History

The Legacy of Elko, NV

The Ramada Elko Hotel and Casino has been part of the exciting culture of Elko, NV lodging for decades; here we present the history of our beloved town from the first settlers through today. Explore the timeline of Elko, Nevada history and our destination in the West below. 

The history of Elko, Nevada began with the First Transcontinental Railroad in 1868—a feat of construction that would be an important step in opening the west. Back then, Elko was little more than a collection of tents that would keep the rough-and-tumble spirit of its railroad workers for a long time to come. While a resort, newspaper and even an opera house were soon erected, saloons outnumbered other businesses in the city’s early years.

As the population steadily increased from travelers and businesspeople alike, Elko was chosen to be the first site of the University of Nevada less than a decade after its founding—and later became one of the first Nevada sites to start hosting big-name entertainment with a show from Ted Lewis and his Orchestra in 1941.

In recent years, gold mining has been a source both of changes and revenue for Elko: the city’s first boom lasted from the 1980’s to 90’s, with a second beginning in 2009.  For more information about the town’s history and how it stands today, we recommend enhancing your next stay with a visit to the Northeastern Nevada Museum or the California Trail Interpretive Center.

Elko Nevada Historical Timeline

Elko is first inhabited via the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad. The railroad first began in 1863 as tracks were laid in San Francisco and led east. As the work pointed to its end point in Promontory, Utah, track went through Northeastern Nevada and was laid at what is now the town of Elko. The last “Golden Spike” of the railroad was hammered in 1869 as the Central Pacific Railroad connected to the Union Pacific Railroad thus creating America’s coast-to-coast rail travel.


The town is said to have been named by Charles Croker who was a superintendent of the railroad construction and had an affinity for animals.


As the railroad crews moved on, Elko remained settled as a center for ranching, freight and general supplies.


Gold is first discovered in the area of Carlin, Nevada just down the road from Elko. Production from the mine stayed small, however.


Elko is officially incorporated as a city as the population sits at just under 2,000 people.


The first Elko County Fair is held and continues to this day drawing visitors from around the state at the end of every summer.


Congress passes The Kelly Act which begins the contracting of private flights to carry mail. The first commercial airmail flight is made between Pasco, Washington and Elko.


A large low-grade gold mine is discovered in the area.


Large-scale gold mining operations commence and put Nevada on track towards its current production rate of 79% of the United States’ gold mining.


The U.S. Census reports that the population of Elko has grown to just under 15,000 people with the recent boom of the mining industry and is considered “the capital of Nevada’s goldbelt.”


Our city motto of “The Heart of Northeast Nevada” rings true as Elko serves as an exciting destination for travelers.