The Nevada Traveler: Star City: Once a hub of Northern Nevada



While Star City has definitely seen better times, once it was one of the largest towns in Northern Nevada.
Star City — or rather the site of the former mining town of that name — is located in (appropriately) Star Canyon, one of several scenic ravines found on the east side of the Humboldt Range.
Historical records indicate that significant silver deposits were discovered in the canyon in about 1861. Within a relatively short period of time, a small community was established around the mines, and by 1862 a post office opened.
Star City’s growth was remarkably fast. In 1863, the town swelled to an estimated 1,200 residents and, according to Nevada historian Stanley Paher, the town was the largest in Humboldt County.
Additionally, within two years of the town’s founding, it had gained a couple of hotels, several saloons and stores, a school, a telegraph office and a Wells Fargo Bank branch.
Star City’s most successful years were between 1864 and 1865 when seven mining companies operated in the canyon and one mine, the Queen of Sheba, produced an estimated $5 million between 1862 and 1868.
For a time, the Sheba Mining Co. also operated a ten-stamp mill, open 24 hours a day, to crush and process the ore.
During this time, Star City even boasted an active literary society known as the Gander Club.
Unfortunately, the Sheba Mine ran out of ore by about 1868 and the population soon moved on to more productive mining camps. By the time the 1870 census rolled around, only 78 residents were listed living in the town. The town’s post office closed in September 1868.
No one has lived in Star City for more than a century. While apparently there has been some sporadic mining activity in the area, it has remained a largely forgotten, old Nevada mining town.
The former site of Star City can be reached by driving east of Reno on Interstate 80 to the Mill City exit (about 45 miles east of Lovelock). Head south on State Route 400 for about 10 miles, then turn left onto a dirt road that leads to the site (there is an historic marker there), which is five miles west.
The four-wheel-drive road crosses a stretch of sage-covered desert before it begins to climb into the mouth of the canyon, parallel to a small stream (Star Creek).
The townsite is located in a wide spot where the road more or less ends (it’s wide enough to turn around). To the immediate west is one of the area’s most picturesque spots, where you’ll see the rocky cliffs of Star Canyon and the wooden headframe of the Queen of Sheba Mine.
Not much remains of Star City except for about three or four rock foundations and crumbling stone walls, which can be seen scattered about the hillside, peeking out of the sagebrush and tall grass.
Adjacent to the town’s ruins is Star Creek, a pleasant brook lined by lush vegetation and a handful of poplar trees that flows out of the mountains. As you wander closer to the Queen of Sheba headframe, you’ll find the site of the old mill (only a few rock foundations remain) as well as an abandoned but wide, open mine shaft (it’s not very deep, looking as if it had caved in some time ago).
After you’re done exploring Star City, you can head back to State Route 400 and it’s only a short 10-mile drive south to Unionville. There, you’ll find the ruins of another former mining town, where Mark Twain spent some time, as well as a bed and breakfast known as the Old Pioneer Garden B & B Guest Ranch (

Rich Moreno writes about the places and people that make Nevada special.


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