Small Golconda played a big role in Northern Nevada’s history | NevadaAppeal.com

Small Golconda played a big role in Northern Nevada’s history

Richard Moreno
The Nevada Traveler
The Golconda School, now a community center, is one of the historic building still found in the old railroad and mining town of Golconda, Nevada.
Photo by Richard Moreno |

To the vast majority of travelers on Interstate 80 through Northern Nevada, Golconda is simply one of the names on a sign you pass on the way from Winnemucca to Elko.

Some might even recognize the word as Indian (as in the country). Indeed, railroad officials named the town in honor of the ancient diamond-mining city of Golkonda in India.

Nevada’s Golconda is an often-overlooked hamlet that despite its shopworn appearance today played a part in many of the events essential to the development of the West and the founding of the state.

The town of Golconda is located 16 miles east of Winnemucca, adjacent to Interstate 80.

The area was first mentioned in the reports of explorer Peter Skene Ogden, who, in 1828, passed through the region while tracing the course of the Humboldt River.

Later, when large numbers of wagons began crossing Nevada on their way to California, the place became a stop on the famed Emigrant Trail because of its natural hot springs. Explorers can still find traces of the route north of the community.

The hot springs, in fact, have remained one of the aspects of Golconda that continue to make it unique.

In 1868, the Central Pacific Railroad established an ore shipping station near the hot springs to ship gold ore found in the Gold Run mining district, located 12 miles south. A small resort was constructed to provide weary transcontinental travelers with a place to relax.

In the latter part of the century, Golconda was notable because it became the starting point for an ambitious canal project that was to carry water 90 miles to the mines at Mill City.

The canal eventually stretched to Winnemucca, but it was abandoned before it was completed to Mill City because the poorly-constructed aqueduct leaked more water than it actually transported.

In 1897, there was renewed mining activity at Adelaide, located about 11 miles south of Golconda, and a narrow-gauge railroad was built (called the Golconda and Adelaide Railroad).

The town quickly grew to more than 500 residents, including several hotels and a post office, but the excitement soon subsided when, only two years later, the mine was closed and the railroad was shut down.

About seven years later, the mines, mill and railroad started up again, but once again the enterprise proved unprofitable and all ceased operations for good in about 1910.

In the late 1930s, a large chemical plant was constructed outside of the town to treat ore from new manganese-tungsten discoveries, but it was closed by the end of World War II and dismantled in the early 1950s.

Some mining has continued, however, since the 1930s at the Getchell and, later, Pinson mines, located about 20 miles north of Golconda.

The original hot springs hotel constructed for the railroad, which became regionally famous in the early part of the century, burned in 1961.

Today, visitors will find Golconda to be a sleepy roadside way station that boasts a handful of motels and gas stations surviving off the interstate travelers.

On the corner of the main street (parallel to the interstate) and the road leading to the center of the town is one of those great-looking 1930s-style gas stations that once lined Highway 40 (predecessor to Interstate 80).

Now part of a private residence, the station, which is in good condition, still boasts its old gas pump, which reportedly pumped its last ounce of octane in the 1970s.

The town also has a striking gray and white, red-roofed school house, boasting a classical Victorian frontier architecture. The building, constructed just after the turn of the century, now serves as a community center.

Less than a mile west of the center of town, you can also find the remains of Golconda’s famed hot springs: a large pond of warm water fed by a few of the 12 springs found in the area.

About four miles west of Golconda is Button Point, a highway rest area that also happens to be one of the best places to view the incredible winding of the Humboldt River. Here, you can look out for miles across a relatively undeveloped landscape and truly see what Nevada must have looked like to the early explorers and pioneers.