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The Nevada Traveler: Nevada rules when it comes to unusual place names

By Richard Moreno
Image of Mummy Mountain, near Charleston Peak in Southern Nevada. Photo courtesy of Stan Shebs
LVN Traveler 070120

While many of the Nevada’s mountain, canyons, cities, springs and geographic landmarks have pretty traditional names and honor politicians, pioneers or pathfinders, the state is filled with places with decidedly more colorful monikers like Forlorn Hope Springs, Halfpint Range and Hogpen Shoot.

Helen S. Carlson’s “Nevada Place Names,” in fact, is filled with facts about the thousands of names bestowed upon places across the state. Many of the most idiosyncratic are derived from physical characteristics or descriptions of a place while others are more whimsical in origin.

The following are a handful of the more unusual names attached to places in the Silver State.

• Scales – This former Virginia and Truckee Railroad section camp, located near Silver City, was so named because it was the location of railroad scales used for weighing ore brought to the station and loaded onto the train. The camp housed railroad maintenance crews and operated between 1900 and 1938.

• Sober-Up Gulch — Located north of Beatty, this valley has a noteworthy name of unknown origin — but we can certainly guess its providence. Groundwater from the gulch feeds into the Amargosa River.

• Washout — This station on the Carson and Colorado Railroad in Lyon County, 28 miles from Mound House, earned its name from the fact that flooding from annual snowmelts would wash away the wagon roads and railroad tracks located here.

• Hogpen Shoot — This ore shoot in Lincoln County near the mining camp of Delamar was named for an unusual incident. According to Carlson, a hogpen had been built on the side of a hill here. One day, the owners discovered that their rooting hogs had uncovered a rich outcropping of gold. The ore shoot was named in their honor – probably just before they were eaten.

• Halfpint Range — A stretch of hills located in Nye County (near the site of the Nevada State Test Site) that were so named because they were relatively low when compared to other surrounding mountain ranges.

• Dolly Varden — While you might think this former Elko County settlement was named for a local person or his wife, the name is derived from a political group, the Dolly Varden Party, which, in the early 1870s, rejected the corruption and bossism of the two major political parties. The Vardens eventually fused with the Democratic Party.

• Forlorn Hope Springs — This spring located northeast of the mining camp of Nelson (near Searchlight) in the El Dorado Canyon actually was named after a nearby mine, the Forlorn Hope. Presumably, its owners thought the mine would change their luck and make them rich.

• The Hump — This name says it all. This hill, part of the aforementioned Halfpint Range, was given its descriptive name in 1962 because of its smooth, round, humplike shape.

• Mummy Mountain — This mountain located about 2 miles north of Charleston Peak near Las Vegas was named for its resemblance to a prone Egyptian mummy, when viewed from the northeast.

• Nivloc — In the early part of the 20th century, silver was discovered on the east slope of the Silver Peak Range, near the town of Silver Peak. A mine and surrounding mining camp were soon named for the mine owner, a man named Colvin, but the letters to his name were reversed. From 1940 to 1943, the camp had a post office that carried the unusual name.

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