About Nye County
With 18,159 square miles within its boundaries, Nye County is the third largest county in the United States. The mountains and valleys of the Great Basin region cover the county. In the north they run north to south in alternation, with valleys five to six thousand feet above sea level, and mountains reaching above 11,000 feet. In the south the mountains are less imposing and irregularly shaped, with valleys reaching as low as 3,000. Creosote and saltbush are the dominant vegetation in the south, giving way to sagebrush and junipers in the north.
A portion of Death Valley National Park reaches into Nye County, and nearby Beatty is a popular place for visitors to the park to stay. The Nevada Test Site and Nellis Air Force Bombing and Gunnery Range occupy a large part of the county. Only seven percent of the county is privately owned.
Nye County was organized on February 16, 1864, being named after Nevada territorial governor J. W. Nye. The original county seat was Ione, a mining town in the Shoshone Mountains. Early exploration of the area was hindered by the lack of known water sources. By 1905 the county seat had been moved to Belmont, and in that year it was moved to Tonopah, where it remains today.
U.S. Highway 95 passes along the southwestern boundary of the county. U.S. Highway 6 crosses the northern part. Tonopah lies at the intersection of the two highways. With just two inhabitants per square mile, Nye County's population, as of 2000, is 32,485.