Ruby Valley

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Coordinates: 40°24′00″N 115°18′00″W / 40.400°N 115.300°W / 40.400; -115.300

Location of Ruby Valley within Nevada

Ruby Valley is a large basin located in south-central Elko and northern White Pine Counties in the northeastern section of the state of Nevada in the western United States. From Secret Pass it runs south-southwest for approximately 60 miles (96 km) to Overland Pass. To the west is the steep escarpment of the Ruby Mountains, and to the north is the East Humboldt Range and Clover Valley. The east side of the valley is less well defined, but its maximum width is about 10 miles (16 km) near Franklin Lake. At its south end lies the Ruby Lake National Wildlife Refuge. SR 229 passes along the northeast edge of the valley, and Ruby Valley Road (SR 767 and CR 788) runs along its western edge. Harrison Pass Road (CR 718) crosses the Ruby Mountains near the center of the valley. Much of the floor of Ruby Valley lies at elevations near 6000 feet (1820 m).

Ruby Valley, looking north from near Overland Pass
Franklin Lake in Ruby Valley, looking southeast
North Ruby Valley, and the eastern escarpment of the Ruby Mountains

The valley played an important role in the history of the Great Basin. Nomadic tribes of the Shoshone nation used Ruby Valley as a winter home, finding it warmer than nearby locations. The California Trail, active after the 1840s, was located just to the north. The Donner Party passed through the southern end of the valley in 1846, heading for the Overland Pass route across the Ruby Mountains – part of the Hastings Cutoff.

Overland Pass was also the site of much activity in the 1860s. A transportation route through central Nevada had been scouted by Howard Egan in 1855, and then surveyed by Captain James H. Simpson for the U.S. Army in 1859. Simpson then established a trading post at the south end of Ruby Valley, and George Chorpenning built a way station there for his mail and stagecoach line in 1860. The Pony Express and its successor, the Transcontinental Telegraph, also ran through Overland Pass. In September 1862 the U.S. Government established Fort Ruby at the east entrance to the pass, and in 1863 signed the controversial Treaty of Ruby Valley with the Shoshone. After the American Civil War, transport service was continued by John Warren Butterfield and then by Wells Fargo & Co. Around 1866, Wells Fargo began the first agriculture in Ruby Valley to help support its way stations.

However, in the late 1860s the Transcontinental Railroad was routed well to the north, and Overland Pass fell into disuse. Fort Ruby was closed in September 1869, just seven years after it was built. The old Pony Express Station was moved and restored, and is now part of a display at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko. The valley is now sparsely settled, and principally used to raise cattle and to grow alfalfa.

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