One of Nevada's remotest towns, Jarbidge is located in the Jarbidge Wilderness, part of the Humboldt National Forest. Access from Nevada is along one of two dirt roads, both of which are snowed in during the winter, sometimes for as long as eight months. The road from Idaho is open year round, but is also unpaved. Telephone service did not arrive until 1984. The inaccessibility of the place gives Jarbidge a strikingly independent spirit in this state of independent spirits.
The town was settled in a narrow valley created by the Jarbidge River. Prospectors had been roaming through the area well before the turn of the last century, looking for gold and silver. When they discovered gold in 1909, just south of the present location of the town, a boom brought 1,500 people to the area. Jarbidge was founded on U.S. Forest Service land, and conflicts over land have been a part of its history. In 1911 the Department of Agriculture set aside ten and one-half acres in the Humboldt National Forest for Jarbidge, declaring it an independent town. At its peak, in 1919, the Jarbidge Mining District was the largest gold producer in the state. The boom lasted into the 1930s, when the town hit hard times.
Although mining continues in the region today, Jarbidge has changed from a boom town to a small tourist town with a year-round population of about thirty-five. Unlike other remote mountainous mining towns, however, Jarbidge has been continuously inhabited. After a devastating fire in 1919, the townspeople rebuilt their homes. Abundant trees provided the materials for log cabins, which are still numerous and add to Jarbidge's rustic character. A single street running through the town is lined with these cabins and wood-frame buildings—some inhabited, most decaying. Although the town is quiet, it serves as a center for tourists who come to camp, hike, and ride mountain bikes in the Jarbidge Wilderness. Most of the inhabitants are retired; a few run small businesses, which include the local store, a café, a bar, and a bed-and-breakfast.
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