Mount Blitzen and the Queen Mine smelter stack.
In remote northeastern Nevada, Mount Blitzen stands watch over the once-booming mining town of Tuscarora. Located 42 miles north of Elko, Mount Blitzen has an elevation of 8,130 feet with 530 feet of prominence. What makes this summit appealing is that it offers an outstanding vantage of Tuscarora, once one of Nevada’s premiere boomtowns. Adding to Blitzen’s appeal is the benchmark (a reference mark and a triangulation station marker) -- sought after on mountaintops by many so of us.
The word Blitzen
comes from the German language and the peak was so named because an electrical storm occurred during discussions of the peak’s naming. I’m not sure when the peak got its name, but it was probably sometime in the early 1870s.
Much of the route to Mount Blitzen through the Tuscarora Mountains runs through private lands. Access is not an issue – please keep your vehicle on the roads, close the gates, and “leave no trace.” The summit of Mount Blitzen is on public (BLM) lands.
From the top of Blitzen, you get a great view of the Independence Mountains just 12 miles to the east and also of the Tuscarora Mountains. But as I’ve already mentioned, Blitzen looks down on Tuscarora and I thought that was a really nice view. There’s a register in an ammo can, placed on the summit in July 2008.
|Tuscarora from above. |
|Summit, looking NE. |
Tuscarora began as a mining camp after reports of gold in the area by a Shoshone Indian were confirmed, prompting the arrival of an exploration party in 1867. Four years later, the mining camp moved about 2 miles to the north after the discovery of rich silver veins on the east slopes of Mount Blitzen. The transition from mining camp to mining town went into full swing, with both gold and silver being heavily mined in the area. The years 1878 and 1879 marked the height of mining production for Tuscarora’s mines. The population eventually grew to 3,000 to 5,000 (depending on the source) people during this boom. At its peak, Tuscarora’s Chinese population reached 500, boasting the largest Chinatown east of San Francisco. In 1903, after periods of decline and revival spanning more than two decades, Tuscarora began its final decline. Tuscarora today is a quiet, sleepy town of 15 or so residents. Some original structures from the early days are still on site. If you’re in the area, a side trip to Tuscarora is well worth the time.
- Howard Hickson’s Histories – A Town That Won’t Die and Chinese Voting in Tuscarora
|Approaching Tuscarora. |
|Ruins in Tuscarora. |
- Nevada Ghost Towns - Tuscarora article
From NV-226 35 miles north of Elko and 39 miles south of Mountain City, turn left onto County Highway 723 and head west for about 5.6 miles. Continue past the Tuscarora intersection, where CH-723 curves left (south) and becomes NV-789. Take NV-789 south for about 0.7 miles and leave the hardpack road, turning right (west) onto the dirt road. After about 1.9 miles, you’ll come upon a ranch followed by two gates, after which the road curves right and takes you in a northerly direction along McCann Creek. The road crosses the creek in several places. When I drove through in early September, the creek was nearly dry. After driving about 7.4 miles, turn right (east) onto the dirt road leading up the west slope of Mount Blitzen. The road terminates after a quarter mile. Although the dirt roads on this route are in good condition, there are a couple of steeper areas where you’ll probably want to use 4WD to get better traction. You will also want high clearance to negotiate some areas where there are dips in the road. The total driving distance from the NV-226/CH-723 junction is about 12.5 miles.
There are five gates that you’ll pass through on this route. Please ensure that you securely close these gates. Additionally, this is open range country – drive accordingly and watch for livestock.
: From the end of the road, the summit is a mere one-tenth of a mile to the northeast with about 100 elevation gain.
Note: This route uses the McCann Creek Mountain route.
|NV-226/CH-723 junction. |
|Access road view. |
|Access road terminus.
Route involves crossing private land and public (BLM) land. Access is not an issue at this time. Please respect the land, keep your vehicle on the road and remember to close the gates! BLM regulations apply on federal lands.
There are no developed campgrounds in the immediate area. Dispersed camping on BLM land is permitted at no cost for a maximum of 14 days at the same location. The closest campground is the USFS-managed Jack Creek Campground
. To get there, drive north about 15 miles past the NV-226/CH-723 junction, turn right onto CH-732, and head east for about two miles. The campground, comprised of six primitive sites, is situated along Jack Creek at an elevation of about 6,500 feet.
Food & Lodging
Elko, 35 miles to the south, and Mountain City, 39 miles to the north from the NV-226/CH-732 junction, are the closest communities offering food, lodging, and gas. I’m not too familiar with the Mountain City area, but Elko has numerous choices. Just to the south of the NV-226/CH-723 junction is the Taylor Canyon Resort, where you can get a cold beer and a meal. Further south, at the NV-225/NV-226 junction, is the Lone Mountain Station, where you can get the same, along with billiards and shuffleboard. I don’t know the operating hours of either place.