Management of Subterranean Ecosystems in Extreme Environments
About Ely, Nevada
Ely, Nevada
On the Loneliest Road in America
Ely, Nevada
Ely location graphic

In the heart of the Great Basin, Ely, Nevada is located at the eastern end of the Loneliest Road in America (U.S. Highway 50). What started as just a post office and stagecoach station grew rapidly with the discovery of copper over a century ago. Ely's first settlers were attracted by the grassy meadows, water, and towering mountains, as well as the lure of potential fortunes to be made mining gold and silver. By 1880, the town had acquired its name and a population of several hundred.

Ely's economy has nearly always been dependant on mining. Although originally prospectors came to the area looking for gold and silver, it was copper that brought this town fame. Mark Requa founded the Nevada Consolidated Copper Corporation in the early 1900s and, after securing financing, built several rail lines. This allowed for copper deposits throughout the county to be mined, transported, and refined.

At one time, the mine just outside of town was the largest human-made hole on Earth!

Video compliments of KNPB - PBS Reno, Nevada

Ely now stands as a city proud of its economy and continually looking towards its future. Recently, a new green energy wind farm was completed east of town. Additional investments in the local economy come from major employers including the Bureau of Land Management, the Forest Service, Robinson Nevada Mining, and the White Pine County School District.

Community members have worked hard to beautify Ely's downtown area. World renowned muralists have come to town to paint scenes from the old west onto downtown buildings. Public areas, such as the park near the library, have had decorative cement work completed, light posts added, and statues erected. The local Renaissance Village, featuring restored historical homes, is a cultural gathering place for locals and visitors alike.

Remnants of the city's early mining days are kept forever locked in the many ghost towns that dot this landscape. These quiet places are a great way to step back in time and see what life was like for the folks who built Nevada and mined the precious metals, ores, and minerals that would come to define the West. Just a few years ago, aracheologists at Great Basin National Park discovered a 132-year-old rifle leaning against a tree in the park.

Great Basin
It's a Great Basin!

Additional local resurces may be found on the Great Basin Business and Tourism Council's website.

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Ely experiences a semi-arid climate and consistently remains much cooler than southern Nevada. The Western Climate Center reports that average October temperatures are a maximum of 65°F and a minimum of 28°F. High temperatures of 90°F or higher occur on an average of 20 days annually. Low temperatures of 32°F or lower occur on an average of 217 days annually. Average annual precipitation is 9.65 inches. Average annual snowfall is 52 inches. A current weather forecast may be viewed here.

Modern Amenities

The small-town size of Ely, Nevada is a clever disguise for its ability to host destination-worthy events. Ely features an 18-hole golf course, a 500-seat convention center, a new $3-million swimming facility, almost 800 hotel rooms, several 24-hour dining facilities, an art-deco movie theater, multiple casinos, a national park, 3 historical museums, an art gallery and a small airport.

Great Basin National Park

Things to see & explore

The only organized cave trip during the symposium will be included in one of our field trips on Wednesday. That trip will include a visit to the Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park.

Additional trips to caves during the week may occur, but are not planned as part of our official list of activities. If you would like to visit some of the area's caves, please speak to our registration staff at the convention center. They may be able to connect you with other cavers.

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The Nevada Northern Railway was built primarily to reach a major copper producing area in White Pine County. The railway, constructed in 1905-06, extended northward about 140 miles from Ely to connections with the Western Pacific Railroad. In a series of donations beginning in 1986, Kennecott Mining transferred the entire railroad's yard and shop facilities to the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation. Today, they operate the property as the Nevada Northern Railway Museum.

One of the social highlights of our symposium will be a geology-themed ride aboard this historic railroad!

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From the 13,063-foot summit of Wheeler Peak to the sagebrush-covered foothills, Great Basin National Park hosts a sample of the incredible diversity of the larger Great Basin region. Come and partake of the solitude of the wilderness, walk among ancient bristlecone pines, bask in the darkest of night skies, and explore mysterious subterranean passages. There's a lot more than just desert here.

One of our field trips on Wednesday will include a visit to the Lehman Caves at Great Basin National Park.

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Ward Charcoal Ovens State Historic Park is an interpretive site located about 18 miles south of the town of Ely near Cave Lake State Park. The park features six beehive shaped charcoal ovens that were used from 1876 through 1879 to help process rich silver ore that was discovered in the area. Once mining ended, the ovens were used to shelter travelers and even had a reputation as a hideout for stagecoach bandits.

Six large ovens remain in excellent repair, 30 feet high, 27 feet in diameter, with walls 2 feet thick at the base. They were built of quartz latite welded tuff by itinerant Swiss Italian masons who specialized in the ovens, who were known as carbonari.

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Located just west of downtown Ely, Garnet Hill is nationally known for its very dark colored garnets found in a flow banded rhyolitic volcanic rock. Two square miles of land was designated as a recreation area in 1970 to ensure continued public access to the site because of its recreational, rock hounding, and scientific study values.

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Nevada's Great Basin region contains one of the most active geothermal fields in North America. The same geomorphology that created the basin and range landscape has caused Earth's crust to be very thin in this area. Some springs can be scalding and physically dangerous - if you explore these features, be careful!

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Nevada's ghost towns are settlements that grew quickly in response to discoveries of gold, silver, or other minerals. In many cases, these towns became county seats, only to lose that designation once the town's resources became exhausted and its population dwindled.

A self-guided road log to nearby Belmont Mill ghost town is available on this website.

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Cave Lake State Park is a public recreation area occupying more than 4,000 acres in the Schell Creek Range, adjacent to Humboldt National Forest, in White Pine County, Nevada. The state park is located at an elevation of 7,300 feet five miles southeast of Ely and is accessed via U.S. Route 50 and Success Summit Road. It features a 32-acre reservoir for fishing and flat-wake boating.

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White Pine County offers several indoor and outdoor museums - most within a few minutes of the downtown area. A popular must-see is the Nevada Northern Railway Museum. The railroad museum features the Ghost Train of Old Ely, a working steam-engine passenger train that travels the historic tracks from Ely to the Robinson mining district.

The White Pine Public Museum features the life-size replica of a giant short-faced "cave bear" (Arctodus simus) which was discovered in a White Pine County cave in 1982.

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Baker Archeological site, also known as Baker Village, is the site of an ancient Fremont settlement that is about 800 years old. Inhabited for about 75 years, this site gives archeologists valuable insight into the life and customs of the Fremont people. The Fremont were a semi-nomadic people, often moving their homes from place to place.

The interpretive site features a self-guided trail through the archaeological area.

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This Afternoon

Sunny Sunny, with a high near 92. Southwest wind around 15 mph.


Mostly Clear Mostly clear, with a low around 51. South wind 10 to 15 mph.


Sunny Sunny, with a high near 91. South wind 10 to 15 mph.

Rhodes Cabin - Great Basin NP

Rhodes Cabin, Greeat Basin National Park

Next to the Lehman Caves Visitor Center sits the historic Rhodes Cabin. The cabin was built in the 1920s by Clarence and Bea Rhodes, who were US Forest Service custodians of Lehman Caves at the time. It is one of several cabins built to provide accommodations for visitors to Lehman Caves. Today it contains interpretive exhibits.

Symposium Merchandise

Campfire Coffee Mug

Stay up all night with our personalized ceramic coffee mug. This 13oz mug is perfect for school, campfire socials, marathon thesis proofreading, and all-night grant-writing sessions.


JUNE 29, 2023
NCKMS Steering Committee Chooses Ely, Nevada as Host City for 2025 Symposium
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Advance registration for the 2025 symposium is expected to open in mid-2024. We will send an email to past attendees when that system comes online.

Feel free to join our mailing list if you would like to receive occasional updates on our plans.

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