If there’s one state that offers residents and visitors steady weather, it has to be Nevada. Temperatures are stable in the Silver State for most of the year, with a good dose of sunshine, relatively low humidity, and low precipitation. However, the story is not the same everywhere in Nevada. Some parts of the state can get frigidly cold. We’re talking as low as 28.5°F on some days! Located about 77 miles east of Eureka, NV, Ely is the coldest place in Nevada and, in fact, one of the coldest cities in the contiguous United States. This post details some interesting facts about Ely, including the history, population, and wildlife of this mountain city.
How Cold Does It Get in the Coldest Place in Nevada?
Ely is the coldest place in Nevada and one of the coldest cities in the United States. The city ranks 41st on the list of coldest cities in the US. On most days, the daily temperature in Ely goes as low as 28.5°F, and it rarely tops 61.3°F. The average temperature throughout the year is 44.9°F.
The low daily and annual temperature is not the only reason Ely is the coldest place in the state. You can blame the extreme nighttime temperatures in the city for that too. As a location with a semi-arid climate, temperature differences between daytime and nighttime can reach excessive levels in this city. This is another reason why it is the coldest place in Nevada.
In Ely, an average of 214.9 nights throughout the year experience a minimum temperature that’s less than 32°F. It gets even colder on some nights. An average of 15.7 nights throughout the year get as cold as 0°F or less. For 21.7 nights throughout the year, the highest temperature does not exceed the freezing point.
The hottest temperature ever recorded in Ely was 101°F, and this was on July 18, 1998. Conversely, the coldest temperature reached was −30°F on February 6, 1989. It is worth noting that Ely can get sweltering during certain days of the year. The average high at the peak of summer is 89.4°F.
Interestingly, even on hot days like this, the elevation, dry air, and unique location in a valley allow the rapid radiative cooling of this location when the sun goes down, leading to relatively low diurnal temperature. Ely has experienced frost all year round in the past. However, on average, the freezing temperatures begin in September and end by June of the following year.
Coldest Place in Nevada — History
Ely sits at the eastern edge of Nevada, near a place called the loneliest road in America (US Route 50). The history of this remote mountain city, especially its name, is steeped in historical conflict. The origin of the name Ely has been subject to debate for years.
One of the most popular beliefs is that Ely came from the surname of the New York congressman who sent J. W. Long to White Pine County. Long discovered gold in the area and, after setting up camp, assigned the name “Ely” to that location. However, the name of the mining town could also be a reference to Smith Ely, the Vermont native that financed one of the earliest mineral operations in the city. Long is also from a town named Ely in Vermont, so he could have named the new mining town after his hometown. We’ll probably never know the truth.
The discovery of copper in 1906 brought about a mining boom in Ely, Nevada. Ely’s boom came a bit late. Other towns along US Route 50 had already experienced an industrial boom due to mining activities. The stagecoach station town became a significant copper-mining town with famous copper companies like the Kennecott Utah Copper establishing their base there. The company and many others eventually shut down in the mid-1970s when the copper market crashed.
The discovery of cyanide heap leaching, a new method of extracting gold from low-grade ore, kickstarted a new mining boom in Ely that persisted through the end of the 20th century. Beyond gold and copper, Ely was a vital rail town in the 1900s. The railroads connected with transcontinental mines that ran through Austin, Nevada, and Eureka. These railroads are no longer in existence, but the ghost train of old Ely remains today as a testament to the past.
What is the Population of the Coldest Place in Nevada?
As of 2020, the male population of this city was 2,112, and the female population was 1,881, giving the town a total population of 3,993. Ely is ranked the 37th largest city in Nevada based on population size and the 7,721st in the United States. Over the years, the city’s population has fluctuated significantly. The White population in Ely is higher than other demographics. This is followed by Hispanic and native Americans. The city had a peak population in 1990 when its population was about 5,288. Ely is a predominantly conservative and suburban city.
Ely is not widely known for its wildlife as it is for its cold climate. But it does have some exciting sights. The Ely Elk Viewing Area allows visitors to catch breathtaking views of eagles, hawks, and ravens from their cars because these birds typically tend to perch on poles along the highway.
One of Nevada’s largest animals, the Rocky Mountain elk, can be frequently sighted roaming the Ely area. You may spot them feeding or in groups during spring seasons or even on the highway. The best time to visit Ely if you plan to see the wildlife is between October and November. If you cannot make it around this time, March through April will be your best bet. These four months are peak viewing times for elks. The elk bulls are more abundant during the fall, as this is their rutting period. Some elks come out during mid-winter, but with Ely’s weather reputation, this is not the best time to visit.
Other notable animal species you can find in Ely include least chipmunks and black-tailed jackrabbits. If you are a visitor and a nature lover, you can check out the Great Basin National Park. There you will find breathtaking Lehman Caves, limestone and marble caverns full of stalagmites, and a large number of wild rock formations. It is located in White Pine County and quite close to Ely, Nevada.
Other Interesting Facts About Ely, Nevada
Ely is an eclectic mix of history, cultural diversity, and outdoor adventure despite its unusual weather. It still retains elements of its history to date. The Nevada Northern Railway still runs through the town. The classic railway offers a one-of-a-kind ride through the sturdy mountains of the Egan range.
The locomotive was built to enhance the economic activities of Ely by transporting copper back in the 20th century. It is one of the last relics of the industrial age that is still standing today. While Ely might be widely viewed as a remote place with some weather constraints, it is a city that is kind to visitors and newcomers. The city hosts a few notable events commemorating its cultural and artistic nature.
Extreme weather notwithstanding, a city like Ely is worth visiting for adventurous tourists interested in small remote towns. There are thrilling and memorable ways to make the visit worth it. You’ll enjoy seeing a small city that thrives in modernization but retains the beauty of its past and respects its history. Just remember that it can get frigidly cold in this part of Nevada, and prepare yourself accordingly for the trip.
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- Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ely
- White Pine County Tourism & Recreation, Available here: https://elynevada.net
- Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/place/Ely-Nevada