Welcome to the most remote town in the lower 48: Jarbidge, Nevada. (No, not “Jarbridge”, Jarbidge. While we’re at it, it’s not “Ne-vah’-da”, either.)
Situated in the 180-square-mile Jarbidge Wilderness, the namesake town tests the limits of the axiom about the journey being the destination. The “nearest” “major” city is Twin Falls, Idaho, a town of 35,000 people that’s 92 miles away, most of that on quiet county roads and dirt. We traveled from the next closest destination of decent size: Elko, Nevada, home to 17,000 people and 100 miles from Jarbidge.
The trip from Elko takes a couple of hours. The guidebooks state that a car can make the trip, but at times it even felt treacherous in a full-size 4WD SUV. The only vehicles we passed along the dirt portion of the program were other SUVs, passenger trucks, and plenty of ATVs..
Estimates of Jarbidge’s population range from 12 to 20. Why there isn’t an authoritative, exact count of such an easily quantifiable population is unclear. We would have conducted the census ourselves, but the locals don’t take kindly to outsiders pressing them for information.
Case in point, the Sagebrush Rebellion of the mid-1990s. To summarize – a flood washed out a nearby road. Representatives of the U.S. Forest Service decided to close the road, reasoning this would give the local bull trout population a chance to grow. The locals, with the backing of county government officials, decided to open the road themselves. People from all across the West descended upon the town to offer their help in beating back a voracious and nonrepresentative federal government, in the form of manual labor. The “Jarbidge Shovel Brigade” kept the road open and is memorialized by the 28′ high shovel in the picture.
Enter Las Vegas-to-Jarbidge on Google, Bing, Yahoo and Mapquest and you’ll see 4 different routes. Ours involved taking State Route 225 north of Elko, then heading east on County Road 746. From there, signs are as sparse as asphalt. The wildlife is not shy, with plenty of mule deer and even the occasional pronghorn. But the most exotic wildlife we encountered – if by exotic you mean alien and curious – were the untold numbers of Mormon crickets swarming the dirt road at various points. These infernal katydids, many of them the size of a chihuahua puppy, are the bane of Elko county. They can travel in packs up to a mile long and a mile wide, the ones in front motivated to cover ground by having their cannibalistic brethren marching behind. No one wants to get a flat tire on an off-road adventure, but especially not where there’s a danger of sharing the ground with a few myriad giant insects. Fortunately, they can’t fly.
Jarbidge itself sits over 6000′ above sea level, but still 2000′ below the surrounding mountains, which presumably makes traveling here in the winter a challenge. In the summer, however, the place is gorgeous and thoroughly modern – the food is plentiful, the credit cards are honored, and even the telephones work (land lines were installed in 1984. Cell phones, any decade now.)
To return, we continued north out of town, on an additional 17 miles of dirt before crossing into Idaho and driving another 45 miles east to the town of Rogerson, complete with gas pumps. Rogerson sits on U.S. Highway 93. Take it south to Jackpot, Nevada, a border town where Twin Fallsians go to gamble.