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Weekend getaway: Winnemucca offers a look at ranch life, past and present


By Chris Moran

Cowboys haven’t all ridden off into the sunset.

“A lot of times people think cowboys are from the past, but there’s a whole subculture that exists,” Michelle Hammond, marketing and sales coordinator at the Winnemucca Convention & Visitors Authority, said. “The West is alive and well.”

Check its pulse this month (February) at the Winnemucca Ranch Hand Rodeo Weekend, Feb. 26 to March 1 in Winnemucca, about 166 miles east of Reno on Interstate 80. You’ll see working cowboys — not necessarily the pros on the PRCA circuit – competing in team events such as bronc riding, steer stopping and trailer loading. Hammond particularly mentioned the cow dog trials on Feb. 26-27, showcasing the cow dogs that are essential to ranch operations. Free to watch, the trials have the dogs move cattle through a timed obstacle course. The rodeo itself is $10, $5 kids; tickets available at the gate.

Other things to do in Winnemucca include visiting the Humboldt Museum, which has Columbian mammoth fossils; American Indian artifacts, as well as information on Sarah Winnemucca, author of the 1883 book “My Life Among the Piutes (cq)”; and a historical car exhibit. The museum, 175 Museum Lane in Winnemucca, is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Friday and from 1 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays.

winnemucca cowboy mural
A cowboy mural in Winnemucca, one of the towns
along I-80 in Nevada’s Cowboy Corridor.
Image: Travel Nevada

A popular dining spot in town is the historical Martin Hotel, 94 W. Railroad St. in Winnemucca. Opened in 1989, the Martin once was a boarding house for Basque sheepherders. Today, the dining room serves up hearty meals once enjoyed by those ranchers of yesteryear.

Winnemucca also is a stop on Travel Nevada’s Cowboy Corridor itinerary, which presents things to do and see along Interstate 80 in Nevada. This region of the state historically has been a ranching and cowboying region. I-80 also roughly follows California Trail, the 19th century pathway that led to the California gold fields. About 250,000 people took this trail from 1841 to 1869, and their story is told at the California Trail Interpretive Center in Elko, about 124 miles east of Winnemucca.


Chris Moran is a public relations specialist at the Nevada Division of Tourism (Travel Nevada) and has lived in Reno since 1996. She is a former editor and writer at the Reno Gazette-Journal, and has a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of California, Berkeley. Her hobbies include skiing, hiking, reading, photography, coffee and coffeehouses, and exploring Nevada. Check out her blog at www.ChrisinNevada.wordpress.com.

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