Hawthorne, Nevada

Walker Lake, near Hawthorne, Nevada
Walker Lake, just north of Hawthorne

Hawthorne is located in western Nevada, just south of Walker Lake. Probably the primary economic force in Hawthorne is the nearby Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot (and Plant).

H.M. Yerington, president of the Carson & Colorado Railroad, chose the townsite of Hawthorne in 1880 as a division and distribution point. Yerington named the town in honor of a lumberman friend in Carson City. The first train arrived in town on April 14, 1881, loaded with prospective buyers for the new town. Hawthorne became the county seat of Esmeralda County in 1883 but lost that office when it was shifted to Goldfield in 1907. When Mineral County was carved from Esmeralda County in 1911, Hawthorne became the county seat.

In the 1920's, there was a major explosion at an East Coast Army munitions plant (Lake Denmark, New Jersey) that injured hundreds of people in nearby towns. That event (and its backlash) caused the military to chose Hawthorne as a good (read: safer) location to build a new facility. The Depot was opened for business in 1930 and is now probably the world's largest facility of its kind. According to the official blurb, the Depot employed about 700 of Hawthorne's residents and pumped around $31 million into the local economy every year. The facility covers some 226 square miles of countryside and includes a 49,000-acre live fire test facility. In 2005, the Department of Defense recommended closing the Hawthorne Depot but environmental cleanup work will probably go on for many years afterward.

Walker Lake is a remnant of the ancient Lake Lahontan, a freshwater lake that covered much of northern and central Nevada during the last Ice Age. There is evidence in the area of human habitation going back 11,000 years and more. Since the Ice Age, the climate has dried and Lake Lahontan has been evaporating and shrinking. Walker Lake is the terminus of the Walker River, one of 3 rivers that drain the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. Since the 1930's, diversion dams and ditches have reduced the flows in Walker River to the point that Walker Lake is receding even faster than it was before. In addition, as the water level drops, the total dissolved solids (mostly alkali salts) rise. This has been killing off the fish, and as the fish die, the migrating birds that stop here by the tens-of-thousands in spring and fall die, too. The state has been stocking fish in the lake on a regular basis but if the folks don't act to save the lake soon (by establishing a minimum water level and guaranteeing river flows that maintain that level), it's only a matter of time...

Hawthorne, Nevada
Hawthorne, Nevada
Fast Facts about Hawthorne, Nevada
Hawthorne, Mineral County, NV89415
Founded: 1880
Elevation: 4,331'
Latitude: 38.5252°N
Longitude: 118.623°W
Resident Racial Breakdown:
White Non-Hispanic: 86.1%
Hispanic: 10.0%
African-American: 1.5%
Native American: 2.0%
Two or More Races: 0.5%
High School or Higher: 76.9%
Bachelor's Degree or Higher: 13.0%
Graduate or Professional Degree: 3.8%
2009 Estimates:
Population: 3,143
Males: 1,553
Females: 1,590
Median Resident Age: 43.7 Years
Estimated Median Household Income: $36,230
Estimated Median Home Value: $70,730
Population Density: 2,122 People per Square Mile
2011 Cost of Living Index for Hawthorne: 79.8
Major Industries:
Educational Services, Government, Lodging & Food Services, Entertainment & Recreation, Professional Services, Mining, Construction, Health Care

Unemployed: 14.6% logo
Photo of Walker Lake courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management.
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