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Nevada (Spanish for “snowy”; see pronunciations) is a state in the Western, Mountain West, and Southwestern regions of the United States of America. Nevada is the 7th most extensive, the 34th most populous, and the 9th least densely populated of the 50 United States. Nearly three-quarters of Nevada’s people live in Clark County, which contains the Las Vegas–Paradise metropolitan area where three of the state’s four largest incorporated cities are located. Nevada’s capital is Carson City. Nevada is officially known as the “Silver State” because of the importance of silver to its history and economy. It is also known as the “Battle Born State”, because it achieved statehood during the Civil War (the words “Battle Born” also appear on the state flag); as the “Sage-brush State”, for the native plant of the same name; and as the “Sage-hen State”. Nevada borders Oregon to the northwest, Idaho to the northeast, California to the west, Arizona to the southeast and Utah to the east.
Nevada is largely desert and semi-arid, much of it within the Great Basin. Areas south of the Great Basin are within the Mojave Desert, while Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada lie on the western edge. About 86% of the state’s land is managed by various jurisdictions of the U.S. federal government, both civilian and military.
Before European contact, Native Americans of the Paiute, Shoshone, and Washoe tribes inhabited the land that is now Nevada. The first Europeans to explore the region were Spanish. They called the region Nevada (snowy) because of the snow which covered the mountains in winter. The area formed part of the Viceroyalty of New Spain, and became part of Mexico when it gained independence in 1821. The United States annexed the area in 1848 after its victory in the Mexican–American War, and it was incorporated as part of Utah Territory in 1850. The discovery of silver at the Comstock Lode in 1859 led to a population boom that became an impetus to the creation of Nevada Territory out of western Utah Territory in 1861. Nevada became the 36th state on October 31, 1864, as the second of two states added to the Union during the Civil War (the first being West Virginia).
Nevada has a reputation for its libertarian laws. In 1940, with a population of just over 110,000 people, Nevada was by far the least-populated state, with less than half the population of the next least-populated state. However, legalized gambling and lenient marriage and divorce laws transformed Nevada into a major tourist destination in the 20th century. Nevada is the only U.S. state where prostitution is legal, though it is illegal in Clark County (Las Vegas), Washoe County (Reno) and Carson City (which, as an independent city, is not within the boundaries of any county). The tourism industry remains Nevada’s largest employer, with mining continuing as a substantial sector of the economy: Nevada is the fourth-largest producer of gold in the world
The name “Nevada” comes from the Spanish nevada [neˈβaða], meaning “snow-covered”,[16] after the Sierra Nevada (“snow-covered mountain range”).
Most Nevadans pronounce the second syllable of their state name using the vowel of “trap” (/nᵻˈvædə/). Many from outside the Western United States pronounce it with the vowel of “father” (/nᵻˈvɑːdə/). Although the latter pronunciation is closer to the Spanish pronunciation, it is not the pronunciation preferred by most Nevadans. State Assemblyman Harry Mortenson proposed a bill to recognize the alternate (quasi-Spanish) pronunciation of Nevada, though the bill was not supported by most legislators and never received a vote. The Nevadan pronunciation is the de facto official one, since it is the one used by the state legislature. At one time, the state’s official tourism organization, TravelNevada, stylized the name of the state as “Nevăda”, with a breve mark over the a indicating the locally preferred pronunciation which is also available as a license plate design.
Nevada is almost entirely within the Basin and Range Province, and is broken up by many north-south mountain ranges. Most of these ranges have endorheic valleys between them, which belies the image portrayed by the term Great Basin.
Much of the northern part of the state is within the Great Basin, a mild desert that experiences hot temperatures in the summer and cold temperatures in the winter. Occasionally, moisture from the Arizona Monsoon will cause summer thunderstorms; Pacific storms may blanket the area with snow. The state’s highest recorded temperature was 125 °F (52 °C) in Laughlin (elevation of 605 feet or 184 metres) on June 29, 1994.[19] The coldest recorded temperature was −52 °F (−47 °C) set in San Jacinto in 1972, in the northeastern portion of the state.[19]
The Humboldt River crosses the state from east to west across the northern part of the state, draining into the Humboldt Sink near Lovelock. Several rivers drain from the Sierra Nevada eastward, including the Walker, Truckee, and Carson rivers. All of these rivers are endorheic basins, ending in Walker Lake, Pyramid Lake, and the Carson Sink, respectively. However, not all of Nevada is within the Great Basin. Tributaries of the Snake River drain the far north, while the Colorado River, which also forms much of the boundary with Arizona, drains much of southern Nevada.
The mountain ranges, some of which have peaks above 13,000 feet (4,000 m), harbor lush forests high above desert plains, creating sky islands for endemic species. The valleys are often no lower in elevation than 3,000 feet (910 m), while some in central Nevada are above 6,000 feet (1,800 m).
The southern third of the state, where the Las Vegas area is situated, is within the Mojave Desert. The area receives less rain in the winter but is closer to the Arizona Monsoon in the summer. The terrain is also lower, mostly below 4,000 feet (1,200 m), creating conditions for hot summer days and cool to chilly winter nights (the result of temperature inversion).
Nevada and California have by far the longest diagonal line (in respect to the cardinal directions) as a state boundary at just over 400 miles (640 km). This line begins in Lake Tahoe nearly 4 miles (6.4 km) offshore (in the direction of the boundary), and continues to the Colorado River where the Nevada, California, and Arizona boundaries merge 12 miles (19 km) southwest of the Laughlin Bridge.
The largest mountain range in the southern portion of the state is the Spring Mountain Range, just west of Las Vegas. The state’s lowest point is along the Colorado River, south of Laughlin.
Nevada has 172 mountain summits with 2,000 feet (610 m) of prominence. Nevada ranks second in the USA, behind Alaska, and ahead of California, Montana, and Washington. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the contiguous United States.

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