Pioche, seat of Lincoln County
In stark contrast to its very colorful 19th-century past, 21st-century Pioche, Nevada attracts visitors and new residents with its friendly, picturesque, quiet hometown appeal.
The town, on U.S. Highway 93, is the county seat of Lincoln County. A main attraction is the courthouse, built in 1938, a prominent fixture of the town. An even more famous attraction is the “Million Dollar Courthouse,” the one used from 1873 to 1938. (And that’s another fascinating story all in itself, but for another time).
Named for F.L.A. Pioche, a Frenchman and San Francisco based financier and land speculator in the 1850s and ’60s, who owned local mining interests but never visited the town, Pioche offers good food, lodging, automotive, and emergency services. There’s not much in the way of shopping, although one small place, Tillie’s, is open. It’s really an old gas station from the 1930s and has some of that charm of one of those places.
Reminders of the days when Pioche was a rip-roaring, nearly lawless, hard-rock mining town are still visible in many places.
However, there are also modern park and picnic facilities. The main park is next to the courthouse. It has a large grassy play area, a large picnic shelter with cooking areas, and playground equipment. It’s used for numerous functions, including the Labor Day and the upcoming annual 4th of July celebrations. Labor Day is the biggest social event of the year and is well attended.
The public swimming pool, located on the other side of the softball field, is only open during the summer months.
The Mining “pocket” park is located at the upper end of Main Street, where the business route of Highway 93 comes into town. It has a bandstand with a bench overlooking a replica of a mine tunnel entrance.
A visit to the famous Boot Hill cemetery is a reminder of the wild days of the 1870s, when Pioche indeed was the “toughest town in the west,” about a decade before Tombstone, Arizona earned a similar nickname.
A visit to the Million Dollar Courthouse Museum, with plenty of history of its own and the town’s primary attraction, is recommended. So is a visit to Thompson’s Opera House, one of only three — along with those in Virginia City and Eureka — still functioning Old West opera houses in Nevada. (Visit the Thompson’s Opera House website.)
Pioche has a no-fee RV park located across the street from the swimming pool: six pull-through sites are available for short term stays (seven days or less). Water and sewer are provided, but not electricity or restroom facilities. Donations for staying at the park are requested. There are additionally two commercial full-service RV parks in town for visitors wanting or requiring all the amenities.
The population of Pioche was a little over 1,000 in the 2010 U.S. census. It is about 180 miles northeast of Las Vegas and 113 miles south of Ely. U.S. 93 bypasses the town center just to the east, but it’s an easy turnoff at the junction of State Route 322 for access to the courthouse and town park.
With an elevation of 6,200 feet, the average high in July is 89 degrees F. Average January low is 21 degrees F. Rainfall amounts are low, about 13.5 inches per year, but winter snowfalls can be heavy, averaging 44 inches per year.
A one-time visit to Pioche is not enough though, so ya’ll come back now.
— Dave Maxwell