Dennis Cassinelli: Elko County, Nevada

For 19 years, I worked for the Nevada Department of Transportation. During that time I made numerous trips to Elko County while working on the Interstate 80 freeway when it was under construction through Carlin, Elko and Wells. Many of the NDOT employees I met in Elko became good friends of mine and I knew several of the resident engineers who worked on the freeways when I was there. One time in Wells, I got hit in the head with a bar glass and had to pay a visit to the Elko hospital to get stitched up.

When the Carlin tunnels were under construction, I toured the tunnels several times before they were completed. In the 1970s, my wife, children and I made a trip with a camp trailer around Northern Nevada and visited Angel Lake near Wells one Forth of July, thinking we could dive into the water to cool off. Unfortunately, there were still big chunks of ice floating around on the lake, but we took a quick swim in the icy water anyway.

My family and I have gone ice fishing at Wild Horse and South Fork Reservoirs many times. On some trips to Wildhorse, we went to the restaurant at Tuscarora Junction for prime rib dinner. We have enjoyed camping trips to Jarbidge and elk hunting with my sons in the mountains around Elko and beautiful Lamoile Canyon.

Elko has always been one of my favorite towns to visit. There are many things to do and see in the area. It is the home of the annual Elko Basque Festival. Whenever we come to town, we always dine at either the Star Hotel or the Nevada Hotel for the fine Basque food and picon punches. The Cowboy Poetry event in the winter brings western poets, singers and other entertainers such as my friends, Waddie Mitchel and Sourdough Slim, to town.

Eight miles west of town is the California Trail Interpretive Center, and a pioneer history museum of great interest to locals and tourists. I have written articles about the Central Pacific Railroad through Elko. During Operation Hay Lift in 1948-49, C-82 Flying Boxcars were used to bring hay to starving sheep and cattle to ranches near Elko and Ely during the extremely cold winter.

I have also written articles about the Pony Express Stations in Elko County. The Ruby Valley Pony Express Station has been moved to Elko and has been restored. It can be seen at the Northeastern Nevada Museum. The Museum and the Bookstore on Idaho Street once carried my books, but I have not visited them lately. In my book, Preserving Traces of the Great Basin Indians, now on sale for just $10, I show drawings and photos of the beautiful series of Elko projectile points (arrowheads). These have been found throughout the area and are some of the most sought after points in the United States.

My brother, Ron Cassinelli, recently retired after many years working as a pilot for El Aero at the Elko Airport. Coincidently, I also recently retired (again) from working as an inspector on NDOT projects in 2019. I can remember one time in the 1970s when I worked for NDOT, taking off from the Elko Airport aboard the NDOT aircraft to return to Carson City. The weather was threatening and the pilot told us he would see what it looked like at Emigrant Summit. About half way there, pilot John told us to plan on spending another night in town, so we returned to the Elko airport and headed to the Star for Basque dinner and picon punches.

Dennis Cassinelli is a Dayton author and historian. You can order his books at a discount on his blog at


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