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 meters) on June 29, 1994. The coldest recorded temperature was −52 °F (−47 °C) set in San Jacinto in 1972, in the northeastern portion of the state.
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.
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 United States by number of mountains, behind Alaska, and ahead of California, Montana, and Washington. Nevada is the most mountainous state in the contiguous United States.
The United States Census Bureau estimates the population of Nevada on July 1, 2018 was 3,034,392, an increase of 61,987 residents (2.10%) since the 2017 US Census estimate and an increase of 333,841 residents (12.36%) since the 2010 United States Census. Nevada had the first highest percentage growth in population from 2017 to 2018. At the 2010 Census, 6.9% of the state’s population were reported as under 5, 24.6% were under 18, and 12.0% were 65 or older. Females made up about 49.5% of the population.
Since the 2010 census, the population of Nevada had a natural increase of 87,581 (the net difference between 222,508 births and 134,927 deaths); and an increase due to net migration of 146,626 (of which 104,032 was due to domestic and 42,594 was due to international migration).
The center of population of Nevada is in southern Nye County. In this county, the unincorporated town of Pahrump, 60 miles (97 km) west of Las Vegas on the California state line, has grown very rapidly from 1980 to 2010. At the 2010 census, the town had 36,441 residents. Las Vegas grew from a gulch of 100 people in 1900 to 10,000 by 1950 to 100,000 by 1970, and was America’s fastest-growing city and metropolitan area from 1960 to 2000.
From about the 1940s until 2003, Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the US percentage-wise. Between 1990 and 2000, Nevada’s population increased 66%, while the US’s population increased 13%. Over two thirds of the population of the state lives in Clark County, which is coextensive with the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Thus, in terms of population, Nevada is one of the most centralized states in the nation.
Henderson and North Las Vegas are among the top 20 fastest-growing U.S. cities with populations of over 100,000. The rural community of Mesquite 65 miles (105 km) northeast of Las Vegas was an example of micropolitan growth in the 1990s and 2000s. Other desert towns like Indian Springs and Searchlight on the outskirts of Las Vegas have seen some growth as well.
Since 1950, the rate of population born in Nevada has never peaked 27 percent, the lowest rate of all states. In 2012, only 25% of Nevadans were born in-state.
Large numbers of new residents in the state originate from California, which led some locals to feel their state is being “Californicated”.
The table below shows the racial composition of Nevada’s population as of 2016.
According to the 2016 American Community Survey, 27.8% of Nevada’s population were of Hispanic or Latino origin (of any race): Mexican (21.3%), Puerto Rican (0.9%), Cuban (0.9%), and other Hispanic or Latino origin (4.7%). The five largest non-Hispanic White ancestry groups were: German (11.3%), Irish (9.0%), English (6.9%), Italian (5.8%), and American (4.7%).
In 1980, non-Hispanic whites made up 83.3% of the state’s population.
As of 2011, 63.6% of Nevada’s population younger than age 1 were minorities. Las Vegas is a minority majority city. According to the United States Census Bureau estimates, as of July 1, 2018, non-Hispanic Whites made up 48.7% of Nevada’s population. This would make Nevada a majority minority state joining California, Texas, New Mexico, Hawaii, and the District of Columbia.
In Douglas, Mineral, and Pershing counties, a plurality of residents are of Mexican ancestry. In Nye County and Humboldt County, residents are mostly of German ancestry; Washoe County has many Irish Americans. Americans of English descent form pluralities in Lincoln County, Churchill County, Lyon County, White Pine County, and Eureka County.
Asian Americans lived in the state since the California Gold Rush of the 1850s brought thousands of Chinese miners to Washoe county. They were followed by a few hundred Japanese farm workers in the late 19th century. By the late 20th century, many immigrants from China, Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Bangladesh, India, and Vietnam came to the Las Vegas metropolitan area. The city now has one of America’s most prolific Asian American communities, with a mostly Chinese and Taiwanese area known as “Chinatown” west of I-15 on Spring Mountain Road. Filipino Americans form the largest Asian American group in the state, with a population of more than 113,000. They comprise 56.5% of the Asian American population in Nevada and constitute about 4.3% of the entire state’s population.
Largely African American sections of Las Vegas and Reno can be found. Many current African-American Nevadans are newly transplanted residents from California.
Las Vegas was a major destination for immigrants from South Asia and Latin America seeking employment in the gaming and hospitality industries during the 1990s and first decade of the 21st century, but farming and construction are the biggest employers of immigrant labor.
The religious makeup of Nevadans includes large communities of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Roman Catholics, and Evangelicals; each is known for higher birth rates and a younger than national average age. American Jews represent a large proportion of the active adult retirement community.
Note: Births within the table do not add up, due to Hispanics being counted both by their ethnicity and by their race, giving a higher overall number.
A small percentage of Nevada’s population lives in rural areas. The culture of these places differs significantly from the major metropolitan areas. People in these rural counties tend to be native Nevada residents, unlike in the Las Vegas and Reno areas, where the vast majority of the population was born in another state. The rural population is also less diverse in terms of race and ethnicity. Mining plays an important role in the economies of the rural counties, with tourism being less prominent. Ranching also has a long tradition in rural Nevada.
Church attendance in Nevada is among the lowest of all U.S. states. In a 2009 Gallup poll only 30% of Nevadans said they attended church weekly or almost weekly, compared to 42% of all Americans (only four states were found to have a lower attendance rate than Nevada).
Major religious affiliations of the people of Nevada are: Protestant 35%, no religion 28%, Roman Catholic 25%, Latter-day Saint 4%, Jewish 2%, Hindu less than 1%, Buddhist 0.5% and Islam less than 0.1%. Parts of Nevada (in the eastern parts of the state) are situated in the Mormon Corridor.
The largest denominations by number of adherents in 2010 were the Roman Catholic Church with 451,070; The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with 175,149; and the Southern Baptist Convention with 45,535; Buddhist congregations 14,727; Bahá’í 1,723; and Muslim 1,700. The Jewish community is represented by The Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and Chabad.
Nevada neighborhoods include: Alamo, Austin, Battle Mountain, Boulder City, Caliente, Cal Nev Ari, Carlin, Carson City, Crescent Valley, Dayton, Deeth, Denio, Elko, Ely, Empire, Eureka, Fallon, Fernley, Gabbs, Gardnerville, Gerlach, Glenbrook, Golconda, Hawthorne, Henderson, Hiko, Incline Village, Indian Springs, Jackpot, Jean, Las Vegas, Laughlin, Logandale, Luning, Mesquite, Minden, Mound House, Mountain City, Nellis Afb, Nixon, North Las Vegas, Orovada, Overton, Paradise Valley, Pioche, Reno, Ruby Valley, Schurz, Searchlight, Silver City, Silver Springs, Sloan, Smith, Sparks, Spring Creek, Stagecoach, Stateline, Sun Valley, Tuscarora, Verdi, Virginia City, Wadsworth, Walker Lake, Washoe Valley, Wellington, Wells, Winnemucca, Yerington