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Legislative History

After over 60 drafts and eight years of work, the passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964 established a National Wilderness Preservation System. To qualify for the National Wilderness Preservation System, an area had to meet specific qualities of wilderness character and could only become a designated Wilderness through Congressional action, either within the Wilderness Act itself, or by subsequent Congressional acts. The Wilderness Act itself brought approximately 9 million acres of American public lands into the new National Wilderness Preservation System by designating US Forest Service areas previously recognized and managed as "wilderness", "wild", or "canoe" as Wilderness areas. In 1958, the Humboldt National Forest designated 64,667 acres of the highest peaks within the Jarbidge Mountains as the Jarbidge “Wild” area. This area became Nevada’s first Wilderness area with the passage of the Wilderness Act [Public Law 88-577 (16 U.S.C. 1131-1136) 88th Congress, Second Session September 3, 1964].

The Wilderness Act of 1964 also gave the US forest Service the mandate to inventory and review other areas that had Wilderness character and to forward those recommendations to the President to advise Congress as to the suitability of these areas in future Wilderness designation. Over the course of the next 25 years, Nevadan’s worked relentlessly to document and supplement characteristics of the US Forest Service roadless areas within the state. Many of these early conservationists would become founding members of Friends of Nevada Wilderness. The combined work of the US Forest Service and citizens resulted in 13 new US Forest Service Wilderness areas being added to the National Wilderness Preservation System with the passage of the Nevada Wilderness Protection Act National of 1989 [Public Law 101-195 Dec. 5, 1989]. This act designated the 36,651-acre East Humboldt Wilderness.

The Naming of the East Humboldt Range

The origin of the name of the East Humboldt Range has been intricately intertwined with the name of Nevada’s longest river, the Humboldt. The Humboldt River meandered through a series of names, as complex as the many explorations of Nevada. Peter Skene Ogden, a trapper with the Hudson's Bay Company, first recorded the river on November 9, 1828. Ogden explored the river for several hundred miles and made the first known map of the region. He labeled the river "Unknown River," as the source and terminus of the river were unknown to him. Later he changed the name to Paul’s River to honor one of his trappers, who died along the river. He changed the name again to "Mary's River," naming it after the Native American wife of one of his trappers. Still later, in 1829, he suggested that “Swampy River” would be a more appropriate name for the river he explored. The Bonneville-Walker fur expedition explored the river in 1833 and named it the “Barren River.” A 1837 book describing the Bonneville expedition called the watercourse “Ogden’s River.” By the time of the western migration in the early 1840’s, the river was recognized as “Mary’s River.” John C. Fremont’s expedition of the region mapped the entirety of the river in 1845 and bestowed the name “Humboldt River” on his map, in honor of the German naturalist Alexander Von Humbodlt. As a result, the East Humboldt Range was named because these mountains tower high above the eastern end of the Humboldt River.  The name “East” Humboldt Range became necessary to avoid confusion with the West Humboldt Range east of Lovelock.

Is the East Humboldt Range Part of the Ruby Mountains?

The East Humboldt Range should be considered as a separate range from the Ruby Mountains.  This is how Alvin McLane describes it in his 1978 book, Silent Cordilleras: The Mountain Ranges of Nevada.  Geographically, the two ranges are similar in geological composition and ecology, however they are separated by a substantial fault structure, which tears the two ranges apart in the vicinity of Secret Pass.  Secret Pass itself is much better describe as a valley averaging about two miles wide and appears to be a northern extension of the Ruby Valley, which climbs only 400 feet to a wide low pass, before drainage systems on the north side of the low summit organize into a tributary that descends about 1000 feet in elevation to join the Humboldt River. 

Although Peter Ogden Skene first used Secret Pass in 1828, it was Fremont in 1845 who named the Humboldt River and bestowed name Humboldt River Range on the fanciful mountain range his route "crossed over" following the Secret Pass.  Fremont literally put this region of Nevada on the map, and that map published in 1848 showed a singular high mountain crest stretching for nearly the Oregon border south to nearly Eureka.  This, perhaps created the confusion as to how the two ranges have been conflated into a single range.  The southern portion of these two ranges did not receive the moniker Ruby Mountains until later in the 19th century after the name “Ruby Valley” became established in the 1850s for the valley immediately east of the range.