The Humboldt River is the only natural east-west water corridor across the Great Basin. It has been a conduit for travel, trade and communication from prehistoric times to the present. From its headwaters near Wells, Nevada, the river slowly meanders 300 miles across the northern Nevada desert to its terminus in the Humboldt Sink near Lovelock, Nevada.
For thousands of years before the first Euro-Americans traveled the river, it was a thoroughfare and source of life for native peoples and wildlife. The river provided water, food, and shelter in this arid environment.
Because of its vital importance to life, Northern Paiute and Western Shoshone people consider all water, including the Humboldt River, sacred. Of particular importance to the health of the river were beavers. Beavers built dams that created ponds, wetlands and fertile meadows that were magnets for wildlife. The ponds acted as filters, purifying the water, and also provided stable water sources during periods of drought.
Large salmon-sized Lahontan Cutthroat Trout, an important food source source for Native Americans, thrived in these ponds.
Native Americans had a network of trade routes that enabled them to trade goods with other native peoples. Trade routes also served as travel routes to hunting and gathering areas. A major Native American trade
route followed the Humboldt River, other routes extended to the north and south. Local Native Americans traded obsidian (volcanic glass) for items such as shells from the California and Baja California coasts. Obsidian was used to make tools while shells were used for necklaces and decoration of baskets and clothing.