Many colorful characters live or have lived in the small town of Baker, Nevada. With a population of about 65 permanent residents, the town today offers services to travelers to the nearby Great Basin National Park including a motel, gas station, convenience store/restaurant/lounge, and post office. Ranching and farming are very important to the local economy.
The first settlement near the present townsite was in 1875 when Absolom Lehman’s younger brother Benjamin S. Lehman and his wife Mary started a ranch here.
The town of Baker was founded in the 1890’s and was named for George W. Baker, one of the earliest settlers in the region. At the time it served area ranchers, miners and visitors to Lehman Caves which is now part of the Great Basin National Park.
George W. Baker’s son Philip M. “Doc” & Nettie Baker. Nettie Baker earned the nickname “Mother Baker” because of her work throughout Snake Valley and Spring Valley as a nurse for the ill and a mid-wife. Nettie was the first lady to enter the newly discovered Lehman Caves in the fall of 1885. With a rope tied around her waist, she was lowered about 30 feet to the first landing where she explored the cave with the menfolk.
Guy Saval, a wealthy sheepraiser nicknamed “King of the Basques”, purchased the Baker Ranch in 1914. Baker was soon nicknamed “Basque Town.” He promoted rodeos, all-night dances at the Baker school house, and gambling at the ranch every payday after supper. Saval’s fortunes came to an end in 1921 when he lost the ranch and had to liquidate all his holdings.
During the 1950s, another Baker family (not related to George W.) moved into the area from Delta, Utah. Fred and Betty Baker and their sons Dean and Carl began what has now become the largest ranch in Snake Valley.
You’ll see a number of tongue-in-cheek “fence-art” sculptures along the roads leading to and from Baker. Termed “Post-Impression Art” by local residents (because the art is mounted on fence posts). The movement began in the mid-1990’s when “Doc” Sherman created the “Permanent Wave Society.” This sculpture consisted of rubber gloves filled with cement and mounted on the tops of fence posts. Doc’s artistic endeavors were amazing therapy for him as he was partially paralyzed by a crippling stroke.
For more than 100 years, the town of Baker has also been a stop over for visitors on their way to the famous Lehman Caves 5 miles west of town which is now part of the Great Basin National Park. Services include motels, restaurants, gift shops, a gas station, an RV park, and a post office.
The new Great Basin Visitor Center on State Route 487 near Baker, Nevada was completed in 2005 and new exhibits installed in 2009.
“White Pine Lang Syne,” by Effie O. Read.
“Pioneers of Snake Valley,” by Boyd E. Quate.
“Roadside History of Nevada,” by Richard Moreno.
“Great Basin Drama,” by Darwin Lambert.
5 miles east of the Lehman Caves Visitor Center at the junction of highways 487 and 488. 1/4 mile south of the new Great Basin Visitor Center.
Go to official website http://www.greatbasinpark.com/