Prehistoric peoples entered what is now Nevada as early as 11,000 years ago, and the region was probably continuously inhabited. Present Nevada was part of the area held nominally by Spain, during the colonial period, but it was never explored by the Spanish. In the late 18th century the southern tip was crossed by the Spanish Trail from Santa Fe to California.

After Mexico became independent of Spain, many trappers and explorers came into the area. Among them was Peter Skene Ogden, who discovered the Humboldt River. United States traders began using the Spanish Trail to California about 1830. In the 1840's John C. Frémont and his guide, Kit Carson, extensively explored the region. The Indians in the area were mainly Paiutes.

Important dates in Nevada
1776 Francisco Garces, a friar, may have become the first white person to enter the Nevada region.
1825-30 Peter S. Ogden discovered the Humboldt River. Jedediah S. Smith crossed southern Nevada.
1843-45 John C. Fremont and Kit Carson explored the Great Basin and Sierra Nevada.
1848 The United States received Nevada and other lands in the Southwest from Mexico under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo.
1859 The discovery of silver near Virginia City brought a rush of prospectors to western Nevada.
1861 Congress created the Nevada Territory.
1864 Nevada became the 36th state on October 31.
1877-81 The price of silver fell and caused many Nevada mines to close.
1880-90 Unemployed people left Nevada and the population dropped by almost 15,000.
1909 The Nevada legislature passed laws that made gambling illegal. The laws went into effect in 1910.
1931 The legislature reduced the divorce residence requirement to six weeks and also made gambling legal in the state.
1936 Boulder (now Hoover) Dam was completed.
1951 The Atomic Energy Commission began testing nuclear weapons in southern Nevada.
1963 The Supreme Court of the United States settled a 40-year dispute by specifying how much water the states of Arizona, California, and Nevada could draw from the Colorado River.
1967 The Nevada legislature changed state gambling laws to allow corporations that sell stock to the public to buy casinos and to hold gambling licenses.
1971 The Water Project (now called the Robert B. Griffith Water Project) was completed.
1980 The Nevada legislature passed conservation laws to protect Lake Tahoe from pollution.
1990's Nevada's population grew by 66 percent, the fastest of any U.S. state during the decade.
1992 The U.S. government halted the testing of nuclear weapons, including such tests in Nevada.