The mission of the California Trail Interpretive Center is to interpret the California Trail experience.
Through interpretation and education, the Trail Center contributes to the appreciation and preservation of historic and cultural sites. Strong community partnerships forged in the Trail Center enhances sustainable tourism throughout the eastern Nevada region.
The California Trail Interpretive Center was the dream of two Elko businessmen, Paul Sawyer and Dale Porter. After determining a center would be feasible in Elko, they worked with local and state political leaders to gain support for the project.
The California Trail Center was created through Public Law 106-577, a bill sponsored by former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid in 2000. The bill included $10 million in appropriated federal funds to construct and develop a major western cultural and educational attraction. A total of $12 million in federal funds was used to build the Center and its state-of-the-art exhibits. The State of Nevada contributed $3 million to the site, while the City of Elko contributed $2 million, and Elko County, $1 million. Since the grand opening on June 2, 2012, the site has welcomed visitors from throughout the United States and around the world.
The 40 acres of land the Trail Center is situated on and the access easement were donated by the William Searle Family. The Trail Center is managed by the Bureau of Land Management. Programmatic and financial support are provided by the Southern Nevada Conservancy, the California Trail Heritage Alliance and the Nevada Outdoor School.