People have been crossing Nevada, on their way to somewhere else, for decades. Tracing the origins of Interstate 80 demonstrates the history of our roadways. The path that Interstate 80 takes traces the journey that the Washoe used when they moved into the mountains from the north during the summer season. It was the route into the Sierra Nevada used by John C. Frémont when he became the first Euroamerican to see Lake Tahoe, and it became the wagon road that the Donner Party took in its attempt to get to California. The Central Pacific Railroad was built as part of the transcontinental railroad along this route, and U.S. highway 40, which was the Victory Highway, followed that same path first laid by the Washoe, and which is now Interstate 80.
Until the twentieth century, for the most part, when people passed through Nevada they walked. After 1850, Euroamericans started to cross Nevada using horses, mules, and oxen to haul wagons. Freight and stage coach lines grew up in the 1860s to service the many mining camps, and in 1867 the Central Pacific Railroad laid the first track, from the Sierra Nevada into the Truckee Meadows, on the way to making its transcontinental link with the Union Pacific in Promontory Point, Utah in 1896.
By the 1880s, bicycling was a national craze and the first true highways were laid out to provide safe cycling. New mining camps in Tonopah and Goldfield, shortly after 1900, benefited from a growing number of automobiles, which in turn opened up the tourism market for Nevada after the end of World War II. In the 1920s, the federal government pioneered air mail routes across Nevada.