MADE IN NEVADA: Huck Salt

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FALLON, Nev. (KOLO) -- This report is over 100 million years in the making, beginning when Nevada was covered by an ocean. There is a remote area about 20 miles southeast of Fallon covered in salt. In fact, this area is so rich in the mineral it can be found 70 feet beneath the surface.

A fourth generation member of the Huckaby family working at Huck Salt

Huck Salt mines 960 acres of this arid yet rich land, which breaks down to seven mining claims. The pure salt comes to the top. It's plowed into long rows and then harvested with heavy equipment.

"We ended up averaging 1,600 ton in one day," says Huck Salt President and Owner John Huckaby. 1,600 tons is 3.2 million pounds. It would take 246 fully grown African elephants, the largest land animals in the world, to equal this weight.

The company harvests 25,000 tons a year, which is 50 million pounds.

John's father Helmer Huckaby first stepped foot on this land 80 years ago in 1938. It took him two days to shovel seven tons of salt by hand. He launched the family business after making $42 from the work.

"We're really blessed to have a fourth generation of our family. We hired our oldest grandson about three years ago and he made the fourth generation of our family," said John.

After the salt is harvested from the land, it's placed on a conveyor belt where it's carried into a kiln. It's heated to 700 degrees Fahrenheit with three large burners.

"It's a good place to be in the winter, not in the summer," John said.

Popping and cracking can be heard because of the violent expansion of the steam inside the salt. The salt then goes into the shaker screen where it is separated into coarse, medium and fine crystal sizes.

The salt eventually makes its way into one of many storage rooms. One room is dedicated to salt that will eventually be fed to animals such as cows, chickens, and horses. It's mixed in with their feed to help them get this essential mineral into their diets.

Another room is dedicated to salt, what will become ice melt for homeowners during the winter months. It is eventually shipped 18 miles northwest and packed inside a facility at 5033 Austin Highway in Fallon.

The image of camels adorns one of the salt bags to honor how the salt was once packed in the late 1860s from the Fallon area to Virginia City.

50 percent of the salt goes to NDOT, 20 percent goes to animals and portable toilets, 15 percent is used as ice melt and on ski slopes, and the remaining 15 percent is used to soften water.

The biggest labels for home use are "Sierra Blue Ice Melt" and "Huck Salt Water Softener Salt."

NDOT uses Huck Salt on more than 1,500 miles of state highway across northern Nevada from Austin, which is about 150 miles east of Reno, to Lake Tahoe, according to Nevada Department of Transportation Public Information Officer Meg Ragonese.

The family says they run the oldest continuously operating mine in the state of Nevada. They're celebrating the business's 80th anniversary this year.

Here is a complete list of stores selling Huck Salt products:

Western Nevada Supply (Reno)
Appliance Parts (Reno)
Inland Supply (Reno)
Central Sanitary Supply (Reno)
Tahoe Supply (Carson City)
ACE Carter Bros (Reno)
ACE Baring Blvd (Sparks)
Kent's Supply (Fallon)
Fernley Hay & Grain (Fernley)
Green's Feed (Reno)
Benson's Feed (Carson City)
Feed World (Reno)
Kruse Feed (Washoe Valley)
Rose Feed (Winnemucca)
Vogue Linen (Elko)