Nevada Barr was born in Yerington, Nevada, on March 1, 1952, to Dave Barr and Mary Barr, both pilots; her sister Molly also became a pilot. Though born in her namesake state, Nevada spent her early years in Susanville, California, at a small mountain airport where her parents worked. She received a bachelor’s degree in speech and drama from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo in 1974 and a master of fine arts in acting from the University of California, Irvine. After graduate school, Barr gravitated toward New York City, where she spent five years serving as a member of the Classic Stage Company and performing in several off-Broadway productions. Later, she moved to Minneapolis and spent several years in the theater there. She also worked in advertising in a variety of capacities, appearing in commercials and industrial films. Her career in writing began in 1978, though her first published novel, Bittersweet, a historical Western novel about two women, was published in 1984.
Because of her first husband’s interest in conservation and wildlife, Barr began working as a seasonal employee for the National Park Service in 1989. These seasonal jobs allowed her to work in the parks during the summer months while pursuing her acting and writing during the rest of the year. Her first appointment was at Isle Royale National Park in Michigan in 1989, her second at Guadalupe National Park in Texas in 1990, and her third, for two seasons in 1991-1992, at Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. To gain full-time status within the National Park Service, Nevada transferred to Natchez Trace National Park in 1993, where she worked for two year before leaving the park service to work full-time on her writing.
In 1993 Barr published her first mystery novel, Track of the Cat, set in Guadalupe National Park, where she had previously worked. This novel won the 1994 Agatha Award for best first novel and the 1994 Anthony Award for best novel. Subsequent novels also have garnered a number of nominations and awards. Firestorm (1996) was nominated for the Anthony Award for best novel and was awarded France’s Prix du Roman d’Aventure. Blind Descent (1998) was nominated for both an Anthony Award and a Macavity Award. Deep South (2000) also received an Anthony Award nomination. Barr and her second husband, former National Park Service ranger Richard Jones, live in New Orleans, Louisiana.